Wednesday, June 30, 2010

X is for X-tra!

Why, oh why did I start doing Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday when she was at the end of the alphabet? Why couldn't I begin when the letters were easy? But noooooo, I had to do the tough letters. I didn't want to blog about x-rays like 90 percent of the other people are going to do. So, I'm cheating a bit and blogging that X is for x-tra!

My husband and I are x-tra neurotic parents--in case you haven't figured that out by reading my posts. I'd like to say that it's because of my daughter's special needs, but it's not. We were neurotic since the day I found out I was pregnant. Actually, we were neurotic way before then too! The parenting gig just magnifies it a million times!

While we're x-tra neurotic, I've seen other parents that are x-tra relaxed. They just go with the flow and have a blast doing whatever they're doing. I sometimes think they're a tad crazy, but they always do seem to be having a good time!

For example, last Sunday was my daughter's last soccer game of the spring season. The Coach is an unbelievably nice man and is what I'd call an x-tra relaxed parent. He actually heads up the Boys and Girls Club in our area, so not only is he the Coach for our team, but he's responsible for the entire league in addition to all the other activities done through his organization. We've known the Coach for 4 years when our kids started preschool together. His soccer league is great! There is no official score keeping, and we only go once a week to play. The first half hour is drills, the second half hour is a game. The kids have a great time, and everyone is happy! It's a wonderful event to be headed up by an x-tra relaxed parent!

Now, the Coach was gracious enough to host a pool party at his house to celebrate the end of the spring soccer! The plan was to go to his house a couple of hours after the game to have hot dogs, swim, and have fun! My daughter and I made brownies the day before to bring with us. We were planning on having a fun time.

However, during soccer, the Coach's son didn't want to participate because he said his stomach hurt. While he was sitting out the drills, his x-tra relaxed dad (Coach) kept trying to get him out to play. No one was taking the kid's complaints seriously. After drills, when the game was starting, he did jump in to play--he loves soccer! But it didn't take long for us to realize that he was actually sick. He started throwing up on the side of the soccer field. All the other x-tra relaxed parents helped him out, then buried his vomit in the dirt while us x-tra neurotic parents looked on horrified.

The poor boy looked so sick! He continued to vomit off and on during the duration of the game. He sat away from everyone else during the trophy ceremony and pizza-eating after the game. Since I'm an x-tra neurotic parent, I didn't want my daughter to get sick. I knew the Coach wasn't going to cancel the pool party even if his wife probably wanted him to (she's x-tra relaxed too, but not to the same degree as her husband). I cornered one of the other moms, who is neither x-tra neurotic nor x-tra relaxed. She's one of those rare people who find the perfect balance. Anyway, I asked her is they were going to the pool party. She diplomatically said that they couldn't. They were leaving for a trip the next day and had to pack. Then her voice started to trail off as she said that she really didn't want to travel with any of the kids getting sick.

When the Coach walked by, she told him that they couldn't make it because of the packing. He encouraged them to feel free to stop by anyway, even if it's just for a minute or two! I then clumsily said we were bailing as well. My daughter had her first day of camp the next day, and we didn't want her to get sick! He again said to feel free to pop by just for a minute or so!

Before we left, the remaining parents staged an intervention in the parking lot to convince the Coach that he really shouldn't be having a pool party at his house. His wife needed to tend to the son and none of us wanted our families to get sick! He finally agreed.

Now THAT is an x-tra relaxed parent! My daughter was disappointed that there wasn't going to be a pool party, and she was x-tra upset that her friend was sick. But we did have x-tra brownies to eat, so all was not lost!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The F Word

My daughter had a great time at camp yesterday! She went swimming, did archery, went paddle-boating, went rock-climbing, and groomed and fed horses. She also managed to lose her cute shorts! After swimming was finished, she forgot what shorts she was wearing, so she pulled her back-up pants out of her backpack and went on with her day. When the camp warned us to label everything, they weren't kidding! She also made a new friend, so it's good to know that she's not just hanging with the kids she already knows. All-in-all, she had a great day.

However, after my husband came home from work, our daughter went up to him and asked him what the F-word was. She went on to say that her new friend at camp told her that there was a really bad word that began with "F," and that she wasn't allowed to say it. My daughter was hoping to pry the word out of my husband since her new friend wouldn't tell her the word. "C'mon, I REALLY want to know what the word is," she pleaded with her daddy. My husband was at a loss on what to say. He didn't want to lie to her, but he didn't want to tell her the word either.

When they joined me in the kitchen, and my husband told me what was up, I wasn't much help. I think I snickered a bit. My daughter thought the F-word might have been "fart." We told her that while that was not a nice name to call somebody, it wasn't a bad word.

After my daughter left the room, my husband and I conferred. I was adamant about not telling her the F-word. I was sure she will learn it from one of her friends, but I'd rather it be from a peer than from us! I don't want to be known as the mom who tells her kids dirty words. No way, no how!

Later, when we were tucking our daughter into bed, she again expressed that she wanted to know what the F-word was. My husband handled this beautifully. First, he told her that if there was one place you could hit somebody and hurt them really badly, he wouldn't share this information with her because he would never want her to know how to hurt another person. For the same reason, he wasn't going to tell her what the F-word is because it can hurt somebody's feelings, and he would never want to be responsible for teaching her something that could hurt somebody's feelings. Our daughter understood this and hasn't brought up the subject again, thank goodness!

Ironically, she did go through a period when she did know the word and used it a lot around me! Three years ago, when she was three, we went on vacation to San Diego. People around us were dropping the F-bomb pretty often, and I must have had some kind of look on my face because she quietly noticed and was able to understand the impact of the word. A few days after we came back from vacation, I heard her start saying the F-word! She only did it around me and only in the house. At first, I tried to ignore it, but after hearing her say it a few times, I couldn't resist. I asked her what she was saying meant. She thought about it for awhile, then said, "Mama Mia!" I told her that was right, but Mama Mia was a nicer term that she should use. She continued to drop the F-bomb, so I then ignored it, and she stopped using it after a couple of weeks.

Something tells me she's going to learn it again really soon. Ya gotta love camp!

Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm Nervous!

My daughter had her first group swim class this past Saturday. She's taking group lessons at the same place she took them last year. But this year, she's with the older kids in the big pool instead of the small (and disgusting) kiddie pool. I knew I had to warn her about the different pool, and I dreaded doing it. Sure enough, when I told her before leaving the house, she said, "I'm nervous! That class is going to be too advanced for me." I have to admit, I was worried that the class might be too advanced. She had just finished 5 days of private lessons and was still having difficulties. She would stay glued to the wall of the pool over-thinking everything she had to do to swim.

But I kept a calm voice and told her that she should be ready for this class. And if it turns out that the class is too advanced, we'd just move her to another class. When we arrived, the four other girls in the class were around the same age as my daughter. She ended up loving the class! And maybe because of peer pressure, she stopped staying glued to the wall and would swim when it was her turn. Was she the best swimmer in the class? No, she was probably near the bottom, but she's enjoying the class and working hard.

After the class, I asked her if it was too advanced for her, and she said it wasn't! Yay! We took her swimming yesterday, and she was doing great. It looks like everything she learned is clicking. Finally!

Today is my turn to be nervous, however. It's my daughter's first day of summer camp. When she was in preschool, she'd go to camp at her preschool or at a local park. Both places primarily provided arts and crafts and water play. Not the camp she's attending this year. She's going to big-kid camp! It's about a half an hour away from the house. It's very much like sleep-away camp, but as a day camp. They have big bouncers, pool with a huge water slide, horseback riding, archery, go carts, petting zoo, zip lines, fishing, boating, among other things. I'm a nervous wreck. My daughter is not the world's most athletic girl, so I'm hoping these activities don't cause major injuries of any kind.

The other reason why I'm a nervous wreck is that my daughter has no behaviorist there to help her. She's going to have to negotiate the social complexities of the other kids and handle the many transitions during the day completely on her own. Yikes! She does have some friends from preschool in her group. And I know some boys from her elementary school are attending the camp too that she might see in passing. I'm sure that she'll have a great time, but I feel sick to my stomach.

Speaking of feeling sick to my stomach, one funny thing is that the counselors all go by nicknames. I guess so that the parents (or the older campers that develop crushes) can't track them down on the internet. Some of the names I saw included Princess and Nemo. Before I left, I had to track down the nurse to give her my daughter's epipens. Princess pointed the nurse out to me and said, "Oh, there's Pepto! You can give her the epipens." I just found it extremely funny the name the nurse gave herself. Maybe some Pepto will help soothe my nervous belly!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Swim Lessons

My daughter is going to camp next week, and we wanted to be sure she was comfortable in the water and could swim a bit. Last summer, when she took swim lessons, she had a hard time with kicking, paddling, and blowing bubbles at the same time. So, we invested in 5 private swim lessons this week to build up her skills.

On Monday, when she got in the pool she seemed to forget whatever she learned last year. But as the week went on, she got better at everything. By today, she was able to float on her back on her own for an extended time, swim about halfway across the pool (kicking, paddling, and blowing bubbles all at the same time!), and jumping into the pool! She's still not quite where I'd like to see her at, but it's better than she was doing last year. She's still going to have a group lesson once a week until the end of July.

The one odd thing was that my daughter would get nervous when the instructor had her swim to her. Even today, she would appear to freeze up when asked to swim. I noticed the reason appeared to be that she got overwhelmed. I saw her thinking about the paddling, kicking, and blowing bubbles as she stood by the wall of the pool. It looked like her brain was about to short-circuit thinking about it all. But she would finally kick off the wall and do everything she was supposed to do. I guess with practice this will come second nature and won't take all that brain power. I hope.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Three Digit Celebration! Kinda!

I was really excited about my post today--hitting 3 digits! Yay! Yesterday I wrote my 100th blog. And this morning I hit 100 followers! Yay! But I waited too long to write this post. When I fired up my computer to compose this exciting (to me) post, I noticed one of my followers bailed on me, and I was back down to 99 followers! I know this happens all the time, but did it have to happen now? Oh well, on with the festivities, so to speak!

I started my blog less than 5 months ago! During this time, I've gotten (nearly) 100 followers, many blogging "attaboys" from my peers, requests for two articles on autism, and I won Scholastic "Parent and Child" Magazine's Top Parent Blogger award on Special Need Issues. I have made $29.67 so far on my Google ads, although I have yet to see a penny of this (sorry hubby, you can't quit your job yet).

The biggest discovery I have made, however, is the blogging community. When I started blogging, I pictured a solitary activity--just me and the computer while thousands of people read my words of wisdom as I reaped millions off my Google ads. What I found out is that bloggers actually network with each other and support each others efforts! We comment on blogs and commiserate and have a great time. It's really made blogging fun! I see so many blogs out there that just blow me away, and make me realize that I have a lot of growing to do as a writer.

In the meantime, I'll keep blogging away and enjoying every minute of it! If you take the time to read my posts, I want to extend a thank you! It is appreciated!

Here's to another 100 posts! Heck, here's to thousands more!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

W Is for Whack-A-Mole!

This is my 100th post! Wow! I'm also nearing 100 followers! This is so exciting to me. Yes, I excite very easily!

I'm participating again in Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. The gist of this meme is that Jenny features a different letter of the alphabet each week, and people who are involved write their post around that letter and link back to her post. Then, everyone who is participating reads as many blogs as possible, the idea being to increase your readership. The letter this week is W! I knew my "W" topic since last week: Whack-A-Mole!

One thing I learned about autism is that treating it is like a big whack-a-mole game. You focus therapies on eliminating some behaviors. For example, one of the first behaviors we tackled with our daughter was her rigidity. If things didn't go her way, she would meltdown faster than Chernobyl. She dropped her grape on the ground? Huge tantrum! Time to leave preschool? Huge tantrum! I'd make a left turn driving when she wanted me to turn right? Huge tantrum! The behavior therapy to increase her flexibility started off pretty successfully. She learned how to say, "Oh, well!" if something didn't go the way she wanted. But then something weird happened: a new behavior cropped up!

My daughter started to get really ritualistic. If we didn't go through our routines in the exact way each day, then she would have meltdowns. Our behaviorist told us that this is totally normal. Oftentimes, when treating autistic children, eliminating one behavior just creates a new one to crop up. For some kids with autism, there's always going to be some behavior, you just try to find the behavior that you can live with the most.

Of course, even after a behavior is "eliminated," it's still bound to come popping up again at a different time!

Ironically, my daughter did really well playing a Whack-a-Mole game the last time she was at Chuck E. Cheese. Coincidence? I think not!

Woohoo! My First Published Article

I wrote an article for the website Teaching Tiny Tots. Click here for the link to the article!

I have another article due to be published soon also! I'll post that link when it comes out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Mixed Day

We've been enjoying our summer so far! My daughter started taking swim lessons. In the past, she's had a hard time putting the different components of swimming together all at once. Because she's starting camp next week, we thought we'd give her a week of private lessons to get her up to speed. She did okay today--big improvement over yesterday! She was able to paddle and kick and blow bubbles all at the same time for a few seconds! Hopefully by the time camp begins, she'll be better at it! I am proud of how hard she's working during the lessons.

We were having a nice day until this evening when she had a HUGE tantrum over having to put her Leapster toy down to get ready for bed. It was an ugly scene. She even threw her dress-up shoe at me. I felt like George W. Bush there for a second. Thank goodness the other shoe didn't come flying at me. She hasn't had an out-of-control rage like this in a long time. And George W. Bush jokes aside, it left me feeling depressed. Every time I begin to feel like she's really turned a corner, she has a big tantrum. Granted, it's much better than the old days, but I would still love to see the tantrums disappear completely.

Is that asking for too much?

Monday, June 21, 2010

It Was a Really Bad Day at the Park

My daughter went to the park with me, her behaviorist, and her behaviorist's supervisor. It was probably one of the worst park trips ever! There was a big birthday party going on right outside the playground area. The kids there looked to be about my daughter's age. Inside the enclosed playground, there were hardly any kids my daughter's age to play with. Finally, a girl from the party came in the playground to play. She had a beach pail that was decorated with stickers. My daughter noticed that the stickers were the exact same ones she used earlier that day to decorate a visor at school. The behaviorist encouraged my daughter to use that as an ice-breaker with the other girl. So my daughter did. The other girl didn't even respond to my daughter. She gave her a dirty look and kept putting sand into her pail. My daughter tried to engage the girl again a little later, but again, was snubbed. I told my daughter to give up on that potential friendship. Inside, I felt so awful for my daughter. How dare that other girl be, well, such a bitch!

I had my answer a little while later, when an adorable 2.5 year old started playing with the girl's pail. She emptied the sand out and put the pail on her head. She looked so adorable! Unfortunately, the mean girl didn't think so. Even though she had to be about 6 years old, she started tantrumming over this! It then occurred to me that the girl probably wasn't being bitchy or mean. She most likely was on the autism spectrum herself. I don't know why my autism-radar wasn't working. Any parent of an autistic child gets this radar. We're usually extremely sensitive to when other kids are on the spectrum, but I just missed it this time.

After this, I saw a little boy arriving late to the party. He was an old friend of my daughter's from preschool. It's been a few months since they had seen each other, so I thought it would be fun for my daughter to go over and say, "Hi!" This was a big mistake! He did not remember her at all, even though they were friends for over 2 years. Then, she didn't want to leave the party area. I felt really horrible about bringing her over, but I explained that we weren't invited, so we couldn't stay there. I gave her a snack after we returned to the playground area to help make-up the fact that she couldn't eat the yummy food they had at the party.

After she had her snack, the kids at the party started breaking a pinata. My poor daughter was inside the playground watching the kids hitting the pinata. She looked like a homeless person gazing into a window of a fine restaurant, watching the diners enjoy their filet mignon. It was heartbreaking.

I mentioned to the behaviorist that I thought we should leave, that my daughter looked so sad. The behaviorist said that might not be the case, but went over to my daughter to ask her how she felt. My daughter replied that she felt sad and jealous (wow, pretty great realization of emotions). The behaviorist hung with her for a while, then returned to her supervisor and me. We asked what the behaviorist had said to my daughter, and she told us. Then she went on to tell my daughter that what she was feeling was perfectly normal--anyone would feel sad and jealous. "Really?" my daughter responded, clearly surprised. "Yes!" the behaviorist answered. Then she shared a technique with my daughter to help her with her feelings. "Let's make a game up called people-watching!" The behaviorist showed my daughter how to look at the people and make comments about who looked like they were having fun, who looked sad. They tried to guess who would be successful at breaking the pinata open. The behaviorist showed my daughter that she can feel other things on top of the sadness and jealousy, such as feeling curious.

I was blown away by this! It never would have occurred to me to do this. I was feeling sadness and jealously on behalf of my daughter. I couldn't step outside the sadness for her to help her out. I would have just told my daughter that it was an off-day at the park and suggest leaving. But this would not have taught my daughter any coping skills to use in the future. I mentioned to the supervisor that I don't have the "bag of tricks" that the behaviorist has and because of my personal involvement, it makes it harder for me to come up with these ideas.

I don't know what I'm going to do when behavior therapy ends. I'm definitely going to have to learn to come up with these nifty ideas. It's not easy when you're dealing with your own feelings of sadness for your daughter.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

My husband doesn't want me to make a big deal out of Father's Day, so I thought I'd throw this post together. I normally don't blog on Sunday (or Saturday night), so this is kinda a big deal.

My husband has been an amazingly devoted father to our daughter. When she was diagnosed with autism, he did whatever he could to find the best people and resources possible to help her. Because of my husband's diligence, he found a well-regarded psychologist who did extensive testing of our daughter which resulted in an autism diagnosis. The psychologist made sure we knew what could be done to help our daughter.

Then, because of his hard work, we had one of the top experts in the field meet with us and help get our daughter into a university study to help with her rigidity issues. This study has helped them immensely.

Because of his thorough research, he fought to get needed services when others felt our daughter wouldn't qualify for them. These services have had an amazing impact on our daughter. She is now much more social and flexible. The change in her has been amazing.

His involvement with our daughter extends beyond this, however. He is the person who is sure to make her laugh. She lights up when she sees him. As soon as we hear his car parking in the garage, she joyfully runs to to the door to give him the biggest greeting she can! Yet, at the same time, he doesn't shy away from discipline. He makes sure she is learning right from wrong and that she is developing character. I know she has an amazing respect for him because of this.

It's important for him to support her and be there for her. Last week, he had an amazing opportunity to go back to his childhood neighborhood where old friends he hadn't seen in ages were gathering from all over the country for a reunion. He really wanted to go, but ultimately decided not to. Why? Because our daughter had a dance recital that same weekend. It was more important for him to watch her dance than to go back to see friends he hadn't seen in ages. Personally, I thought it was the wrong decision, but it wasn't to him. He knew he was where he was supposed to be.

He is an amazing father.

Awards Time!

Cheri at Chego2 the kitchen gave me not one, but two awards: The Versatile Blogger and the Beautiful Blogger awards! Yay! I love going to Cheri's site, and I'd like to thank her for giving me the awards. These awards come with some rules!

1. thank the people who gave the award.
2. tell you seven things about myself you may not already know
3. pay it forward by nominating 15 fabulous bloggers I’ve recently discovered.

I'm being a rebel and breaking the rules! I've already thanked Cheri (thanks, again!). I've already received both of these awards in the past and have shared things about me, so I'm not doing that again (I mean, I can bore my readers only so many times!). I'm only going to award these awards to 3 blogs. They are the three that made me laugh the most this week. They are:

Michelle @ Blissful Babble
Coffeelovinmom @ Coffee Lovin Mom
Shari @ Earth Mother just means I'm dusty

If you haven't checked out these blogs, you must! They are friggin' hilarious!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Last Day of Kindergarten

First off, based on the comments from yesterday's post, I hope I didn't come off as too stressed or depressed. Yes, my daughter can be a handful at times, but for the most part, she's a delightful, amazing girl!

And this delightful, amazing girl is attending her very last kindergarten class today. I've held it together so far, but it hasn't been easy. She has had such an amazing year! Her teacher and behaviorist were both fabulous! She learned so much from them. She was in a class of kids who were generally nice and accepting of her. They liked her and accepted her completely, oddities and all! I'm a little sad that she'll be leaving this warm, safe environment to go to the unknown of a new teacher, higher demands, and more homework.

The main reason why I'm a little teary-eyed, however, is that this year went by crazy-fast. It really feels like she had her first day of kindergarten yesterday! How did the year zoom by like this? I feel like I'm going to blink my eyes, and then she'll be going off to Harvard to quadruple major in paleontology, premed, pre-law, and physics.

I hope time slows down, but experience has taught me that it goes by faster and faster with each passing year. Enough, I say! Slow down while she's in elementary school! You can start to speed up again when she's 12 years old! Thanks!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

V is for Villain

This is my first real attempt at doing Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. I actually did it totally incorrectly a couple of weeks ago and felt like an idiot! So today, I'm trying to do it right. The gist of it is that Jenny is featuring a different letter of the alphabet each week, and people who are involved write their post around that letter and link back to her post. Then, everyone who is participating reads as many blogs as possible, the idea being to increase your readership. The letter this week is V!

V works for me because I was actually going to write about what a villain I am sometimes to my daughter. Okay, I was originally going to use another word that doesn't start with a V, but V works!

One of the issues my daughter with Asperger's has is an inability to control her emotions. She can fly into tantrums over nothing and oftentimes with very little warning. This has been getting better over the past year, thank goodness. However, lately she started doing something new. She sometimes will yell at me over minor things or blame me for things that don't go her way. For example, today she lost a little toy she had at school and immediately started getting cross with me. In her mind, I was at fault since I was carrying her backpack for her when she noticed it wasn't in the side pocket anymore. So here I was, thinking I was being nice for carrying her backpack, and she's treating me like a villain and blaming me for something she did.

I've been working with her to remain calm, use her words politely, and not blame me for things that don't go her way! She is 6 going on 12. I know I've stated this before, but I'm REALLY not looking forward to the teenage years.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quit Your Whining!

I've been hitting a wall recently on my blog. The number of my followers has stopped growing to the degree that it had, and my number of visitors to my site has also stopped growing. I'm sure that this is very typical for new--and maybe even long-time bloggers.

Since I've started blogging, I've been a regular reader of many blogs, some with HUGE numbers of readers and some with small numbers. I've noticed that bloggers with relatively small numbers of readers welcome comments--any comments! However, some bloggers with larger readerships seem to hate any negative comments. I have to be honest; I don't have much sympathy for them.

One of my favorite blogs is Dooce. Heather Armstrong is funny! She's also damn successful at blogging. Not only has she made a career out of blogging, but her husband also works with her. That's pretty amazing. An article about her a year ago estimated her readership is about 300,000 a day. That's mind-blowing to me. I want to make it clear that I'm not a Dooce-hater. Jealous? Hell, yes!

What gets me is that Heather Armstrong was invited to attend a forum on workplace flexibility at the White House! How exciting! Again, I was extremely jealous. I couldn't wait to read her blogs on attending. She posted two blogs about the event within a month or so of the event. But during all this, she blogged angrily about the negative comments some people made about her attending--about how she didn't deserve to go. Recently, she posted more about the DC trip. However, she stated that she almost didn't post it because of all the hate out there about her going.

This angered me. As a Dooce reader, I was really interested to know about the forum through her humorous perspective. With a readership as large as hers, doesn't she know that everyone is not going to be nice? When you're somewhat famous, you're going to have to deal with some negativity. It comes with the high number of readers (did I mention that I was terribly jealous about this?). I do think it would have been terribly unfair for her to not blog about the opportunity to the vast majority of people who religiously follow her blog.

And not to pick on just Heather. I've seen other successful bloggers complain about negativity. Momlogic ran an article on the dark side of mommy blogging that featured a story of a woman who blogged about her rainbow pancakes. This blog won the blogging lottery. It was covered by tons of people on the internet and registered 500,000 hits (that's half a million hits, people). But the article's focus wasn't on this, but on how some people wrote less that nice comments such as, "You shouldn't be allowed to procreate if you're going to feed your kids junk!" I'm sure comments like this were very hurtful, but c'mon--500,000 hits! Of course there's going to be some negative comments when so many people read what you wrote.

I don't think my blog will ever get this many readers. Heck, I'm happy if over 50 people read my blog on a given day. But if I ever hit the blogging big time, you won't catch me complaining about some negative things people say about me. If I do, point me back to this post.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

First things daughter is doing much better and is back at school. Antibiotics can be a wonderful thing. She was even well enough to participate in her dance recital yesterday. She looked really cute and enjoyed performing. I knew she was feeling better on Saturday when she was telling me about molecules. After I asked her if she learned about molecules at school, she said she read about them in her science encyclopedia. Look out first grade!

I found this site call Juice Box Jungle. They have pretty funny videos on parenting, so I spent some time the other day watching them. I thought I'd share this one:

More parenting videos on JuiceBoxJungle

Hey, I tackled one controversial topic on Friday's post, why not do another one? The question of whether vaccines cause autism is a very heated one in the autism community. Some parents will insist they had a perfectly normal baby until they had their one year shots, and the baby was never the same after that. Both my private practitioner and my OB are from other countries, and they both think American doctors give too many shots. Neither the Canadian-born doctor nor the Irish-born doctor feel flu shots are really necessary. They do support vaccinations in general, however.

The first question to ask is "What is autism?" I don't think anyone really knows. People know the symptoms of autism, such as having a difficult time communicating, for example. But is there a single cause or does autism actually consist of many different things that look the same, but aren't? My own personal theory is that autism is not one disorder, but a variety of disorders that actually appear similar, but are not. I base my opinion on the fact that some kids have wonderful success on a casein free, gluten free diet, while it does absolutely nothing for other kids. Also, certain treatments and therapies work great for some kids, but not for others.

I bring up this point to say that maybe some children's autism is caused by an allergic reaction to vaccines or other weird interaction with the central nervous system. However, it is my belief that vaccines do not cause the vast majority of autism cases. A recent study that was published last week found a wide variety of genetic markers which supported the widely-held view that autism is generally genetic. The study found that children whose parents didn't have a family history of autism still had these genetic markers from genetic mutations. It is not uncommon for many families who have autistic children can usually find other family members on the spectrum.

In another recent story, a medical journal retracted a 1998 research study that did link a key vaccine to autism. They did the retraction because the lead researcher, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was found to have acted unethically in conducting the research. This study had been the only study to have found a link between vaccines and autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention praised the retraction, saying, "It builds on the overwhelming body of research by the world's leading scientists that concludes there is no link between MMR vaccine and autism."

I belief that vaccines have added to the overall quality of life and are important to continue. However, it might be worth studying to see if the vaccines can be spread out over a longer period of time to decrease any possible adverse reactions that they might be causing with some children.

Also, if cases of autism are being caused by genetic mutations, it might be worth studying what else in the environment might be causing this. There has been a sizable increase, not only of autism, but of allergies and other autoimmune diseases as well. I think studies of other environmental causes is warranted.

Friday, June 11, 2010

But We're Some of the Lucky Ones!

I've been blogging all week about my poor, sick daughter. She was put on antibiotics yesterday, so I'm hoping this will help! I also blogged on Tuesday about how we went to a pediatric after-hours clinic on Monday night after my daughter's nose gushed out blood for what seemed like an eternity. At this clinic, they declined to take our insurance insisting we pay $300 for the doctor to just look at our daughter to let us know how we should proceed. This incident brings me to today's topic on health care reform.

A lot of people I know are definitely for heath care reform. However, a lot of people I know are also against reform. I honestly don't know why anyone would be against reform. The current system is so badly broken. The reform measures will help a little. People who have not been able to get insurance will be able to get coverage, for example. But I don't think the reforms have gone nearly far enough.

My husband's health insurance coverage is pretty amazing. We don't even pay a monthly premium. Just a few years ago, it was considered primo coverage. When I had to take my daughter to get physical therapy because she was a late walker, we were told by the firm that provided the therapy that our insurance was amazing--the best there is.

I don't know what happened over the past few years, but less and less is covered. I know that's pretty typical. However, we're having a harder and harder time getting covered items reimbursed. The insurance company will claim we didn't get pre-approval for things, when we did. They lose paperwork we send (every time). They have high staff turnover, so you're never dealing with the same person when you're trying to get issues straightened out. It also sounds like they have minimal staff to handle many people, so it's no wonder why things are lost and forgotten. When we finally do get reimbursed for things, it can be a year later or more--no exaggeration.

The clinic we went to said they no longer take our insurance because the insurance company hasn't been reimbursing them either over the last few months. I wonder if this will eventually spill over with our other medical providers.

This is the system that many people loves so much? I'm at a complete loss why. I, personally, do not think the health care reforms went far enough. Call me a socialist, but I would love to see health care covered by a single provider. Will it be perfect? No. But this current system is ridiculous. It is hard and expensive to get good coverage and even when you're lucky enough to have "good" coverage, it's abysmal. I just don't think a blood-covered, sick six year-old girl--who has PPO insurance--should be turned away from a clinic because of the ineptitude of the insurance company. Did I mention this clinic advertised that they take all PPO plans? Whatever.

I just have to remind myself, as I'm mailing for the third time (certified, return-receipt, of course) yet more documentation to our health insurance company, that we're some of the lucky ones who at least have health insurance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Drama Queen

Okay, I know I've done nothing this week but blog about my daughter being sick. Sorry about that! But she's still sick, so I'm still going to blog about it.

I know this post will bring me comments like, "My child isn't autistic, but still behaves that way!" And that may very well be. However, I have to say that my child can be a bit of a drama queen when she's sick, and I think her being on the spectrum doesn't help!

For example, when she has to take her grape-flavored Tylenol, she dramatically clutches her throat. She acts like drinking the small amount of liquid will make her throat explode from pain. When I point out that drinking the medicine is no different than drinking water, and probably much better than eating toast, she agrees, but will still clutch her throat!

Yesterday, we went through a horrendous experience where a nurse had to take blood from her to run some blood tests. Let's call her Nurse Ratched (I stole that one from my husband--thanks sweetie). Anyway, Nurse Ratched managed to miss the vein in my daughter's arm and tried again, then had to try on the other arm. The whole experience was pretty awful, no doubt. We gave my daughter two lollipops and 8 times allowance for going through it. However, after we got home, I noticed my daughter was walking around with her arms folded at the elbows and wouldn't put her arms down. She either looked like a doctor about to perform surgery or a dog begging, depending on whether her hands were turned away from her or toward her. She complained that her arms hurt, but wouldn't let me take off the bandaids. After hours of whimpering like a hurt dog, she finally let me take one off. A couple of hours after that, I finally was allowed to take the other one off. Luckily, she admitted that they didn't hurt after the bandaids were removed!

It can also be hard for her to communicate what is bothering her. She's up for hours at night, moaning in pain. When I ask her what hurts, she'll say, "Nothing" then go back to moaning. It's been so frustrating!

Here's hoping she gets better soon! I don't think she can take this much longer and neither can I.

Tomorrow's post will be on the insurance industry. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Hate Illness!

I don't have much of a chance to blog today, but I'm sad that my daughter is still sick. I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave to make her better. She also had another bloody nose today, but this one wasn't the gusher that Monday night's was. Yikes!

Hopefully, tomorrow's post will have some good news!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Last Night Was a Bloody Mess!

Last night was the pits! It's no fun having a sick kid, that's for sure! The terrible night started at 7, when my sickie daughter went to her room to read some books. I made the terrible mistake of going to the next room to read blogs on my computer. I did this for about 10 minutes, then decided to peek in on my daughter to see how she was doing. She had crawled into bed, clothes and all, and was sleeping away. Ugh! She hadn't brushed her teeth yet, and I still had to give her some Advil (generic kind not involved in the recall) because her fever was returning. I decided to let her sleep, but as I was lowering her blinds, she stirred. I told her I was going to bring down some water and her medicine, then she can get into her pajamas to sleep. "NO, it's not bedtime yet!" She cried out. Um, were just sleeping, but whatever.

When I brought down the water and medicine, she started saying, "I'm soooooooooo tired! I just want to sleep. I don't want any medicine!" When I told her she had to have some, she started crying. At one point, she was crying so hard, she threw up a little on her bed. Great! So, I stripped the linens and put them into the washing machine, then put on her old sheets that we use as back-ups.

She insisted that the medicine hurts her throat as she swallows it. In the past, she never minded taking the medicine, but with this illness, it all of a sudden is an issue. She knows she feels so much better after she takes it, so it's really frustrating. Anyway, after an hour of insisting she take her medicine, she finally took it! Yay. Then she went back to bed.

She went back to bed for all of 15 minutes! She started screaming for me, and when I went down there, she was crying because her nose was bleeding. As I was tending to her, I realized that this wasn't any ordinary nose bleed--it was a gusher! It reminded me of the BP oil spill videos we've all been seeing! It was awful! And she knew it was awful, so it was hard to keep her calm about it.

After about a half an hour of trying to contain the gushing, we decided to take her to an after-hours pediatric urgent care facility. They advertise that they take all PPO insurance, but when we arrived, they flat-out refused to take my husband's health insurance card. My husband's provider used to be exceptional insurance. Medical providers loved taking our card in the past, but they gotten pretty ornery to deal with. I guess they were refusing paying the urgent care provider over the last couple of months. By this point, the nose bleeding appeared to have stopped. We were told we had to pay $300 to see the doctor. We asked to just have the doctor come out and look at our daughter to see if her nose needed to be cauterized. If it did, then we'd pay the $300. The doctor refused to come out and see us unless we paid $300! He did tell the receptionist that if the nose had stopped bleeding, our daughter would probably be fine.

So, we ended up hanging out in the waiting area to see if the bleeding would start up again. We used the time to clean up the blood that was all over my daughter's face and hands. I mean, she looked like Carrie at the prom! After she sneezed, and the bleeding didn't start, we figured it was safe to go back home. I realized on the ride back, that I didn't put her sheets in the dryer, so we were out of clean sheets. UGH!

Luckily, the rest of the night was pretty uneventful. My daughter did wake up moaning at 2 in the morning. When I asked her what was wrong, she wouldn't answer me. Finally she said, "My stomach hurts every time I change it." Huh? She didn't feel exceptionally hot, so I was guessing she was still somewhat asleep. I resisted the urge to tell her not to change her stomach, but I kissed it instead. She smiled, then fell back asleep.

I hope today goes better!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yippee, I Won!

I won Scholastic "Parent and Child" magazine's 2010 Top Parent Blogger in the Special Needs category! Yay! This means that my blog will be profiled in the August/September issue of "Parent and Child" magazine. I'm hoping this will increase my readership!

Thanks to everyone who took the time out and voted. I really appreciate it!

A very special thanks to Cheryl at Deckside Thoughts; Kim at The Courageous O'Connor's; and Jenny at Jenny Matlock . I also want to thank my husband! They all went above and beyond to help me get votes and win.

I really appreciate all the help I received. I wouldn't have been able to win without the support.

Again, thanks!

Poor Little Sick Girl

Thanks for taking the time and voting for me in Scholastic "Parent and Child" magazine top parent blogger contest! I don't know the results yet, but I'll let you know as soon as I do!

I have to hang out with my daughter today. She's been sick over the weekend and is still not doing well. She was so disappointed that she couldn't go to a birthday party yesterday. It was pretty heart-breaking.

She usually handles illness pretty well, but not this time. She's very whiny, and I'm sure she's in lots of pain. We're going to go to the doctor to see what's up.

Being sick is no fun, but taking care of a child who is sick is no fun either. I feel somewhat helpless, and I hate that!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

TAG! I'm it!

The Bipolar Diva has tagged me with a survey to that will force me to share all my hidden secrets. Of course, that will bore everyone to tears, so I'll try to fluff things up a bit! LOL! By the way, if you haven't checked out The Bipolar Diva's site yet, you really should pay her a visit. A great blog from a great woman!

Ten Things I Desire:

10. Chocolate

9. Good health for my family

8. Win the Scholastic "Parent and Child" magazine blog contest

7. Get 1,000 followers for my blog

6. Win the lottery

5. Have the body I had when I was 19 years old

4. Win the Best Actress Oscar

3. Move to Bora Bora

2. Peace on Earth

1. Never deal with another tantrum again!

Nine Musicians/Bands I Love:

10. The Wiggles (hey, it's the only concert I've been to in the last 5 years!)

9. Green Day

8. Princess and the Frog Soundtrack

7. Sandra Boyton's "Philadelphia Chicken"

6. Swing Music

5. Cajun/Zydeco Music

4. The Rolling Stones

3. The Beatles

2-1. I don't have anything else--I don't listen to music anymore!

Eight Things You Do Everyday:

8. Feed my daughter

7. Feed my husband

6. Feed my face

5. Read blogs

4. Drive my daughter around town.

3. Grocery shop

2. Surf on the internet

1. Do covert spy operations

Seven Things I enjoy:

7. Dancing

6. Surfing the Internet

5. Watching my daughter do amazing things

4. Blogging

3. Eating chocolate

2. Watching Ghost Hunters or Destination Truth

1. Exercising (I'm not always being truthful on this).

Six Things that Will Always Win My Heart

6. Comments on my blog

5. Thousands of followers on my blog

4. My daughter's smile

3. Jewelry

2. Finding $20 in my coat pocket the first time I wear it for the season

1. Sleeping in

Five Favorites:

5. Movie: Raising Arizona

4. Song: Single Ladies (between the video of the kids dancing, the Chipmunk Sequeal Movie, and the Sex and The City 2 movie, I can't get this song out of my head!)

3. Book: Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series!--I love junk reading!

2. Band: The Beatles

1. Color: Pink

Four Smells I Enjoy:

4. Popcorn popping

3. Cake baking

2. Cookies baking

1. Cinnamon rolls baking

Three Places I Want To Go:

3. Alaska

2. Hawaii

1. Bora Bora

Two Animals I Love

2. Dogs

1. Cats

One Person I'd Marry on the Spot

1. George Clooney! (Just kidding! I'd marry my hubby...Oh wait a minute...I already did!)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Don't Follow the Script!

Today is the last day to vote in Scholastic "Parent and Child" Magazine top parent blogger contest! Voting ends at midnight EDT (That's 9:00 pm for West coast folks!). If you've already voted, thanks! If you haven't voted yet, click on the 2010 Top Parent Blogger button at the left and vote away! In my mind's eye, I'm behind, so every vote counts!

Now back to the regularly scheduled blog...

I received a question on my blog yesterday from a reader wondering how to solve a situation with her high-functioning autistic daughter. She's pretending to be a character from High School Musical for the past year. This question was so up my alley because my daughter does the same thing, and I don't think I've blogged about this before!

Not long after my daughter turned 3, she started to pretend to be certain things or people. It started at her My Gym class when she'd hang upside down on the rings and yell out, "I'm a caterpillar forming his chrysalis!" This caused us all to laugh, and the My Gym coaches would rave about how smart and creative my daughter was! The charm started to leave, however, when my daughter started doing this all the time! She'd pretend to be characters from TV shows, books, or things she'd see in the real world. After going to Sea World, she pretended to be Shamu. After she got tired of that, she'd pretend to be Shamu's trainer. One particularly embarrassing time was when she was pretending to be the trainer and went to a friend's birthday party. When the mom opened the door, my daughter yelled out, "Hello, Shamu!" Yikes! Luckily, the mother took the greeting with good humor, commenting on how creative my daughter was.

Her constant pretending to be anyone but herself got really annoying. She'd have huge tantrums if anyone dared to call her by her actual name. I quickly realized that this wasn't going to fly when she went to kindergarten, so I knew I had to curtail this behavior fast! I set up some rules that when she was in preschool, she had to go by her name. This was often met with protest.

It was around this time--at age 4 1/2--that we had her assessed for autism. The psychologist who did the assessment told us that what our daughter was doing was called scripting. It's pretty common in high-functioning autistic/Asperger children. Ironically, as creative as it had appeared, she was doing it because she couldn't play creatively! So, she was recreating what she saw on TV, or read in books, or saw in real life. For her, that was how she was able to play.

One of the things we did was use her scripting as a springboard to creative play. So instead of recreating an episode of Curious George, for example, we would use the same characters and create new adventures. My daughter had a hard time doing this at first, but over time she was able to come up with some good ideas.

Another thing we had to work on was her overall rigidity. We found that getting her to be more flexible about things helped with the scripting. Not only would she not have tantrums if people called her by her name, but we were also able to introduce new characters to help with the original story lines. For example, when she wanted to play A Bug's Life, she would generally want to be Flik, the lead character ant. I'd want to be Roachie, a character I invented. My daughter hated Roachie at first, but she eventually liked the new character!

We received a lot of help with the rigidity issues through U.C. Santa Barbara's Koegel Center for Autism. (As an aside, if you are near a university that does research on autism issues, you need to get involved in any of the studies, if you can!). We consulted a few times with Lynn Koegel who is absolutely fabulous! She referred us to one of her PHd candidate students that was doing a study on rigidity in kids with autism. My daughter qualified for the study! Yay! The program used in that study really help her rigidity decrease a lot! It was an amazing difference. This study was key in decreasing the scripting!

How did the program work? I don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of it here, but in general, we used positive reinforcements instead of the negative reinforcements we had previously used (as blogged about in my last blog). What a difference this made! Sometimes, I feel like I'm bribing my daughter for good behavior, but she really seems to internalize why it's important to behave a certain way, so we've had great results.

It's important to curtail the scripting behavior. We had let it go on for about year and a half because we were ignorant about what was going on and why it was happening. If you notice your child doing a lot of this, try to bring more creativity to the play. It's so important!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

If She's Like This Now....

Please, please, please...if you haven't voted in Scholastic "Parent and Child" magazine's blog contest yet, please do so! The voting ends this Friday, June 4th. To vote, simply click on the picture on the left. That will take you to the site. Thanks much!

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog!

I had a bit of a battle with my daughter over the weekend. I asked her to clean up after herself before bedtime, and she refused, saying that she was sooooooo tired! She always plays the tired card when she doesn't want to do something. I was tired too and made a huge mistake. I told her that she couldn't get her allowance if she didn't clean up after herself. She looked at me and said that's fine! No allowance for her that week. I guess she realized that not getting 50 cents was so worth getting out of cleaning up!

She later told hubbie that she didn't need the silly allowance anyway; she never knows what to spend the money on. We reminded her about the cool things she had bought for herself in the past and how she gives some of her money to Make-a-Wish Foundation to help out other boys and girls. This did get her to mull over the fact that she did like doing those things with her money.

My husband then handled the situation beautifully by reminding her that as a member of the family, she has to pitch in and help out. It's her responsibility. I also chimed in that when I was her age, my mother had me cleaning toilets and other things. All we were asking was that she clean up her toys, etc. She's been a complete doll since then and has helped out joyfully and enthusiastically!

This incident reminded me of something that happened after she turned 4, before we had her diagnosed with high-functioning autism/Asperger's. Her play area was a complete mess and she refused to help clean it up. Both my husband and I threatened her by saying that if she didn't clean up, we were going to take away all her toys for awhile. She said, "Go ahead, that's fine!" So we did it after we put her to bed. It took us HOURS to stash away all her toys. Her play area was completely empty! The next morning, as she was eating breakfast, she suddenly noticed what we did. Instead of throwing the tantrum that I was expecting, she kept a poker face and kept eating. After breakfast, she ran into the play area, looked around, then said, "Wow, my table looks great!" about its empty surface (Before, it was completely cluttered with toys and Play-Doh). I remember thinking, "Uh-oh! If's she's like this now, what are we going to do when she's a teenager?"

I'm still wondering that! And I'm still very afraid!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Peace, Love, Music, and Money!

Please, please, please...if you haven't voted in Scholastic "Parent and Child" magazine's blog contest yet, please do so! The voting ends this Friday, June 4th. To vote, simply click on the picture on the left. That will take you to the site. Thanks much!

We spent the Memorial Day weekend cooped up in the house way too much. So yesterday, my husband suggested we get out and do something! Wow, what a concept! There was a big festival taking place about 3 miles down the road from us, so we decided to check it out.

The festival was called the Topanga Days Festival. For those of you (probably almost all of you) who've never heard of Topanga, it's a town in Los Angeles located in between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. Some may say it's located halfway between heaven and hell! I'm only saying this because it can get VERY hot in the San Fernando Valley. A few years ago, it got as hot as 119 degrees by my house, and we're only 10 miles away from the beach! Crazy. Anyway, I digress. Topanga is pretty much a hippie retreat, but the real estate is crazy expensive. So, you have to be a pretty rich hippie to live in Topanga!

Anyway, we went to this festival that had 3 stages of music, games for the kids, and food vendors. In addition, there were lots of people who had set up tables to support their causes. One table had people signing a petition to make BP take responsibility for the oil deluge in the gulf. The other tables also supported "green" type issues.

When we first arrived, I joked with my daughter that this festival probably brought daddy back to his childhood! I had never seen so much tie-dye in one place! We saw a bad Jimi Hendrix look-alike and someone who was attempting to look like Jerry Garcia. The music was good, but we missed seeing Ziggy Marley who performed the day before.

The main difference between this and the festivals back in the 60s was the prices. They were absolutely insane! It cost us $50 to attend the festival itself. That probably isn't too bad considering the number of bands that were performing and it was good for the whole day. We only stayed for a couple of hours, so it was pretty pricey for us. But the thing that was crazy-expensive was the food! We waited in a long line just to get some sweet potato fries and a lemonade. We couldn't see the price list until we were closer up, and by then we were already too committed to get the darn food! The fries were $7! That is not a typo! Seven dollars for some fries. Are they insane? The lemonade was a bargain in comparison! That was only $4! I couldn't believe we paid $11 for one order of fries and one lemonade.

We had to pay $5 for my daughter to jump for 2 minutes in a bounce house. We also bought game tickets so my daughter could play some games. I had no idea how much those were. I don't really want to know!

We did have a lot of fun getting out of the house and doing something. But I can't believe how expensive it was--especially for something so hippie-dippie.

I also can't believe how much I sound like a grumpy old person. When did that happen?