Autism has changed HOW we are..

I like looking at a glass half full. I believe everything happens for a reason. I always try to stay positive within a situation.

Wish is partly why I haven’t written in a while. I didn’t want to be a disability parent who just mopes around all over the internet.

6 words.

“There’s Something Wrong with That Kid”.

Those words took down a 250 lb linebacker of a dad and a (we really don’t need to talk about my weight) pretty strong character of a mom.

It was at a hockey practice with our team and the other team we played earlier in the day. They didn’t know T had Autism. My husband was on the ice to work with T and other kids from our team to help them. T was tired and started meandering aimlessly through the practice, having a hard time staying on task and completing the necessary drills. They didn’t realize my husband was T’s dad and after watching a particularly challenging exercise,  one coach made that comment to the other.

Chris, my dear husband, protector of our family, hit a complete crossroads at that point. He was proud of himself later for not slugging the guy right there on the ice and totally disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to punch him in the face. Amazing isn’t it how one phrase can stir up such intense emotion?

Original source: Arham1234 on
Original source: Arham1234 on

You see, it’s starting to show that T is different. Up until this point, we kind of flew under the radar. His outbursts of movie content, overly sensitivity when someone yelled (he actually told a hockey mom once that she needed to stop yelling at her son and that made him “VERY angry” – clenched fists and all), kissing and hugging (inappropriately) friends, parent of friends, teachers, daycare providers and his speech pathologist kind of came off as endearing and young. So much so that we were often asked if we were “sure” that T had a diagnosis of ASD.

In some ways, he is doing a 1,000 X better in terms of social. The new WiiU he got for Christmas has allowed him to engage with his friends in something that he loves to do and is proficient at so that he can provide advice to his friends and find a way for them to play together and on the same team. But he is also starting to demonstrate those tell-tale signs of Autism- he doesn’t connect with how loud he is, can’t quite gain control of physical responses and often “over does it” when excited or stimulated, he gets very upset if you get angry with anything (most recently it was a friend’s dog who he adores that was getting into trouble for eating off the table), and his friends are noticing his repetition, nonsensical statements and lack of interest in common games typical of a 6-year-old.

On the bright side, he doesn’t lie, has a laugh that is so pure and honest, you want to bottle it up and save it, and his empathy is such that he spent an entire period of hockey making sure that everyone was ok who had fallen down.

This is yet another phase we are learning about on this journey and what we have recently discovered is that it doesn’t define WHO we are but often does define HOW we are.

And part of HOW we are going to be is to always try to stay positive, and overlook the times when people are ignorant in what they say but at the same time are telling the truth. There IS something different about him.

Something awesome.

Thinking positive- ASD


LOVE is what gets you through Autism

There’s not much I like about Autism. 

Trying to understand why T does some of the things he does: where he goes when he disappears:how to help him when he gets really upset: how to make sure he isn’t aggressive with other kids: navigating the school system to try to get him support: the repetitive, obsessive behaviour: ….and let’s not forget the over stimulating, sensory sensitivity that often starts our day off ridonkulously early…

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I wouldn’t say that I have found the silver lining in why any of this has happened…we have accepted it and we are moving day at a time. Yes there are crap days where I feel depressed and sad and wish this wasn’t our fight but there are also some beautiful days…one which I think, if T DIDN’T have Autism, if he was just like any other boy, would he be doing what he just did?

That is exactly what I thought this morning as he woke up (at a reasonable time for once,not the 5 am since Daylight Savings) came into the living room and cuddled up close. And said what EVERY mom craves to hear from their child…

“Mom, I love you so much”

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You see, right now, T’s repetitive habit (because they change like the season) is to tell everyone that he loves them so much and he is going to “squish you like a bug” with his face all cute and squished up and then asks for a big, big hug.

I know this came from one of his daycare providers who he absolutely adores and who has a particular bond with T, and who says both of those things to him often.

I’ll take it! and so will my parents, my husband’s mom and every one of our friends who he has now said “I love you so much”.

Because he is a genuine, sweet little guy and when he says it to you….it is so very heartfelt and makes your heart skip a beat out of pure love right back to him.

So as much as at times, this journey can suck (as it does for all parents)…for this moment, I will happily enjoy this aspect of Autism.


Love and Autism

Fighting the dragon: Autism & the school system

As we are coming closer and closer to the school year, I am starting the cringe with the notion that here begins the fight with the Toronto District School Board to get the much-needed support for our son and others like him at our school. As we left the school in June, we were informed that while our school is considered a “hotspot” for Special Needs and recognized that there is a significant number of kids who require help to support them in school, we have thus far been allocated .5 of a position (for reference that is a 1 part-time position)..we apparently need at least 2.5 positions to cover the needs of the children.

We promptly did what many suggested and started writing letter (s) in Late June (combined with the parents of the other little guy that shared the SNA (Special Needs Assistant) with us last year). We sent it to the school trustee, superintendent, supervising principal and our MPP. We received 1 response (which we appreciated) from the superintendent, indicating that everyone was on holidays until the 20th of August and we would potentially meet then to discuss.

We have followed up but without any response to date.

I know, everyone in Toronto seems to be in a tizzy about the teacher contract agreement and what is about to happen with them. Ask any special needs parent what they think of hearing the trials and tribulations of teachers who live in such an unrealistic world of expectations on job security, pensions, and time off when it comes to hearing that your child won’t have any help this year and it’s sometimes hard to be sympathetic. I’m not saying that it’s the teachers who are responsible for the lack of resources available but I do feel that the Behemoth that is the TDSB and the way they have negotiated some terms in regards to union agreements have made it near to impossible to address the resources required in supporting the growing epidemic of Autism and children’s needs in the school system. 1 in 88 children or 1 in 54 boys now has autism. Can you truly say that your school system has changed their budgets in any way to assist that number?

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I hate that this is going to be a fight. At one point during the summer as I was learning more and more about the lack of resources available, I even considered what it would take to become Catholic? (Trust me..I wouldn’t fit in..) Where would we have to move to access appropriate resources for T at school? Does it really have to get to that?

Parents we talk to who have kids on the other side of school (now adults and experiencing different challenges) suggest looking at it as a journey instead of a battle. I very much DO look at Autism as an adventure when it comes to the experiences T has brought us. We have learned to be more patient, appreciative, creative and grateful parents and I love how our family works.

They also say:

Fight…Don’t Give UP…YOU are the advocate for your child…YOU are responsible for getting him the best care possible. 

OK…I’m suiting up…ready to take on the fire-breathing dragon….

For reference on the most recent Special Needs Report on the TDSB Click here 

The journey through Autism isn’t always easy

Last week I attended an Autism conference by KidsAbility in Waterloo and had the privilege of listening to a very honest, heartwarming and heartbreaking dialogue between Dylan Thomas (a 22 year old U of W student with Aspergers) and his mother, each describing their point of view of what it was like growing up with Autism. The closeness of their relationship as mother and son as well as their unique perspectives gave me moments of laughing my ass off with Dylan’s straight shooter depiction of thinking of people as animals to that large lump that gets in your throat as his mom described the constant challenges they faced in navigating the school system on Dylan’s behalf.

That presentation as amazing as it was, somehow turned me into a sobbing mess on the way home, an ache in my heart that felt so heavy as I thought about the road ahead and what we might have to face as T grows up.

That was Friday and it somehow opened the floodgates for the weekend as my most amazing husband sent me off to the cottage with the girls to regroup, relax and reconnect with lovely ladies I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with for quite a while. These are beautiful friends, women that I know very well, enjoy their senses of humour, and can easily talk about anything. Yet I found myself, worn out from a fairly exhausting month of work, unable to prevent the crack in my voice and the floodgates to open when we were having a simple conversation about Autism. I’m not sure if it’s that I don’t want to talk about it in case in starts to ostracize people or if I don’t like talking about it because I don’t want it to define who T is and who we are. I surprised myself by admitting that anyone who gives me that sympathetic, “I’m sorry” head tilt, I want to slap and I find myself putting the word “Autism” out there as almost a dare for anyone to react in a way that is anything different from normal.

T is doing really well right now. He is engaging in social conversation, he is doing way better at looking people in the eyes, his frustration freak outs are almost non-existent. He is doing well because we are working hard at managing a household that works for Autism. We go to Speech Path weekly, we practice at home, we work with his teachers, we know what sets him off and create plans that don’t contribute to those ugly moments.

No one ever said the road would be straight…

But he still has Autism.

He still has repetitive behaviours, over-stimulation issues, sound and texture sensitivities, communication and social challenges.

We always try to take a very positive approach to this journey but I have to admit, after a month of school field trips, volunteering in the classroom, school dance, and most recently an end of year performance where the kids go to dance, we are emotionally exhausted. Every time we go to one of these events, my heart is FULL of love for our little guy..we feel so incredibly proud of what he has achieved. But there is a part of me that is really sad…sad when he checks out into his own world in the middle of a performance, sad that kids aren’t connecting to him in school activities, sad that he is left out…sad because we can’t make a difference in those moments.

I know this just a moment in his life but its one I wish we could speed through and get to the other side.

After hearing the Thomas’ story, it seems like the road is a long one.

We LIT IT UP……Blue for Autism Awareness


Autism Support
Light it up Blue on April 2, 2012

As I came home last night and approached our house, the shining blue spotlights clearly made a statement. I love that we chose to do this as a way of showing our support for World Autism Awareness Day. It demonstrated part of our commitment in raising awareness for Autism but in my mind, also made me keenly aware of how different we are from our neighbours. As they went on with their nightly activities, I came home…poured a drink…cuddled into my husband and had a good cry.

I was so overwhelmed by yesterday.

Throughout the day, I felt incredibly proud of how people in the world were coming together on one singular day to raise as much awareness as possible. It seemed every store I had stopped into recently- Toys R Us, Home Depot- there was a message about raising awareness. The Autism Speaks website had an incredible amount of shots of structures around the world Lighting It Up Blue in support. Amazing.

I found myself reading a ton of blogs, following a number of streams on Twitter, posted on Facebook, and received messages of support via email, direct message and posts on my walls from friends who generously reached out to make their statement about Autism.

My heart hurt with how many people wrote honestly and with raw truth on what it feels to be a parent with a child with special needs. The one that hit the nail on the head was 7 Things You Don’t Know About a Special Needs Parent. I appreciated so much what Maria Lin wrote in terms of the feelings you have as a parent in this situation.

When I was online after first hearing the diagnosis, I wish I had seen this. Instead I went through months of guilty feelings trying to get past that life will be different now but not really knowing how to move on. (Thus the running)

I feel like the cog in the awareness wheel is finally starting to move a little bit. That people are more and more aware of Autism (and an increasing number of kids are getting diagnosed with some form of ASD) but they still don’t really understand it. No one really does.

Now I find part of me is filled with an unruly amount of impatience. I want to do something. I want to fix something. I want to see change.

I keep thinking we need to look at things just a little bit better understand Autism and how it works, we could come up with stronger answers on how to help them manage through the key challenges they have in daily life. I used the example to my husband of one of those 3D puzzles you have in the paper. Looking at it, its just a series of spots..but if you let your eyes relax, suddenly you see an entire picture that wasn’t there a second ago.

I am trying to relax… my eyes…just a little bit more.

Autism Diagnosis – 1 year later…It gets better

We’ve officially just passed our first year with an ASD diagnosis.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that it was only a year ago that we first got sucker-punched with the announcement that our 4 yr old son (at the time) was on the spectrum. This year became a test of everything. A test of our patience, a test on our marriage, a test on our ability to learn, to cope, to support, to stay positive, and ultimately to keep laughing.

For those of you new to a diagnosis, here is a snapshot of what might happen within the first year of discovering your child has Autism. (NB: I’m being brutally honest here in hopes to pass on a realistic viewpoint and let you know that you are not alone)

First 2-3 months: Feels like you’re in a foggy haze. I have seen people react many different ways to a diagnosis. Self-pity, frustration, anger, heartbreak. As much as I tried to be positive, there were still moments I felt like I wanted to scream. I couldn’t comprehend why us, didn’t think he was really that far off from regular kids to be defined as Autistic, embarrassed by how often when someone asked me about it I couldn’t hold it together. There will be many tears, often from frustration as you fumble through trying to figure out what you are supposed to do (especially when it comes to finding support and school). You might feel useless, overwhelmed, sad, disappointed and still completely (if not more so) madly in love with your child.

A dear friend gave us a copy of The first 100 Days by Autism Speaks. It helped. Although my husband and I are both Do’ers- I’m an event planner and he’s a project manager and we didn’t get the sit back and process mode, instead stupidly tried to project manage the Autism right out of our little guy.

100 Days of Autism Diagnosis

Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest


The next 4-8 months: Once we finally got to the realization that indeed our son was Autistic, that this was going to be a lifelong venture and we needed to start adjusting the how to’s in managing his success, we (or should I say I more so than my husband) had a really difficult time informing people of T’s ASD diagnosis. It felt often that people were a bit stunned and didn’t know what to say..choosing to say something like “well, he doesn’t seem Autistic to me” (hated that)..or gave us that dreaded pity look (hated that more). Then there are those friends who say something brilliant and just help you get through. Best examples of peeps we love and their originality that helped so much..

J- Simply said “ he’ll be an engineer” That matter of ASD would help guide his career path to a place where other socially awkward folks might hang out..that there was a pre-existing destination that would be completely accepting of the way he functions

G- Who sent a lovely email with “I don’t know what to say” (love her honesty) and that she was there..on call…standing by if we needed her.

T- Who let me just bawl and agreed it sucked and let me rant to her more than once and asked me how I felt…that rarely happened and I would rarely talk to anyone how I was feeling but T and I are that kind of veritable friend soul mate..who can call you out, ask you tough questions and you love them for it

W-Who is one of the most generous hearts I know and also has had a ton of experience in Autism given that she has family who are as well. She was the greatest listener and advice giver ever. Having a ton of wonderful matter of fact conversations that helped me better understand what Autism is all about.


In this time period, we also felt the massive and crushing experience of “working” with the school system to get T some help. It blows my mind how often we heard “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”…and they’re right. Chris and I are both very much sit in the camp of you get more bees with honey but this is one example I can truly say, YOU GOTTA FIGHT! FOR YOUR RIGHT…to have your children supported in school. Many parents who went before me with the an ASD diagnosis, kept telling me to advocate for my son. I truly didn’t know what that meant until dealing with his education. It felt like a battle from the word go.. and we have to say we are incredibly fortunate to have a principal we feel supports us and lucked out with an EA who T and another boy share. The key issue..budget. There is 4X as many Autism diagnosis than in 2002 in our province and yet they have not changed the budget significantly to manage how many kids are needing help.This is something I plan to go on a crusade about once we get our lives in order.


Another key change we did was coordinate help. We went to the Triple P parenting class offered by the Geneva Centre for Autism, which I highly recommend for a number of reasons. 1) You get to talk to other parents who are having similar struggles at home 2) The videos might be a bit hokey but they give you great foundations to work with not only your special needs children but parenting in general 3) You start developing a series of strategies for managing through the day to day to keep your spirits high and your energy focused on the positive. We also worked with an Occupational Therapist to look at ways to help him manage (we discovered he is a deep sensory kid and that a really big squeeze hug will help often when he gets overwhelmed). It also explained a lot why he doesn’t like certain textures..(right now jeans are on the outs) as the OT explained for him, its more like sandpaper than comfort..and why he gets really excitable in loud scenarios (his hearing is super sensitive as well) One of our worst moments was in the midst of a fire alarm. A situation I will never forget. The most valuable we are finding is working with a Speech Pathologist. She has made incredible strides with T in making eye contact when he is talking, taking time to think through what he is saying and learning how to be quiet and not talk..something I didn’t realize how important until we started using this as a technique at home. When he is really excited, we put our finger to our lips (for quiet), gesture for him to focus on what we are pointing at and wait quietly while he accomplishes the task. I tell you, getting dressed went from hellish to happy simply by using that strategy.

8-12 months: I think it wasn’t until then that I was actually able to get out the words Special Needs without cringing at the response I was about to get from people. We still get the pity look but I now realize that its simply because they don’t understand. Who I did feel totally got it was all the teachers in my life. One, an old friend from high school, Jamie M simply asked was kind of savant quality had and talked about the 5 kids he has in his class (this makes total sense as he is an absolute ham and would completely “GET” an Autistic sense of humour). The other, my cousin, shared a beautiful poem with us about truly understanding Autism in the form of the Night Before Christmas. It made me cry but also  made me realize how she and many others are part of that quiet strength we have in our corner. Friends and family are what you need to help you get through sometimes. Talking is good.


Speaking of talking, the one thing I can’t stress enough is to keep the dialogue open with your spouse. As I was initially researching Autism, I came across a stat that 80% of marriages with special needs end in divorce. It freaked the crap out of me. So a key thing we concentrated on was keeping our relationship strong to be able to stay strong as a family. We set up and maintained date nights, met at the kitchen table for wine, tears and conversation, banded together to fight the school system. We are (what I would say) one of the strongest “teams” around and even then we faltered on occasion- getting frustrated at each other because of being frustrated with the system or bottling up the heartache we had that life wasn’t going to be ordinary in certain ways. That T might or might not do well in team sports, social situations, school..but talking about it and sharing our struggles made sure that neither of us felt alone in this journey. Check out Our Son Destined for a Team for our perspective on sports.

One Year Later

Life is moving forward and we are seeing some great progress in T’s development.I was starting to feel like he was really behind in the way he interacted with kids but he is starting to integrate a ton better and we are working on social situations. In speaking with his support team at daycare/school, turns out he has lots of friends and in that beautiful way that kids are, when he starts getting upset, they somehow have figured out strategies to keep him relaxed throughout the day. (They gave us a great example of T starting to get agitated and one little girl coming over and handing him a train to hold onto…seriously, I turned into a mushy mess in the middle of the meeting).

To anyone out there who might have recently received an ASD diagnosis, it will get better. You will learn to adjust to the changes in your life and the grieving period will start to subside. You might be surprised by how much of a protector, fighter, lover, or comedian you will become. It will likely change you somehow. If it does, be sure to figure out what you need to get through. For me, its been exercise and laughter and an invaluable support system behind us.

Make yourself strong. Mentally, Physically, Spiritually…so that you can help your kids have the best adventure of their life.

Source: via Christine on Pinterest