Thursday, November 19, 2015

So your child was just diagnosed with autism...

It just happened and the news hits you like a runaway truck. You experience a mixture of relief and shock. Relief at having a name for the thing you didn't understand and shock because you still have no idea what to do about it. Better yet, your doctor may not know what you should do either. It's bad enough that parenting doesn't come with automatic instructions, but you have far more to learn than the average parent.

Well you aren't alone and this write up is geared to give you more than one place to start.

I am an adult with autism raising a teenager with autism. I've been on your path and then some. Not only did I have to relearn everything I thought I knew about parenting, I had to relearn myself. This advice will by no means cover every thing you could face. Every child is different and how heavily they are affected by autism is vastly different. That's why it's called "the spectrum". Which leads to my first point:

Get to know your child: Sure, every parent has to do this, but you are watching for intricate details that others will take for granted. You are watching for triggers in sensory that others don't commonly react to. You are watching for extreme behaviors that demonstrate super interest or reaction or almost NO interest or reaction. These will be noteworthy to you so you can help your child interact with a loud and intense world. Look for both the things that aggravate and provide comfort. For example, if hiding under a blanket calms a meltdown, you best have a blanket with you on outings. There are three subjects that I use to teach people about autism in children. They are as follows:

-Sensory: Various sensory (your five senses) "problems" or imbalances are common in autism. Colors and lights may be super bright and overbearing. Sounds may be too loud and invasive. Textures may cause extreme discomfort. Yet, some sensory issues may do the opposite so much that your child seeks them out constantly. These can be very strange behaviors. The list is long and some behaviors can be disturbing. The good news is that your child will develop past hundreds of these behaviors. Behaviors as a toddler are by no means bound to be permanent. And by no means should you think you cannot teach your child alternate behaviors. You absolutely can.

-Routine: The order in which you do daily activities is something your child will likely become very sensitive of. Changes in routines may be met with severe resistance. This includes issues like change of wardrobe from one season to the next. As they grow, clear information on how and why of changes may help. Again, these are teaching points for you as the parent. It's simply something you will have long term work on with your child. The forms of many sensitivities will change with age. Just know, that if you teach them to brush their teeth before getting dressed and one day you switch that around, it may become a very difficult day.

-Social: Social interactions are heavily affected by sensory and some delayed maturity issues (but not just those). Social interactions have a tendency to go one of two directions; too little or way too much. Lack of eye contact or "appropriate" response to your emotions (anger or praise) are just the beginning. Clear and literal information can be of utmost importance. For example, my wife summoned my son to his messy bedroom where he had tossed dirty clothes down in his doorway. She asked him "what is wrong with this picture?". My son became very nervous because, while he saw the mess on his floor, he did not see a "picture" anywhere. If she had asked "what is wrong with these clothes?" he would have understood immediately. You're child will have to be taught very specifically what it means when you are happy with him or not. Just expressing the emotions, will likely not work the same as with a typical child. As an additional caution, never spank an autistic child. It will ignite sensory triggers, cause huge meltdowns, and teach them that it's okay to hit you and others. When I say that you will have to learn a whole different way of parenting it is not a casual reflection.

Be involved with your child: Your child needs you more than ever to help them understand how to live in our crazy world. I'm going to make a suggestion that has helped my own son in so many ways.

Play games.

Yes, games. I play and collect heroclix with my son. It's a table top game with tiny figurines of comic book super heroes played out on a map. I developed short term variations of the rules for my son to enjoy at a very young age (about 8). It helped him with social interaction, math, and problem solving. He still loves the game to this day. He has fond memories of interactions with those games. How to react to winning or losing and the random chances of the dice are incredible tools that can be integrated into teaching how the world works in real life. It's creative parenting at its best.

Finally, let me tell you that (while you are understandably shaken now) you have become the parent of a very special form of person. He or she is going to show you things about life you never thought possible. Get ready, because it's going to be quite a trip.

Monday, November 16, 2015

French Flags and Coffee Cups

What the hell is wrong with people? I wish that weren't a daily question that plagues my brain as bandwagon wars erupt across the internet over stupid things. Things like coffee cups. Just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but damn. I don't see what's wrong with it. It's red. Oh wait, I get it, someone was watching Saturday Night Live reruns and came across the Church Lady.

"The cups are not religious enough." Was said by some fool whose name I didn't bother to catch in some interview. I don't know if this dipstick ever bothered to notice this... but...

Starbucks has never claimed to be a religious entity in the first place.

Funny that, huh? No one goes to Starbucks for a sermon. They go there for overpriced coffee. It's not a church, it's a coffee house. They can make up  the design on their cups in any stinking array of colors they damn well feel like. There are no laws against it and no church has any right to tell them how to conduct their business. If you don't like the cups, don't have them. Simple as that. But no, church whackos aren't content unless they have something utterly ridiculous to cry about.

I haven't seen any of them crying over the attacks in France recently and that brings me to something equally ridiculous as the coffee cups. The French Flag movement.

Why is it ridiculous? First of all, showing your support is not ridiculous. You have the right to show your support any way you want. Go for it! What gets stupid is the battle of the bandwagons every time something like this happens. Remember all the gay pride profile pics on Facebook recently? While it was a massive show of support it immediately brought out opposition. Not just opposition for gays, but opposition for getting on a bandwagon to support them when (if true) you had nothing to do with them in the first place. Same thing is still happening with Black Lives Matter. There has to be an opposing force of All Lives Matter, that ignores the point BLM is trying to make.

So, now that people are posting French flags, there are people criticizing because they don't see all the other flags of war torn countries represented. If you are one of those people making that complaint, I have a question for you:


This is like complaining about how your neighbor mows their lawn when you never mow yours. See why it's stupid? I can see why bandwagoning is irritating, but if you are bandwagoning against bandwagoning, you are basically doing the same thing, only dumber. Let people express themselves and get over it. No one who is posting a French flag is pretending there are no other problems in the world. That's just not realistic. We all know the world has gone to hell. We haven't missed anything. I could get into all the how and why of what people do to show support, but that's a long write up.

It's just like getting bent out of shape over a coffee cup. I'm sure we all have better things to do.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

There's a Muppet with Autism and the Sky is Falling!

It's not hard to make an anti-vaccination supporter have a complete mental blowout. Their collective sanity sits on a feather ledge to begin with and they have no qualm with demonstrating it. So, when Autism Daddy and Sesame Street worked together and brought us the first muppet with autism... well...


Louder than the hurricane that recently tore into Mexico is the sound of anti-vaxxer heads exploding. Of course, they believe the only cause for autism has been vaccines (never mind that such has been thoroughly debunked over and over again). They believe if you have autism and you aren't an anti-vaxxer that you're some kind of traitor to their cause. So it's not surprising that they think Sesame Street is in cahoots with "big pharma" to push vaccines.

Of course, that's absolutely untrue. But you'll never get through the concrete fog around an anti-vaxxer's brain to show them that.

Just when I think I've seen all the sickening stunts they can pull, they do this.

I personally love the fact that there is a muppet with autism. No, she doesn't represent every single form of autism in every single person (one of their unrealistic arguments because she can talk) but she does represent autism.
Julia of Sesame Street

One of the most wonderful things about Sesame Street is their belief in INCLUSION. They believe that we are all wonderful people and everyone should be taken for who they are and accepted as such. That is the Sesame Street way. To see it as anything else takes either ignorance or a twisted mentality.

Oh, but they say there's evidence! Apparently Elmo promotes vaccine safety.

Well, that's all it takes to make AVrs hate you. Well, never mind that the two events are not connected in anyway, nor is there any proof that they are; but I just don't care. I promote vaccine safety, I accept actual science, and I know that VACCINES DON'T CAUSE AUTISM. Never have and never will.

Friday, October 2, 2015

MS Fatigue will make you PAY

This morning I'm using my cane around the house. I never use my cane around the house. Why? Because I live in a tiny house with one narrow hallway. I can usually balance myself  on walls and counters. Those aren't enough today. It's because MS fatigue is making me pay.

I had a good day yesterday. I walked my son to and from school. The extra walk for school, I was sure would hit me, but I did more than that. I also walked to find the owners of two lost dogs that wound up in my back yard. I even managed to find them! While I felt fine with all the walking and some housework, MS was keeping its own tally of my actions.

The alarm rang across the room this morning. I felt it right away. A feeling like my forehead was full of lead. I had to struggle to sit up, leaning on my bedside table. The alarm still demanded my attention. I gazed through the darkness toward the sound and wondered if I could develop telekinesis. Nope. Dear wife slept right through it and I envied her that. But then, she hasn't been feeling well lately. I had to use the bed for support as I shifted to the end and used the window sill to support me in standing. Next I had to manage two steps to the dresser without throwing myself on the floor. My knees rebelled the moment I went to stand, so this was like jumping a ravine.

Deep breath and shove off. And I made it. My knees wanted to buckle but I held on to the top of the dresser. I reached out and fumbled with the alarm clock. Finally silence. I stayed there for a couple of minutes, catching my breath from a small journey across a room that healthy people totally take for granted. Now I just had to make it 15 feet to the bed room door with nothing to support me. Oh, there's a set of plastic shelves, but I would just pull those over. If you could have seen me, you would have thought I shambled like a zombie from the Walking Dead. Still, I made it and leaned on the door or wall to take a micro-break before heading out to wake my son for school.

Mornings are always tough and off balance, but after a day of actual physical activity, it's always worse. MS, makes you pay for it. Sometimes for days. I'm glad it's Friday and everyone can sleep in tomorrow! Even then, when I get up, it's slow and easy or crash. My wife had to take kiddo to school as I can barely walk even with my coffee in me. But then, life doesn't stop for MS. My kitchen is a disaster area and I'm wearing my last pair of clean underwear. I will have to manage at least a couple of things today.

That's what Multiple Sclerosis does to you. It gives you a day of doing things really well, and then relapses you into uselessness for anywhere up to several days. You don't just get tired for the night, your body malfunctions for a lot longer in response to physical fatigue. That's what it's like. Try to imagine if you can. As food for thought, I leave you with a little ditty by Jethro Tull:

My first and last time with you
and we had some fun.
wenT walking through the trees, yeah!
And then I kissed you once.
Oh I want to see you soon
but I wonder how.
It was a new day yesterday
but it's an old day now.
Spent a long time looking
for a game to play.
My luck should be so bad now
to turn out this way.
Oh I had to leave today
just when I thought I'd found you.
It was a new day yesterday
But it's an old day now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

And yet we are blessed

This is a really tough blog to write. I'm going to explain something I haven't yet because of several reasons. As I explain this, though, I want you to understand how blessed we are because of the assistance we have had and the people who are working with my son now. Yes, we are blessed in spite of the situation.

I used to be able to order and give out free stuff in my Galaxy Zento biz. I can't now. I've told people that we are bent over a barrel and there have been some medical issues with myself and my dear wife, but I haven't explained this part of the story. Why? Because I'm not looking to bitch or sob. But I have contained this long enough that I really can't just stay shut down over it any more. I need to talk. There are names I still cannot say, so forgive that and just bear with me.

As many of you know I have a super 13 year old son with autism. He's a great kid and we are so proud of him every day. He's gone through so much. Right now he's in a "private school" that specializes in his educational needs. The reason our family has no money for any extras (and barely enough for some essentials) is that we are paying 298 dollars a month to put him through school.

It could be worse, but a wonderful, wonderful company fronted half the years tuition. So why don't we have him in public school? This is the hard part. The part where I can't name names. But it's like this; about two years ago, my son had to spend a few months in a hospital for the heavy stress related injuries caused by the school system. Without going into a ton of details, it's as simple as that.

I've been asked why I can't afford to buy copies of my own game or pay for pro artists etc, well that's why. And frankly, my son is just a little more important than how they think I should try to start my business. But that's just a side frustration. I digress.

Sue them? No. Believe it or not, that would actually hurt quite a few people. I spoke to a very good attorney who won a case for another family against the same system over 5 years ago. That system owes said family over a hundred grand and has yet to pay a single penny. Not only that, but the system will retaliate and drag my son's current school under a microscope to "see if he's getting proper education there". That would hurt every student there that this wonderful school has helped. So, the way we are doing this is the best way we possibly can.

We live by circulating credit cards, not having cable, and keeping it at the bare essentials. And it's totally worth it. My son has been helped so very much, that I love that place. I would rather be house poor than see them hurt him. Because they told me, to my face, that middle school here would not follow his IEP and they had no fear in telling me that because there is just no damned enforcement here. And my family is not the only special needs family they have done this with. They scare families away so they don't have to deal with them.

So, for you IEP warriors out there. PLEASE don't ask who they are. I won't tell you. If you find out, please don't contact them, you will hurt us and countless other families. I just needed to talk it out. I know many of you will understand.

What saddens me is how much some people don't understand (like the elitists of Kickstarter and board games who ran me off). Finding out only that I'm disabled was enough for them to say I was full of excuses and to go away. God only knows what they'd say about my son. Again, side frustration. Sorry.

But we never give up. I fight to show my son that it's always worth it to keep going. I'm so proud of his accomplishments and overcoming. And before anyone asks. We never told him to blame his school system even though he's fearful of certain people if he sees them in public. He sees his time at the hospital as something he needed to help aim in the right direction and learn important life skills. He does not consider himself a victim, rather a growing boy with his own difficulties. Now we just have to figure out what we are doing about High School once we have him caught up, because if we can't move, he will be back in that system again. Not sure what we'll do about that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Autism and Back to School

Across the nation we are officially back to school. Maybe a few aren't, but most are. Going back to school means change in schedule and likely a few meltdowns and tantrums. I'm writing this today to touch base on a few reminders that may help you through the transition.

Remember what you learned last year and the year before that. If you've done this more than 3 or 4 times, you should be prepared for resistance. That won't make it any more fun to deal with, but better prepared thinking than not. Consider techniques you used last year and use them again this year.

Don't engage the tantrum: This is especially true with autistics. We can be a very argumentative bunch. Kids already have this angry debating skill. Do your best to stay cool and not react to the tantrum. State your expectations and then drop it. Apply consequences after you get what you want out of the situation and when everyone has calmed down.

Don't apply consequences before going to school if it only further triggers your child into a fit. I have direct experience with this. The idea is getting your child to school, hopefully in a mood that won't destroy their school day. Leave discussing their behavior and any consequences for when they get home. "Remember how you used all those swear words this morning? No video games tonight." This way, you got them to school and gave consequences at a time where you have more time and control.

Remember to reward the behaviors you want. If your kid is handling transition better than last year, tell him! Be happy with what he does right and praise it. Give rewards. A good reward system is always important, even if it isn't worth a hundred bucks. You don't have to spend lavish funds to give rewards. The simple things can be very effective.

Give down time after school. Don't expect your child to go straight to homework the second they walk through the door. He or she has spent the last 8 hours struggling to behave and jump through school hoops. A break after school is welcome and kind. Set up a routine. Offer half an hour of break time to do what ever they want (save anything they can't do because of behavior) with the knowledge that it's homework time after that. My son actually prefers to get right to it, but he always has the option of that after school break.

Hopefully, these tips help you handle the new transition that we all have to wade through. Age doesn't seem to help, so we must be vigilant parents. Have tips you'd like to share? Post them in comments!

Do you or your kids love heroes? Add the Galaxy Zento page! Books and games for ages 8 and up are available. The work of GZ is dedicated to showing our autistic youth that you CAN DO even with a few struggles. Life get's better so never give up. The GZ page is loaded with cool artwork and updates!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Minimum wage, living wage, and everyone else

First I want to point out an article I saw today that I totally agree with.


Now, go read it! Then come back and check this out.

Before MS ravaged me I was making over 16 dollars an hour as a dog cop. Animal Control, the dog catcher if you must call it that. Before you scoff, you should know that I worked tons of overtime on emergencies like a child being mauled, illegal and dangerous exotic animals, someone's lost pup hit by a car, or a family of raccoons invading a family domicile.

If the risks of those aren't enough for you, try being depended on by every other emergency support agency for any issue where an animal shows up. Warrant served on a guy with attack dogs? We had to be there. House on fire with pets? We had to be there. Armed standoff and there are pets? We had to be there. Murder scene? Yep. Suicide? Yep. Drug bust? Yep. Been on them all and more. And our officers didn't even wear bullet proof vests until the last half of my job stay. That's 6 and a half years with about 3 years open chested and being threatened every other day. Yes. We were threatened over people and their stupid animal issues.

So, do I think I deserved to be paid more than someone flipping burgers for a living? Let me explain something to you.

Fast food is the single largest job market of our economy. Biggest one, bar none. The days of it being a 'breakthrough' to the job market are gone. So let's get with the freaking times, shall we?

Here's the truth. We are all underpaid. Now back up and read that last sentence again. Keep doing that until it sinks in. I mean all of us. Every single one who isn't some corporate fat cat looking down from his pile of money laughing his ass off at all of us. Everyone who isn't a politician with three mansions and a fleet of yachts paid for with our tax dollars.

No one, from soldier or firemen to broom pushers, are being paid enough to support a family on a single income. And depending on where you live and the demographics involved you are only slightly better or worse off. Need I remind you of the practically non-existent middle class? Where did they go? And you want to bitch about what a fast food worker makes. They aren't the ones who screwed everything up. Leave them alone.

What we need to do is take a page from their playbook and put up a fight for ourselves. Stop corporations from sending all their jobs overseas. Enforce fair and competitive pay rates. And especially, especially, stop the corporate assholes from responding by jacking prices through the roof so things stay just as bad as they've ever been.

I can't believe we are up in arms over a guy wrapping a sandwich when our politicians and corporate slimeballs are the ones hoarding all the money. They are the ones who have made it so that we can't afford what even they are selling. Then, for every family they force into the poor house (with loss of homes and cars and jobs) they sneer and tell that family to get a job. You know, all those people who lost their houses because of rip off scams allowed by our own government? Do you know how many of those people have found justice and got their homes back? Maybe 1%, but I'm leaning toward NO ONE. But let's get mad at the employees over at Burger King and McDonalds while we still buy their food. Yeah, that make sense.

Isn't it amazing how the oil companies cry all year and then report that they made 65 billion dollars in new record profits? They make record profits every single year. Every single year. Get it? I wonder. Do the grunt employees get record raises every single year? I bet not. I bet Betty the paper pusher hasn't seen a raise in 10 years easy.

If you think you're having fun now, get this; you have a 50%-60% of becoming disabled before retirement age. You pay for disability insurance throughout your employed life. You know what you'll get for SSD without dependants? I get 1100 bucks a month. Divide that by 80 and you get the equivalent of 13.75 an hour. And that's money I paid for. Service I worked for and earned. It's not welfare. So go ahead and tell me I should be paid less than a burger flipper. Don't say it isn't the same thing because what you'll be missing out on is that earning a living is just that; earning a living.

It's time to see that we are all in the same leaky, crappy boat. Now what are YOU going to do about it?