Nonsense Not to Say

I follow a lot of Autism-specific blogs, sites, click baits, etc. And I’ve read a million different “what not to say” to parents of children with Autism articles and in the early days of the “Take That, Autism!” Facebook page, I made a crazy lady snapchat video about it too. Out of sheer exasperation. Nonetheless, I decided to make my own “what not to say” article…but with alternatives of what TO say instead because it’s obnoxious to complain about something but not do anything to fix it. Note- this list specifically targets the initial meeting when I first reveal to you my son has Autism. Cause the dumb stuff people say in other contexts is another post for another day 😉

  1. “I’m sorry!” Legit, this is the worst. Someone only said this to me one time but it took me back because it was someone who was in charge of running an entire facility for children with Autism so it just made me wanna slap my forehead. My child is happy, healthy, intelligent, and generally hilarious. If I were bolder, I’d have asked what the heck it was exactly she was sorry for. Alternative? Just acknowledge what I said with a general affirmation. You may even ask me how he’s doing. But I don’t want your pity. Just your understanding.
  2. He doesn’t look autistic”/”Are you sure he has Autism?” This is a repeat player on lists like these. I do not want my child to have Autism. Autism is not something I enjoy. It is painful to see my child struggle every single day. Please believe, when I say he has Autism, it is to state a fact, not to make a wish. Alternative? Keep your mouth shut.
  3. “How autistic is he?”/”Is your son more or less autistic than ___?” 1. I hate “autistic”. I’m not known for my political correctness, but in this particular context, please use people-first language. Tangent over. 2. What the what does that even mean? That one happened to me just last week and I didn’t even know what to say. Did the DSM make an “As autistic as ____” rating scale no one told me about? Like how arbitrary would that even be ?!?!? “Oh sure, Caleb is as autistic as a tyrannosaurus but not as autistic as a spotted lynx.” This inquiry makes 0% sense so follow in the way of the tyrannosaurus on this one and make it an extinct question to ask.
  4. “Does he talk?” Do you poop? Do you brush away your stank morning breath? Because as the parent of a child who is non-verbal, that’s how personal this question is for me.  Just freaking ask me how he’s doing in a general, overall sort of way and it’s likely I’ll tell you anyways!
  5. “Oh! My cousin/nephew/baby mama’s great uncle twice removed has Autism, too!”  Ok, ok…I won’t hate on this one too much because I appreciate the sentiment behind it. People want to try and relate so they can connect and people only do that when they truly care about you. Just please understand that knowing a child on the spectrum simply means you know a child on the spectrum. You don’t know MY child. But please, always feel free to tell me about your coworker’s sister-in-law’s next door neighbor who has a 3rd cousin with Autism. I jest! For real, I like to hear about EVERYBODY’s story.
  6. “You’re so awesome!” No, I’m not. I do not need a cookie, much less a trophy. I’m simply doing my job as his parent. Parents are supposed to take care of their children, meet their needs, and set them up for success. My child happens to take extra effort, have more needs, and the road to successes takes longer but despite that, at the end of the day, I’m simply doing my job. I’m not that fantastic but my kid is the bomb diggity, ya’ll.

Now these two things are NOT “typical” responses but have in fact been said to me. To my face. And I just have to share them with you because they are THAT B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

“Nah, he doesn’t have Autism. One day he’s just going to grow up and be weird. Like his dad.”

Did you reread it 3 times? You read it correctly. Someone for real thought that was ok to say. I watch a lot of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies and stuff like this makes me wanna straight up bust out my Bloodsport fighting skills. I KNOW about the kumite, peeps.

“Well I used to work with kids with Autism in an institution and I decided not to have children because I was afraid God would send me a child like the ones I worked with.”

Is it 1832? Did the DeLorean take your professional experience and your manners back a couple centuries? Ya’ll tell me where these institutions are and I’ll get my pitchfork ready.

Maybe that’s helpful to you. Maybe not. Maybe, at least, I gave you a late night chuckle after a stressful day. Whatever you do or don’t say….just be kind.

Love and Autism,

Erin

Toddler Gardening: Why You Should Be Growing Things

Four years ago we were renting a small suburban home in Norfolk. Then we bought a 30 acre farm in Southwest VA. Cause doesn’t everyone?

No, our rationale wasn’t that cavalier but to save time (and your interest) I’ll summarize: we felt strongly about being in charge of our own food sources, ensuring we knew the kind of life the animals we consumed had, and having opportunities for our children to grow up in what we envisioned was the best fit for us. It doesn’t mean what we’re doing is right and what other people are doing is wrong. It just means this was the best fit for our family. Live and let live, ya’ll.

Part of that has been a yearly expansion of a garden. I’m doing pretty well this year and will need to upgrade to a canning system next year but in order to do all of that, I need helpers. That’s right- Bebop and Rocksteady to the rescue.

Also, I’m a big fan of toddler chores and functional skills. If you ask me to create a novel therapy plan for my patients, I’m going to pick tasks like slicing bananas and folding laundry first and add the speech therapy targets second. It’s likely I should have been an OT but there is no time for grad school remorse here.

So, because 30 acres is a lot and because I’m all about that functional generalization of life skills, I bring the kids to the garden with me. Here’s what that helps out with:

– learning early science concepts like how things grow, weather, etc.

– socioemotional development like responsibility, achieving goals, etc.

– sensory development (touch, taste, smell, sight, sounds…all of them)

– feeding development: have a picky eater? Kids who participate in growing or even just helping cook their food are more likely to try a bite (and even like) new foods

– fine motor skills: crossing midline with a shovel, bilateral coordination getting plants in the ground, pincer grasp picking up seeds, core strengthening digging in the dirt (and about 329482094823 other things!)

– language development: identifying and labeling all kinds of new vocabulary- food vocab, descriptive words, actions, sequencing words, following directions….literally everything you do in the garden can be a speech therapy target. Do you know when Ari said the word “okra”? When she grew it. When Caleb first said “pick”? When he did it. It’s more fun to talk about what you’re actually doing than what other people are doing…..

There is also a lot of research that subscribes to the same notion I do about gardening: it improves both your physical and mental well being. It’s exercise, there are healthy microbes in the dirt you’re digging in, and it alleviates stress and anxiety- take it out on the weeds, not each other, everybody!

Check out my littles learning skills in the garden that are going to generalize to other functional tasks, expand their vocabulary, and prepare their hands for important things like writing and typing!

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Is that two children cooperating on one task together? Why yes it is!

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Remember what I said about being open to new foods? Caleb picked these himself and started licking and tasting them immediately without a prompt or having Velveeta melted on top. Have you ever seen a kid look so lovingly at a broccoli crown?!?!

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You can’t see it happening, but all kinds of fine motor control and strengthening is going down with the shucking of the corn and the picking of the grape tomatoes…….

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Heavy work sensory input from picking and hauling melons? You know it.

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Time to talk about it all while you take it out of the box! Also, sorting was super fun for my kiddos with the fresh produce.

Grow some things. Maybe an herb or a flower in a pot on the kitchen counter. Life’s more fun with a little dirt mixed in 🙂

Here’s a video clip of Caleb saying “pick” while he harvested the banana peppers (I don’t even like banana peppers but I sure do love the kid doing the picking!!!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPT3aulw5WA

Love, Autism, and Tomato Plants,

Erin