Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Beginning

I'm in the beginning of a migration. I've decided that updating more than one blog just isn't my style anymore, so I'm switching back to keeping it all in one place. I'm not going to delete what I've already posted on Living Up, but I'm going to officially move over and make my "family blog" the catch all blog for everything. I'll probably copy some of the best stuff from here and repost it over at Brown Scribbles. Here's my that address if you haven't been there before...

So if you're looking for the latest updates to "Deeming Waiver Checklist" that's where they'll be. Just follow us on over and we'll try to keep up some good work. ;-)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Walking for Autism Awareness

My family and I are participating in the Georgia chapter Walk Now for Autism Speaks this May. We are so lucky to have the resources we have but more research means even better resources for our little boy and for the countless other little boys and girls who struggle in the same way. The icon below will take you to Alexander's individual donation page. Please take a moment to consider donating in support of his walk. Any amount you can offer will be appreciated! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pink Lemonade Cake

I've been wanting to try this recipe since I saw it on a BHG magazine cover last April. It's supposed to be a "Spring/Summertime" type cake but since it's pink, I decided to make it for Valentines Day/my aunt Erika's birthday.

I followed the directions almost to the letter and I think it turned out pretty well. The frosting was kind of melting so I put the whole thing in the fridge until it was time to serve. I'm not a big fan of marshmallow personally so I would say I've had better frosting in my life but most everyone else seemed to think it was great. Mammaw was quite enjoying dipping strawberries in the leftover creamy goodness.

Our party was small and about half of us were dieting and only had tiny slivers. seemed to be a hit.

Monday, January 14, 2013

For the queue

To disgruntled person in Disney World line,

Standing in this line is difficult for you, isn't it? The crowds, and the noise, and the physical strain of standing in one place for a while can be overwhelming. Makes it hard to control your outbursts, doesn't it?

Now, I want you to think about that irritation you’re feeling. As I've said, it’s perfectly understandable. But I want you to think about it, really embrace it - and now I want you to imagine that you’re 5 years old. I bet waiting in this line just got even more trying for you, didn't it?

Now imagine you also have a sensory processing disorder. This means that every sensation is multiplied. Without on-going therapy, even simple sights and sounds that people usually enjoy can occasionally send you into a frenzy or render you catatonic. So imagine what happens with an overload of unpleasant stimuli.

Now I want you to imagine that you have Autism. Along with a list of stumbling blocks as long as my arm, this means communicating is especially challenging, if not impossible. It’s not your fault, but people can’t always read your mind and sometimes crying or throwing a tantrum is the only way you feel you can be understood. You don’t mean to hurt or annoy the people around you but you can’t talk and sometimes it’s just all too much. Your parents and other family and friends watch you very carefully, and try their hardest to maintain the balance of stimulus and rest so you can have something like a normal life experience. All you want to do is have fun at Disney World, because after all, you’re 5, but sometimes you need people to cut you a break.

Now you can be you again. Maybe this is a relief to you, maybe it’s not. But you get to choose. You can let the strain get to you, vent your aggravation on passersby. Or you can switch gears and choose to be happy in the “happiest place on earth.” Maybe take a cue from my special needs family and take a rest break if you’re feeling grumpy. It’s really all the same to me. I’ll continue to push or accommodate my children as I think best. It just might help you to remember, you’re not alone in the world - my son has certainly experienced frustration, just like you.

Best wishes,
Amy B.

A little note I composed after a little research into the Disney Guest Assistance Cards and the snide remarks some people have faced when using them. I guess this could really be handed out to any "snide remarker" in a line whether you were using a card or not. Just things I wish I could say to people who don't get it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Vision board motto (Free printable)

One of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis. Taken in or out of context it has so much truth to it. And so applicable for a Pinterest Vision Board, wouldn't you say?

Also suitable for printing and hanging on your fridge to help keep you focused on what's important. Heck, if you've got the skills, make it into a magnet!

But, if it doesn't help you, drop it! ;-)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Long Sleeve Shirt --- Sensory Processing Tool!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a continuing education course given by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta called "Sensory Processing: Behavior, Memory, Learning." The target audience was speech, occuptional, and physical therapists but parents were invited as well (with a nice discount on registration fees, I might add.) So worth the price of admission! The instructor was a woman named Laura Barker and she practically had me crying (tears of hope) by the end of the class. It was an all day course so I won't even attempt to represent all the things I learned in this post but I would definitely recommend visiting her website and looking into a READY Approach class in your area.

One specific tip she gave us was turning a sweat shirt into a weighted (Deep Pressure Input) device. (If you've never heard of weighted blankets or compression vests and don't know what I'm talking about, go here). The weight is sewn into the arms of the shirt. The torso section can be pulled down over the back of a chair, and then the arms can be wrapped around the person and rest in their lap.

I didn't have a sweat shirt on hand that I thought would do what I wanted it to so instead I pulled out one of my old long sleeve stretchy T's. You'll want to pick a shirt made of a sturdy fabric, especially if your kid likes to chew on things the way mine does. (Alexander actually chewed a tiny whole in his wrap in the time it took me to come up here and start this post. So I'm going to need to revamp a little but if you pay attention you should be all good.) The shirt I sewed up is white but here's a black version so you get the "supplies" idea. 
The Homemade Weighted "Hug" Wrap

Adult sized (small or medium) long sleeve shirt
3 lbs* Poly-Pellets (Stuffing Beads)
Sewing machine (threaded)
Rubber band(s)
Scale (optional)

*The weight recommendation for any therapeutic weighted object is one tenth the body weight of the person for whom it's being made. My son weighs 29.25 lbs. I rounded that to 30 and used 3 lbs of beads for his "hug wrap". You'll need to know your child's weight and scale the measurements accordingly.

Step 1:
Grab one sleeve to start with and use your machine to double stitch it shut at the bottom. Keep sewing off both edges to ensure the sleeve is completely sealed off. You don't want any of your little beads working their way out.

Step 2: 
Measure out (or guestimate) 0.5 lbs (ie: 1/6 total quantity) of beads and pour them down into the closed off sleeve. 

I grabbed the food scale and a good sized cup from our kitchen. The scale's tare function allowed me to use the cup to hold the beads while they were weighed. Then I pulled the "mouth" of the sleeve over the top of the cup and flipped the cup over to pour the beads in. (Dealing with these itty-bitty beads is a bit of a pain, but my method seemed to work well this time.)

Step 3:
Use the rubber band to tie off the sleeve with the beads as well packed as you can get them. 

I cut the rubber band and used it more like a tourniquet so I could really get it tight enough not to let any beads through.

Step 4: Double stitch through the non-stuffed part of the sleeve as close to the rubber band as you can without sewing through bunched material. 

If you look closely at the picture above, you can see my stitching about an inch to the right of the rubber band. It took some finagling to get the material to lie flat so I could get a really good closure. Just take your time and don't worry too much about a straight line, as long as no beads can get through, you're good. 

Step 5: Measure out (or guestimate) 1.0 lb (ie: 1/3 total quantity) of beads and pour them down into what is now the top half of the closed off sleeve.

Step 6: Repeat steps 3 and 4 with the top half of the sleeve. 

Step 7: Repeat steps 1-6 with other sleeve.
Finished product
Test Run
Snug as a bug in a rug
I'm considering adding "fidgets" with velcro (might cover that little hole I was talking about) but now you have the basic idea. I plan on caring for my hug wrap by hand washing and then laying out to dry. If I get really courageous all of the sudden I may try a machine cycle on the hand wash settling and maybe even try a tumble dry on low. I just can't imagine what all those little beads would do to my machine if they got loose somehow.

Big Honking Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a home made item and hasn't been studied or endorsed by any of those fancy government mommysitter agencies. Please judge for yourself whether this sounds like something you want your child to be using (with or without supervision.) You may also want to discuss weight therapy with your child's doctor before proceeding.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Questionnaire

A Little Backstory:
As you may remember, Alexander is 3 and this past year (2011-2012) was his first year of school. He has Autism and is in the special needs pre-school program in our county. Putting him in school this young was a pretty scary step for me, so his teachers being as awesome as they are wasn't just a nice lucky surprise but a fantastically wonderful relief! 

After realizing just this past Monday that Teacher Appreciation week would shortly be upon us (next week!), I immediately set to Googling and browsing Pinterest for some great creative gift ideas. I spent about 30 minutes (ok, maybe it was an hour, Pinterest time never quite equals reality time) pulling together a few things on my newly created Teacher Appreciation week board. I found a lot of really cute, inexpensive ideas that I'd love to try. I feel like I owe a particular debt of gratitude to the team that made his first year so pleasant (for both of us) though so I found it difficult to make up my mind on what I would like to give. I did more research and found several surveys, a helpful slide show and one particularly interesting infographic --->
(Right click and open in new tab to view full size)

The general consensus I discovered from my research showed that teachers most often prefer fairly practical gifts (gift cards and school supplies) to cutesy personalized mugs and apple oriented crafts. It was also pointed out that the best way to know what a teacher will really to ask her! (or him.) Quite the novel concept, I know, but I decided to run with it. 

I now knew that I was going to get Alexander's school teachers (he has 3: 1 teacher, 1 parapro, 1 speech therapist) gift cards and I was going to ask them flat out what they would like the gift cards to be for. Of course, I also knew that if I just asked them a generic "what would you like for a gift" question, they would probably say something to the effect of, "oh, you don't have to get us anything," or "oh, anything is fine." I figured it would be easiest to write something up and have them make selections versus asking them individually in person. And so the Alexander's Teachers Questionnaire was born!

Alexander’s Teachers Questionnaire 

Teacher’s Name: _________________________________________________

Favorite Restaurants: (Circle Top Two)

On the Border
Red Robin
Olive Garden
Macaroni Grill
Longhorn Steakhouse
Outback Steakhouse
Red Lobster
P.F. Changs
Dunkin Donuts
Other: (Please list) ________________

Favorite School Supply Store: (Circle One)
Office Depot
Barnes and Noble

How would you rate Getting a Manicure/Pedicure or Massage on a scale of 1-10? (1 = Hurts and I hate it / 10 = Heaven on earth) _______

Please rate going out to eat, shopping for school supplies, and getting a mani/pedi in order of “Most Interested/Preferred Activity.” ______________________________________________________________________________

Anything else Alexander should know about you as Teacher Appreciation Week approaches?

I added the Mani/Pedi option after really giving some thought to what I (as a woman and mother) would most like to receive as a gift. Both Alexander's teacher and his parapro rated the mani/pedi as their most preferred activity so I figure I had a good idea. I shot them an email this morning asking if either of them had a favorite nail salon. They came back saying that yes they did and also how much they appreciated my kindness! I'm so glad I went with asking instead of continuing my desperate brain wracking trying to guess which things they would like best!

Due to the success of my little experiment, here is a similar questionnaire for those of you out there who find yourself wondering what to get for those hard working teachers we love so much! (Click here for a google doc version)
(jpeg format)

(I know the mani/pedi part probably wouldn't work for a man teacher but hey you never know!)

Don't be embarrassed to ask a teacher to fill this out! Unless you're the exception to the rule and see your child's teacher outside of school on a regular basis, you probably haven't really had the opportunity to become best friends. This means there's no reason in the world why you should have the first clue what his/her favorite restaurant would be, etc. I think offering them an opportunity to tell you what they would like most is really the most considerate way to go about this, and the teachers in your life will probably agree and appreciate that gesture in and of itself.

I'm sooo happy to have the chance to give these wonderful ladies a hint at how much their work has meant to our family this year! I hope they already know how wonderful I think they are!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How I Roll

Last week I took my boys on a flight to Kansas City. I've actually flown alone (no other adults) with my kids several times in the past few years and I've got the procedure down pretty well, I think. When I saw a post on asking about taking a 3 year old on a plane trip (and whether or not it's worth it to bring a car seat along), I found myself composing quite a lengthy response. Once I hit the 5th paragraph, I decided it might be more efficient to turn that comment into a blog post and just link to it on myaustimteam. So here it is!

I would absolutely recommend bringing a car seat for your 3 year old on a plane. For one thing, the familiarity and a feeling of security help a lot (this is especially true for children with Autism). And, at least for my son, who is very small for his age, the lap-only belt on the plane seat wouldn't do a ding dang thing to hold him in place, whether the cause of sudden movement was hyperactivity or turbulence.

First thing to do if you're going to bring her car seat is find the notice on the car seat that says it's certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft. Make a mental note where that sticker is located because there is a chance you will encounter a snotty flight attendant who will try to tell you that you can't use a car seat on an airplane. Then you can politely tell her that yes, yes, you can, because there is a law saying qualified car seats must be allowed and here's the sticker saying this particular seat qualifies.

Since I occasionally (more often than not) travel alone with my kids it would be physically impossible for me to carry a car seat in addition to holding onto my two boys AND carry-on bags. So, I bring a regular stroller with me and I use the toddler car seat's "latch" straps to hang it off the back of the stroller. This is not for a child to ride in, it is just to carry the car seat through the airport. Most airlines allow you to check a stroller at the gate at no additional cost and you'll get it back as soon as you get off the plane. You will have to unlatch the car seat at security and put it and the stroller on the belt for the x-ray scanner with everything else. (Side tip: The weight of the car seat *will* tip the stroller over if the stroller is empty, so unlatch the car seat before trying to take your child out if you want to avoid embarrassment and frustration.) 

I also accept help whenever I can get it. If someone notices that I'm struggling at the bottom of the gangway, juggling two small kids (one who doesn't want to get out of the stroller and one squirming to get down off my hip), a car seat, a back pack and a huge diaper bag, and offers to carry something on board the plane, I let them. If no one offers, I ask a flight attendant. It sounds like you'll have adult help already and I would advise you to depend on them. 

Whether I bring a car seat or not, if I'm traveling with kids, I bring the standard boredom busters and snacks. (Playing movies on our iPad allows me freedom our fore-mothers couldn't even dream of.) Of course, I give myself extra time to get through security and I don't even attempt to be the first person off the plane. If I'm not in a rush I'm almost guaranteed to work more efficiently and therefore, in the end, more quickly. It also helps my kids' tantrums not to escalate as quickly if I make a conscious choice to be calm and nonchalant. This last trip I was literally the last person off because I waited patiently for everyone else to make room for the flight attendants to get to me and carry the things I didn't have hands for. 

I may be the nightmare of the business man who is used to booking it through security (Hi, Dad! ☺) but this is what works best for me and my boys. If I'm holding you up, Mr. Late For His Flight, offer to fold my stroller for me and be grateful that Alexander is the one having the meltdown because MY meltdowns aren't as sweet.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Boredom Busters (Probably will only work for me)

5 things I'm allowed to do when I "don't have anything better to do."

-Practice drawing with 5 Pencil Method Classes

-Study Tagalog with my Rosetta Stone software (my brother, Brian, is on a mission in the Phillipines and I want to be fluent by the time he gets home.)

-Write to Brian and/or compile care packages to send him

-Work on my Etsy store (I'll post more about this as it materializes.)

-Read the book club book for the month

These are things that I always enjoy doing but are also working toward minor goals. It's meant to be a line of defense between me and some of my old bad habits that might keep me from finding time for my "Duhs."