Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Non-food Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Here's what the kids are getting in their stockings this year.  Shh!  Don't tell!


socks & underwear
Lego mini figures
play jewelry
dollar store toys
hair ties
band aids
card games
electric toothbrush
silly string
nail polish
giant eraser
fancy silverware
squishy fidget toys
pop tube
baby doll bottles

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Autism Center Signs 'Shake It Off'

At our annual Cornerstone Autism Center Make It Happen Day, Stephanie Dille's Sign Language class surprised the crowd with their rendition of Taylor Swift's Shake It Off. 

Share this video to show your support!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rylie Was 53 Yesterday

Rylie explains how she was 53 yesterday. Hayden disagrees.

-Having a conversation, problem solving, dealing with conflict, explaining a concept to others, understanding the abstract concept of future, describing his emotions, asking someone to stop bothering him when he's annoyed, waiting at a restaurant, eating at a restaurant (grilled chicken and french fries).


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Autism Looks Like: Face Blindness

According to the Dana Foundation, up to two-thirds of people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder have difficulty recognizing the faces of people they interact with on a daily basis.1 The medical term for this condition is developmental prosopagnosia, often referred to as face-blindness. For these individuals, matching a name to the face of someone close to them, such as parents or siblings, can be difficult. Instead other characteristics such as voice, smell, body type, or clothing may be used to identify people they know.

For my son Hayden, facial recognition was always difficult.  No matter how often they came over, he ran upstairs as soon as his grandparents, uncles, or neighbors came in the door. He viewed everyone as a stranger. Once at Cornerstone he saw a new person and asked his therapist, “Is that my mom?” He also used to follow people at the park who had a similar body-type to my brother. I had to watch him at all times, because even though he wasn’t a ‘runner’ (a child who may run off), he would follow complete strangers to their car in the parking lot if they were similar to his Uncle Bill in size and shape.

In the hopes of improving his ability to recognize faces, I started reviewing with him some pictures of his close family. We worked on learning Uncle Bill’s face, and how to recognize the real Uncle Bill. If I knew that Grandma and Grandpa were coming over on Saturday, we started on Monday night the week before, looking at pictures of them and labeling them. Every night I’d point to a picture and say, “Who’s this?  Grandma.”  He was not yet vocal but enjoyed pointing at all the faces repeatedly so I could tell him their names.

When Saturday came around, he was less likely to be upset that Grandma showed up. He was familiar with the concept of Grandma, and had seen her face all week. After months doing this activity, he would go to her when she arrived, rather than running in the opposite direction! Eventually he could label Uncle Bill’s picture as well, and is still able to recognize him today, despite seeing him just a few times a year. And I am glad to say he no longer follows strangers out into parking lots!

To study the faces, I made a head shot page for each family group. (For example, there were separate pages for each of the following:  relatives that we only saw once a year, my side of the family, and my husband’s side.) You could also have a page for neighbor kids, teachers, or medical practitioners.  It is important for the photo to just be of the face and nothing else. As mentioned before, other aspects of the body may be clues for recognition. For example, an individual with Autism may look at weight, height, shoes, jacket, or other clues, rather than focusing on the face.  A face shot will help the person focus on facial features for identification. The free photo program Picasa2 allowed me to pull the headshots from the photos on my computer so that all the faces were the same size on the paper. 

I then laminated each page with contact paper and had it ready to practice before big holidays and family events such as Thanksgiving and birthday parties.  I changed the photos once a year for anyone who changed in appearance. 

Identifying family members, pets, and therapists is actually an early program at Cornerstone for many clients. If your child is new to a center, be sure to send in pictures for this program. Practicing this at home is a great way to generalize the skills learned in the center to your home. If you have questions, check in with your child’s BCBA.

 Below is an example labeled family group.

For more information, go to:  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fall Updates 2014

Hayden has thrown his glasses at daycare twice so we're holding off on wearing the glasses for now. He had some aggressive behaviors a week ago but since then has had a good week at school. His insurance approved for him to receive home therapy through Cornerstone Autism Center, so we will soon have a therapist coming to our house a few evenings a week to help him.  I am beyond thrilled to have this help for him! Things they might work on include anger management, taking his pills (focusing on the task), doing his homework, learning about big problems vs little problems, and other types of things. I am grateful that this is happening for our family and can't wait to learn new things for Hayden. His case conference meeting was stressful again. I am hopeful that the school and Cornerstone are able to collaborate and work for Hayden's best interest. I will write more when it's all said and done. I think the issues with school are what have kept me from writing recently. Since I'm unable to write about that, and it's my main stress in the land of Autism, I have been at a loss for what else to say here. This post is my attempt to say a few things about everything else in our world right now! Sorry it's not uplifting and inspiring, but at least you know we're still here!  :)

Both kids went to the dentist and had no cavities. It was Rylie's first time and she did well. It was helpful for her to see her brother being very brave. I have a dentist FUA post to write about him if I ever get to it.

I'm trying to add a new supplement for each child from their doctor's recommendations once a week, rather than once a month. We've also taken some things out and adjusted. The kids' biomedical programs seem to be going very well. Joe has benefited from his supplement program and fell asleep last weekend with just essential oils. I've noticed an improvement in how wounds heal thanks to keeping up with my vitamins instead of skipping them as often. :)  Currently we're focusing on Hayden's hyperactive behaviors and focus, and adding some rice flour back into Rylie's diet to see how she handles it. She has done well so far but she's only getting a small amount each week. The purpose really is just that she is always feeling left out because she can't eat what the rest of us are eating, so I'm hoping the addition of rice will allow her to have a lot more food options.

We are working on getting Rylie to stop sucking her thumb. She only does it at nap and bedtime now, but it's affecting her teeth so we want to do what we can. She has a sticker chart and the promise of a 'big girl bike' but progress is slow. She has good intentions in the daylight but once in bed that thumb is in there securely.

We've been working on eating meals together and having family game night when we can. Joe and I are slowly trying to move everything toward being healthier and more sustainable. Some day we'd like to have a large garden plot, bees, chickens... This was our first year with a garden so we'll take baby steps.

Both kids seemed to have grown a foot in the last month, which is great, especially for Rylie! We are looking forward to the holiday season ahead, spending time together and giving thanks for what we have.

And now it's time for pizza and The Walking Dead.  Thanks for reading, have a good night!  :) Sheila

Monday, October 6, 2014

Research on Treatments for Autism

Click the image below to read James Adams' compilation of Autism treatment research.

(Usual disclaimer: I'm not a doctor and this should not be taken as medical advice. This page is merely for your information. Be sure to work with a practitioner when beginning any sort of treatment.)

Friday, October 3, 2014


Today's ‪#‎FUA‬ is brought to you by the tv show, "What Would You Do?"

Do you know how many times I've been told in public,

"You should spank him."
"If my child was acting that way I wouldn't buy him toys."
"Someone needs to control him."

Or I'm just given rude, hateful looks.

On my YouTube feed, people have written:

"I don't see any Autism here. How is this kid Autistic?"
"How is this Autism? It's just a kid having a tantrum."
"This is normal for boys. Send him out to play."

But the people on the show below did the opposite. It made me cry. I'm so glad there's more understanding now. And really it's usually the norm for us, too, but those random occasions when someone is really mean, they stick with you. And they still happen to us from time to time.

If this ever happens to you while out in public, and you don't know what to say, a quick quiet word to the parent, saying, "Is there anything I can do for you?" and a smile is all that is needed. I know all of you would have my back!

‪#‎Autism IS Treatable‬.  ‎But‬, ‎#InTheMeantime, #PleaseBeCompassionate‬.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Autism mom needs help

Please pray for this family and donate if you can. 

Update:  Luke's mom has passed away.  You can still donate money to support Luke's care at ow.ly/BFBvD

Friday, September 26, 2014

Changing Things Up a Bit

Let me know what you think about the blog new look!  (Click the title to see the full post and all the pictures.) 

Also, here are how many views my site had today when I checked:  

(If you don't know about 440, you can read this post about my grandpa.) 

And this is what my sleepy kids looked like on Monday morning: 

Hayden asked if he could have 5 more minutes.  Rylie just said, "No."

And also this happened: 

I'm a lucky girl, in more ways than one.

Enjoy the weekend, friends!  : )  Sheila

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Autism Elopement Form

I created this form for my work at Cornerstone Autism Center using the National Autism Association's form as a start. In speaking with local law enforcement about elopement, I felt the form needed to be more detailed.  

If you have a child with Autism, please feel free to print and use this form in case of an emergency.  Click the first page to download. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Strong Man

Joe was tagged by his friend to this picture. It sums up who he has become for us. A little over a year ago, I was doing this parenting thing alone. I said to friends, "who would want to date a girl with two special needs kids?"

Well, Jenny and Chelsea found this guy. And he kept coming over to my house, and eating all my chicken fries. In the kids' minds he went from "that's just Joe" to "he's not my real dad, but we're his kids". Hayden came home from school with a drawing of his family-- Rylie, Hayden, Mommy and Joe.  Rylie says "when I grow up to be a Mommy, I can have coffee. And when Hayden grows up to be a Joe, he can have coffee, too."

Now if I arrive home late from work, dinner is made (3 different dinners for different diets), vitamins are eaten, homework is done, and clothes laid out for tomorrow. The kids may have even played outside and had a bath.

They now have a strong role model who sets limits but also takes time for each of them. I have-- not just help-- not just more free time-- but a partner. A person who thinks through problems with me and actually helps to fix them. A person who truly cares about his new family. Someone to tell me, it's all going to be ok.

I've never really had that before and so I'm more than grateful for it. But I haven't written about it, because... well, what do you say?  How do you thank someone for coming into your life and making the whole thing better? Not just for me but for my children, who sometimes struggle. To make them happy makes me happy.

So, when I saw the picture below I felt I should say something.

Thank you, Joseph, for taking on your new role. And for being quite good at it. We love you very much. A stranger, upon hearing our story, said, "Wow, only a teacher could do that."

No, I think only Joe could do that.

Friday FUA: Being Grounded

Last night I took Hayden to get his glasses fixed. He was still in his karate outfit from TKD.

The sales lady saw us and said, "What happened?"
Hayden: "No, I'm Hayden."
Sales lady, smiling: "I remember you. I hope you didn't break them doing karate."
Hayden: "No I was angry and wanted to be on a rampage."
Sales lady: "Oh. Well. Let's take a look."

It was an easy fix and we were in and out of the store in 5 minutes. I spoke to Hayden about the consequences of throwing his glasses, and what would happen next time.  As I mentioned to him the day it happened, his consequences would be a big deal.

Me:   "Maybe, if you throw them again, you should have two days of no screens..."
Hayden:   "TWO DAYS!!!"
Me:  "...AND, another consequence too."
Hayden:   "WHAT?!"
Me:   "Your glasses cost over $100. If you break them it's a big deal. You need to know that you can't just throw them because you're angry."
H:   "A hundred dollars?!"
Me:    "Yes. So you see that it's a big deal?"
H:   "But what's my other consequence?"
Me:   "I don't know, we'll have to think about it.  What do you think it should be?"
H:   "I don't know... sigh."

[image is of Hayden at a birthday party last week, doing the zipline unaided for the first time!]

Later that night, we told Joe about our conversation:

Me:   "... and what will your consequence be next time?"
H:   "Two days of no screens."
Me:   "... and?"
H, sounding really bummed:   "And something else but we don't know it yet."

Joe:   "I think maybe you should be grounded."
H:    "Uh, what's that?"
Joe:   "When I was younger and I got in trouble, I got grounded. I had to sit in my room all night and not do anything else."
H:   "I can't eat dinner or ANYTHING?!"
Joe:   "You can eat dinner in your room."
H:   "But I can't even play with toys or anything?"
Me:   "You have lots of toys in your room."
H:   "Grounded is like forever and ever! I don't like grounded. I have to stay in my room all day and not get to do anything!"
Me:  "Which sounds like a good consequence for you."

[Hayden halfway there, smiling and saying, "I'm doing it! I'm doing it!"]

Based on his reaction to the conversation, grounding will be a great new consequence for him. Previously 'letter writing' and 'no screens' were huge, but he's become less worried about those. I'm glad Joe thought to mention it.  I like that Joe views him mostly as a typical child, which helps break me out of the 'babying your special needs baby' mold. I wouldn't have thought him ready to understand the concept or handle it without melting down. But he did. And I know this will be a deterrent to him having behaviors in the future, to help him be more successful in school and daily life.

As we ended our discussion I thought again of FUA. Not too long ago, the concept of being grounded would have been too abstract for Hayden. He wouldn't have been able to talk about it prior to an event, or think of it as a consequence for his actions. He wouldn't connect the punishment to the behavior. He would have over-reacted to us even mentioning it. And if we tried to ground him, likely it would have been a very noisy and destructive evening.  But I have a feeling (a Hope?) that, should he need to be grounded in the future, this won't be a huge issue.  He will understand and connect the dots. It will help him prevent the behavior in the future.

All I want for my son is to be able to understand the world around him, and see what the rest of us see. To not have to try so hard just to be the same or have the same as everyone else.

And every day, he gets a little closer. A little to closer to 'Typical'.  (Whatever that is.)

It makes my heart soar. It makes me feel like I'm flying on a zipline. Even if it does mean... he might have to be grounded a couple of times.  :)

[He made it all the way to the end and landed on top of the platform. He was very proud and so are we.]    :)  FUA!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I'm published-- Autism Companion

I'm published! (And Hayden!) (page 12) He says, "Why am I so special?" 

Glasses, Magic Tricks, and IEPs

Hayden got new glasses for the first time. He is a little nearsighted.  I was worried that he wouldn't like them, but we talked them up and he was excited the day they came in.  He said, "Do you think everyone will like my new look?"  The Facebook post of his picture has 67 likes, which he is pretty excited about!

Unfortunately after a couple days of wearing his glasses he had a tantrum and decided to throw his glasses because he felt like he was "on a rampage." They bent a bit and we need to get them adjusted. So hopefully they'll be back on his head soon!

While we were at the mall picking out Hayden's new glasses, Rylie found a mannequin just her size. She wanted to give her several hugs and even asked what her name was.

So... When Hayden left ABA therapy and went into public school, I was a single mom. I wasn't able to handle the time, money, and emotional drain it would take to get him the services he needed. And I've never wanted to be "that mom" at the IEP meetings. But two years later and we're in the same place where we started. Hayden has come a long way in two years. And now I have someone (Joseph) to support me in all those things. So we have hired an advocate to support us at the IEP meetings. I'm glad to have someone who knows the law to guide us.

I don't like to write about situations like this as they happen, so all I'll say for now is that it has been a lot of work, and hugely emotionally stressful for us, but I hope that the end result is that Hayden will have more time with his typical peers. I also hope his teachers know that I appreciate how much they care for him and I know they are good teachers. This situation is only about where Hayden is today and getting him the services he needs to be successful.

Just a few of the papers I had to put together for the first meeting.  Took me 6? hours and about $50 to make all the copies.  

And now, for our long-overdue FUA.

We went to Anderson to get dairy free ice cream and see a magician. Hayden was excited to see the magician and wanted to say hi to him after the show. But when it was our turn he got a little nervous. Here is the conversation that happened next:

Hayden:  "Sorry, I'm a bit shy."
Magician:  "No, you're the antithesis of shy. She's shy. [pointing at Rylie, who's hiding behind my legs.]  Do you know what antithesis means?"
Hayden, without skipping a beat: "Um, opposite?"
Magician: "Uh...  Yeah. Yes, actually it does... You're pretty smart."
Hayden: "Yeah, I know, I'm a bit smart sometimes."

Non-autism characteristics displayed:  Speaking to a stranger, initiating a conversation, making eye contact, using context clues to derive word meaning. And being totally awesome.  Ok, that last one can go with Autism, but only because Hayden takes Autism and turns it into something no one expects.  Every day.

Thank you Hayden for inspiring me to work as hard as you do, every day.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Houston Enzymes presentation

Great presentation last week at Cornerstone Autism Center by Dr. Devin Houston of Houston Enzymes.  

Thank you to Staci Small of The Wellness Philosophy for attending and supporting this event! 

Here is an article by Dr. Houston on Getting Started with Enzymes.  

Everyone in our house takes an enzyme with every meal. My tummy wouldn't be the same without enzymes!

Friday, August 15, 2014


Two years ago Hayden refused to hug his grandparents when they left at visits and holidays. He preferred high fives. Same for uncles, aunts, etc. He was too sensitive to touch and didn't want to be that close to anyone except his mom and dad. All his relatives know this and usually just ask for a high five from him when they leave.

Earlier this week, Joe came to me after picking up Hayden from school. He (Joe) had a big smile on his face. "Guess what happened!"

This week, one of Hayden's YMCA before & after care teachers had her last day. She was changing to a different school.  This is someone Hayden met 2 weeks ago. He sees her only an hour each day.
Joe asked Hayden to say goodbye to her.  Instead, Hayden went over and gave her a big hug.

After Joe told the story, he waited for me to say something.

"Um... that's good?" I said, not sure what was so exciting.

Joe said, "FUA!  He never hugs anyone! And he gave her a big hug without being asked!"

I melted into a smile. Because my boy had done something huge, and I didn't even notice. But Joe did. That makes it even more special.

Sometimes these little victories are missed, because they seem to happen more often and more quickly now that Hayden has been doing Biomed for so long. And they're so small that they're easy to miss in the busy day to day.

But compared to two years ago, this is a big deal. Hayden understood that his teacher was leaving, and wanted to say Goodbye.

This is what treating Autism looks like. This is how our kids get better.  Tiny victories that add up to big change.

#FU, Autism. He's one step closer today to saying Goodbye to you, too.

[Pictured: Rylie visiting her new preschool classroom for the first time. Hayden sat on the tiny couch and allowed her to bring him food that she had "cooked". He even pretended to eat it.]

"Hey, Hayden--  Smile!" 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Happy Full Moon Friday!

Rylie has had a great first two weeks of preschool.  She didn't cry once!

Hayden is loving his new school and already has made a new friend at the YMCA.

Tomorrow is a full moon... things are crazy & I'm tired!

This morning I told Hayden I needed a hug before he left with Joe for school.  This was his response before he walked over:   "Commencing."  

FUA!  Commencing weekend.  Happy Full Moon (tomorrow) Friday, everyone!

Top YouTube Videos

This first video has reached over 40,000 hits and has generated a bit of controversy in the comments.  Many viewers have raised the question of whether this video "looks like Autism."  (Some comments were rather rude and were deleted, which is why you don't see them.)  My response is below.

This next video has reached over 60,000 hits on YouTube.  I'm glad to be able to educate others about Autism and what echolalia looks like.  

Echolalia is when a child only speaks by repeating whatever words he hears.  This was how Hayden communicated for at least a year.  He never initiated words, but simply repeated whatever words were spoken to him.  The very first and very last words he speaks are an example of nonsense words, speaking gibberish. I believe he is 2 1/2 in this video.  We were so excited for him to speak at all, at first, so we found this very humorous. After a year of him still speaking in echolalia, we were able to see that his communication was not developing appropriately.

Thank you for reading and allowing me to continue to educate others on "What Autism Looks Like."  I hope to post more videos in the future as time allows.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

PERFECT first week back to school for Hayden!

At a new school, with new classmates, new before and after care, and some new teachers!  

Hayden started his B12 shots for the first time last weekend.  We are hoping that had something to do with it!  We asked him if he thinks he feels different and he said , "I don't know, my brain feels different. I can think easier."  B12 shots have been recommended by his MAPS doctors for a few years now, but because of Hayden's severe phobia of the shots, we hadn't started them until now.  So excited for this great start to his school year!  

(Updated Friday with the above message and the bottom two photos.)  Friday FUA!