Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I'll Tell You Where You Can Shove Those Vinegar-Soaked Cotton Balls

Must we put warnings on everything? 
"Notice to school personnel: cotton balls are not a food."
The National Autism Association (NAA) sent out a press release yesterday alleging that a public elementary school in Texas has been putting vinegar-soaked cotton balls in the mouths of autistic children as "aversives."  Parents are also alleging that the school required the autistic children, some of whom are nonverbal, to get on a classroom treadmill (ostensibly there for exercise breaks) and go faster and longer than they wanted to.

An aversive intervention is a negative consequence used to train kids, much like hitting a dog with a newspaper.

This allegedly happened to multiple students at Exley Elementary School in Katy, TX, part of the Katy Independent School District (ISD).

Aside from the obvious jump my mind takes from the word vinegar to the thought that school is run by douchebags, I have nothing funny to say about this. I'm just sad and angry.

Katy, TX, is just two towns over from where I lived in Texas.  It's a relatively affluent town, and it's considered one of the best school districts in the Houston area.  It's also considered one of the best for special needs students.  After Little Dude was diagnosed, I had multiple experts (including the neurologist who diagnosed Little Dude), recommend the Katy ISD to our family.

Let me be clear: Katy, TX is not some back woods, rural town.  It's a low-crime Houston suburb with a really nice mall.

NAA board member Leslie Phillips spoke to the Katy ISD school board on Monday night, and asked school district officials to insert vinegar-soaked cotton balls into their mouths.  There were no takers on the request. 

In the press release, NAA Executive Director Lori McIlwain says that aversive interventions are used in schools across the United States, and include "withholding food and water, lemon spray to the eyes, force feeding, sensory exploitation, shaving cream to the mouth, peppers to the mouth – these are just some of the assaults that have been used on schoolchildren as a failed means to control behavior."

Ms. McIlwain continued, “Positive behavioral interventions have been proven successful, there is no excuse for aversives in our schools.”

Um, yeah.  The water thing.  Remember that?  I wrote on my blog last year that water was withheld from the Peanut Butter Kid's entire grade (first grade) because they were too loud at recess.  (See my post, Water, Water Everywhere for my suggested punishments to the teachers involved.)  And then there was the time that Cookie was denied medical treatment.

Again, who knew it needed a warning?
"Notice to school personnel: Vinegar is for salad dressing,
cleaning windows, and making Easter eggs. 
Not for punishing children." 
So, sadly, I am not surprised that these things happened.  I'm pretty sure the difference between the Katy ISD and the one where my children attended school in Texas is that the Katy ISD parents complained.  (I was the only parent who complained about water being withheld from the first graders.)  And parent complaining is good.  I'm not saying you should whine and nag and complain about stupid stuff, but when your child is denied basic care or subjected to treatment that is unsafe and degrading, parents need to step up.  That is how change happens.

Please don't think that because you don't live in a Houston suburb, or that because your child goes to a "good school," that this isn't happening.  You have to ask.

Because guess what?  The parents of these special needs children did not expect that something like this would happen at their "good school," any more than I thought my child would ever be denied water.

Whether you have special needs children or not, ask your school how discipline is handled.  Ask if your school promotes positive behavioral interventions, or aversive interventions.  If your school uses aversives, ask specifically what aversives are used.  Then tell your school district officials that aversive interventions are not okay with you, and that it is not appropriate discipline. 

What's going in your town?
Parents of autistic children who need support on this topic can contact the National Autism Association.  You might also want to check out their special safety website, which covers important topics such as restraint and seclusion, bullying, wandering, and suicide prevention.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coffee, Depression, and Why Medical Researchers Crack Me Up

The stirrer is for snorting.
Finally, some medical news that we can all be happy about.  Instead of making moms feel guilty about taking antidepressants or making moms feel guilty about letting their kids watch TV, researchers have finally given us something to feel good about: coffee.
News outlets were all abuzz yesterday with the news of a study saying that women who drank two to three cups of coffee a day over a ten-year period were 15 percent less likely to experience depression, compared to those who drink only one cup of coffee or less per week.

Related breaking news: There are women who drink only one cup of coffee or less per week.  Good for them.  (Freaks.)

The study authors cautioned that the study shows a correlative link, not a causative link, and doesn't prove that coffee prevents depression.

Confused?  Let me explain:

A correlative link connects two possibly unrelated things:  Moms wearing a red shirt were twice as likely to have read guilt-inducing news yesterday.

A causative link shows a connection between things:  I read guilt-inducing news yesterday and then shoved more cookies into my piehole.

Really, these researchers could have saved themselves a metric f**k-ton of money and just hung out with me for a day.  I would have explained to them that:

a) Coffee is an upper and makes me feel good. 
b) Going without coffee makes me depressed and/or want to smack people.
c) People self-medicate with coffee for alllll kinds of things, like ADHD, depression, and wanting to smack people.
d) Coffee is such an upper and source of self-medication that the only way I was able to cut back on coffee was when my ADHD was finally diagnosed and treated with amphetamines.

Anyway, back to the important news here: Coffee.  Lots of it.  Good for you.  Wheeeeee!

Because I'm whacked out on coffee and Adderall, let's ignore the cautions of researchers and extrapolate their results.  If two to three cups of coffee are good, I bet the whole damn pot is fantastic.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

OK, This is Totally Gross, But ...

This is not the Square One that Little Dude
is back to.  Just me.  (BAHAHAHAHAHAHA --
I can't really afford organic vodka.)
So I recognize that this is totally gross, but who else can I ask about poop if not a group of parents?  Here's the deal: Little Dude is making some progress with the potty.  Yes, we were making progress a year ago too, but then we moved, and he couldn't generalize the skill to the bathroom in the new house.  So we're back at Square One.

And yet, there is some progress.  Yesterday Little Dude peed on the potty at school, and that's huge.  HUGE.  Like throw a party huge.

So the pee department is getting there.  It's the poop that's throwing a wrench in Operation Get Into Underwear.

Normally, Little Dude poops standing up, in his Pull-Up.  He literally cannot figure out how to do this sitting down on the toilet.  I don't know if that's a motor planning problem, a sensory problem, a low-tone core muscle problem, some combination of those three, or something else entirely.

I have been trying to explain to Little Dude how to poop, and it's not working.  Yesterday he was sitting on the toilet, frustrated, begging me to explain to him how to poop on the toilet.

The kid really, really wants to do this, and that's not something we've ever had going for us before.  I'd really like to make this work.

So far I've tried explaining that in his butt is the hole where the poop comes out.  I showed him with my fist how his muscles hold that hole closed until he's ready to let the poop out.  I said he needs to relax that muscle, and also use his stomach muscles to push the poop out.

I know.  I told you this post was gross.  Also, yes, I've tried waiting til I know he's about to poop, and then putting him on the potty, but he kind of freezes up at that point.  So it's really about teaching him to relax the right muscles, I think.  And I don't want to go the Miralax route because he's totally not constipated.  And no, he's not lactose or gluten sensitive or allergic.  Yes, we've checked.

M&M's. How would one potty-train without them?
Oh, and also, hellz yeah we are doing some big-time bribery on this.  I'm not just talking M&M's, I'm talking Lego sets.  (Plus M&M's, duh.  Because I like M&M's.)

We do have a social story about pooping.  He likes that, but it doesn't really tell him how to poop.

So, my explanation of how to poop is insufficient.  I made an appointment for him for next month with Urology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia under the guise of investigating his daytime/nighttime enuresis (wetting), but really I'm hoping their biofeedback machine can just give him some muscle awareness in that whole general region.  I'll let you know how that pans out.

In the mean time, how do I explain this?  Do I need a flow chart?  (Ha ha -- eew.)  Are there other words that would make more sense to him?  Should I make him do stomach crunches to build up his core muscles?  I seriously don't know, and none of the "experts" I've asked know either.

So I'm turning to you, the real experts.  Please help me.  How do I explain to my son how to poop?

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Want a What Now?

Note that she didn't say "every child." 
Image via Uplifting Prints on Etsy.
My kids and my friends' kids have been in rare form lately.  Here's a smattering of what they've said in the last couple days.

1. Please Don't Mess With My Toaster

Little Dude: "Mommy, do we have a toaster?"
Me: "Yes.  Would you like some toast?"
LD: "No.  But could you get me the toaster?"
Me: "Uh, why?"
LD: "For experiments.  Science experiments."
Me: "That doesn't sound very safe.  Toasters can make fires."
LD: "Oh.  But when I'm older I'm going to do science experiments on toasters.  Like, what else can you put in a toaster?  Can you toast -- (pause for effect) -- cookies?"

2. You're Not Paying Me At All

Little Dude: "Daddy, where are you?"
Daddy: "In the bathroom!"
LD: "I'm not paying you to go to the bathroom!"

3. But That Was Nine Months Ago

My friend Mary: "I'm so excited to go out to the movies tonight with SRMM. I haven't been out with just grown-ups in months and months."
Her daughter: "You went Christmas shopping with Aunt Becky."

4. It's Not a Lie If You Really Believe It (Because It's True)

The Pork Lo Maniac, to me, after being told that the flu vaccine had just come in, so all four kids could get the shot today, even though it was just the Peanut Butter Kid's well check: "YOU LIED TO US!"

5. That's Not a Fair Fight

Little Dude: "Mommy, I need one of those things. They're for metal. And they go TSSSSSSSSS TSSSSSSSSSSS TSSSSSSSSSSS.
Me: "A blowtorch?"
LD: "Yes. I'm going to need a blowtorch."
Me: "What do you need a blowtorch for?"
LD: "So I can beat Daddy at wrestling."

By the way? When I think of blowtorches, I can only think of Julia Child, who famously said, "I think every woman should have a blowtorch."

Friday, September 16, 2011


Singing + holding hands = Third Circle of Hell
for Little Dude.
The kids have been in school about three weeks now.  Little Dude would tell you it's been forever.  But actually, in terms of a kid with Asperger Syndrome getting used to a new routine?  It's about a minute.

Nevertheless, Little Dude went into his morning assembly with a big smile on his face today.  Also with noise-cancelling headphones on his head, but whatever.  A big smile.

The school starts its day with all the Kindergartners lined up by class in the gym.  They sing songs and say the Pledge of Allegiance.  It's organized, it's fun, it's adorable.  But for Little Dude, being around a group of singing children is a terrifying exercise in sensory processing stress.  In preschool, even with just one class singing, he was known to curl up in the fetal position in the farthest corner possible.  He's not a wanderer or a runner, but he did try to bolt once to get away from the singing.

So we've been slowly working up to this. 

We started out with me walking him into the school.  We would sit on a bench outside the front office for about ten minutes, and then one of the special ed teachers would take him up to his classroom.  This way, he was walking away from me, instead of me walking away from him.  It's a better visual.

Next, we started going on spy missions.  I walked him down to the gym and we sat in the hallway and watched part of the morning assembly.  When all the kids stood up for the Pledge, we would go back upstairs, where a special ed teacher would meet us and walk him to class. 

Excellent hiding spot.
The big step was getting him to go into the gym.  That was hard.  He really didn't want to go in there, and tried to hide from me and the special ed teachers.  Since his hiding skills are akin to those of an ostrich, we found him.  I walked him in, pretty much Velcro-ed him to one of his teachers, and I stepped out to "have a chat" with another teacher.  He went up with his class that morning, giving me a thumbs-up and a high-five as he went up the stairs.

But that afternoon, he was a mess.  Almost as soon as I picked him up from school, he started crying, explaining that he thought he'd made a terrible mistake in agreeing to go into the gym, because now he'd have to do it every day.  His behavior at home was horrendous.

We plowed ahead.  His behavioral therapist assured me that this was part of the process of building up his tolerance, and that he'd get through it.  I trust her.

The second day, he really didn't want to go in again.  "There are too many people," he said.  "It's just too loud."

I promised him that he could bring his noise-cancelling headphones the next day, but told him I needed him to go in anyway that day.  He agreed.

Again, terrible behavior at home. 

Today, we brought the headphones.  I walked him down to the gym, where we waited for his special ed teacher.  He insisted on putting the headphones while we waited.  As soon as they were on, a big smile spread across his face. 

His teacher came, and brightly asked Little Dude how he was doing.  He just smiled and tapped his headphones.  I gave him a kiss, put his little hand firmly in hers, and off he went.

There are more steps, still.  Next week I will only walk him to the door of the school.  At some point, he'll try sitting in line with his class instead of standing in the back of the gym with his special ed teacher.

Whatever.  Those steps start next week.  Today I am savoring getting to this point.  I am thrilled with his progress, thrilled with his teachers, thrilled with his school.  I trust that his teachers are pushing him to grow, but not so hard that he falls back.  I trust them when they tell me that he'll get there, that this is all part of the process.  I also trust that I know my child well enough to have insisted on this transition process.

By the way, you know what I love about Kindergartners?  They don't even notice when a classmate has on giant old-school headphones.  I think maybe one little girl turned to look, and then went right back to her singing.

And this morning, one of my 10-year-olds told me that before their (scheduled and announced) fire drill this week, her teacher reminded the class that they might see other students with headphones on.  She pointed out that no one should laugh at a student with headphones on, or make them feel uncomfortable; some people just have more sensitive ears than others.  Awesome.

I can't recommend noise-cancelling headphones enough.  They look like this:

Adequate.  But not fun.

Which obviously makes me want to alter them to look like this: 
Pretty sure no one's going to mess with the kid wearing Darth Maul protective headphones.

But that might be too scary for the other Kindergartners.  Maybe something more cuddly, like this:

Snuggly Chewbacca headphones could double as earmuffs.

Of course, for a girl you'd want to make them look like this: 

La la la, I can't hear you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reality Check

I write a lot about the funny side of raising an autistic child, and that's easy for me to do.  Little Dude is verbal, high-functioning, and in a mainstream kindergarten (albeit with a lot of support).  But I worry that sometimes my blog gives people the impression that all autistic kids are like Little Dude.

They're not.

Autism is called Autism Spectrum Disorder because it is a spectrum.  A vast range of symptoms and capabilities and behaviors.  I have friends whose children are nonverbal, and that is something I always try to keep in the back of my mind.

I read a post by Christine at A Sugar and Spice Life yesterday, and with her permission, I am sharing it here as kind of a reality check.  It's exceptionally beautifully written; honest without being maudlin.

You can follow Christine's blog at A Sugar and Spice Life, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

It hurts to remember ...
...but it also hurts to forget.

Sam is who she is now, and I couldn't love her more. But sometimes my mind drifts back to the things she used to do....the things she doesn't do anymore. I'm conflicted. Should I remember or should I forget? I want to do both and I want to do neither.

It hurts so much to remember the way she used to be, before her regression. She was always behind, but she was making progress. Looking back, she always had some things about her that now make me think "autism". Like twisting her hands and feet, and clapping her feet together. We thought they were quirky traits. She also didn't get into things like most babies do. She never emptied out her toy box. She didn't get mad when someone took something away from her.

She had some words. She could say mama and Emily (emma) and Sam (am). She said apple one time in the grocery store. She had some signs...."ball" and "baby" and "more". She knew some of her body parts and would touch them when asked. She took a long time to learn to wave, but she did. She wanted to be read to. She would anticipate parts of books. She would snort like the rhinocerous. She would do "so big". She could clap. If we clapped after she did something she would do it again and wait for us to clap again. She was starting to do some pretend play, like talking on a phone. She would imitate some facial expressions. She would smile for the camera.

Then she hit 22 months...she quit doing all of those things. It happened pretty abruptly. I don't know what the last word was that she spoke. I wish I knew. I know the last sign she used was "more" but I can't tell you when it was.

What happened?

It hurts to remember.
It hurts to forget.

It just hurts.


Christine also makes the most beautiful cloth dolls, tree toppers, and accessories, which are available at her Etsy shop.  Some of her dolls promote autism awareness and epilepsy awareness, and some are just adorable. 

The dolls are custom-made and are available in all skin tones, because autism does not discriminate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Defense of Stupid Cartoons

Hey kids, stop having fun! 
It's bad for you!
Yesterday, an earth-shattering news story broke that stupid cartoons might negatively impact kids' brains.  Yes, despite the fact that we can't cure cancer and we still don't know jack about what causes autism, the good people at the University of Virginia decided to research the effect that SpongeBob has on preschoolers' ability to concentrate. 

I can only assume that our National Curmudgeon Laureate Andy Rooney had something to do with this.  ("Did you ever notice that we get less cereal in our cereal boxes each year?  Or that cartoons get stupider ever year?  Whatever happened to the good old days when you could buy a three-bedroom house for $1.87?")

Let's just ignore the fact that SpongeBob is not part of Nickelodeon's preschool lineup, mmkay?  Or that the study did not have a diverse participant base, or the fact that everyone already knows that cartoons rot your brain.

Yes.  Ignore all that.

Let's focus on the fact that the comparison show was Caillou.  I'm pretty sure by now you all know where I stand on Caillou.  (If you're not sure, or if you, too are concerned about Caillou's mom's apparent Xanax addiction, please see my post here.) 

SpongeBob.  Caillou.  Did anyone measure the moms' sanity levels after watching these two shows?

Call the wahhhhhmbulance.

I think it's pretty obvious that if you let a four-year-old watch SpongeBob, he or she might end up a little bouncier than if he or she watched Caillou.  But I'm also sure that watching Caillou is going to make the child far, far whinier.  Because Caillou is, hands down, the whiniest character ever created in the whole history of television and film.

Caillou is even whinier than Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones, and that, my friends, is saying something. 

Here's the thing: SpongeBob is not exactly Masterpiece Theater.  But the truth is, I don't want to watch Masterpiece Theater, either.  As irritating as some people find SpongeBob to be, I find him funny.  And entertaining.  And if my kids want to have a laugh at the end of the day watching a ludicrous story about a talking sponge who lives in a pineapple, I'm okay with it. 

I'm wondering if all the parents who forbid SpongeBob also forbid themselves from watching such braniac television offerings as Wipe Out and So You Think You Can Dance? 

My kids don't watch TV for hours on end.  They also read, do homework, play outside, write poetry, and make up such intellectual games as "Butt Bingo."  But they do watch some TV.  Sometimes they watch more upscale "learning" shows like Madeleine or Young Indiana Jones.  And sometimes they watch Phineas and Ferb or SpongeBob. 

Jem!  Truly, truly, truly outrageous
craptastic 80s programming.

Two of my children take prescription medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  All four of the kids are stressed at the end of the day, from school and homework and social pressures.  Just like I'm stressed at the end of the day from parenting, managing IEPs, and dealing with insurance, and my husband is stressed at the end of the day from work.  Guess what?  A half-hour of SpongeBob makes us laugh.  Which is good.

I'm not advocating watching TV nonstop or watching SpongeBob right before a standardized test.  I'm just saying SpongeBob is probably not the root of this country's education problems. 

People have been bitching about cartoons since Betty Boop first flashed some thigh in 1930.  I grew up watching good shows like Sesame Street and crap shows like She Ra, Princess of Power.  I watched classic (and violent) cartoons like Tom and Jerry, and complete 80s mass-marketed trash like Jem and the Holograms (truly, truly, truly outrageous).  And I still graduated college with summa cum laude honors. 

And my kids are still going to be allowed to watch SpongeBob.

But not Caillou.

"For God's sake, Caillou, maybe if you stop whining
for five seconds I'd be able to think straight and figure out why you're bald."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Toddlers Dressed as Hookers, Red Bull, and Pageant Tips from SRMM

This week there was a big hullabaloo over an outfit worn by a little girl on the show Toddlers and Tiaras.  As part of a pageant, a mom dressed her three-year-old daughter as Pretty Woman.  She wore the "classy" brown-and-white polka dot dress, but also the hooker outfit.  Yes, the one with the ring that connects the crop top to the miniskirt.  The outfit was finished off with patent thigh-high boots and a wig.

You can see the outfit on the always-informative website TMZ by clicking here.  You can see clips of the actual show on TLC's website.  The clips include the hooker outfit, and also another one of a different mom strapping fake boobs onto a four-year-old so she can work a Dolly Parton look.  And a clip of a tiny little girl getting a spray tan.  And then there's a clip of a one-year-old screaming as her pageant coach tries to pin some fake hair to her little head.  I'm sure there's more clips, but I had to stop there and weep for humanity.

Back to the hooker outfit.  The mom, Wendy Dickey, has countered criticism by correctly pointing out that the outfit is less revealing than swimwear or gymnastics wear.  While this is true, I'd like to point out that you dressed your daughter as a prostitute.

Mrs. Dickey also said that her daughter had no idea what she was dressed as.  I'm sure that's true, but it doesn't change the fact that you dressed your daughter as a prostitute.  I'm pretty sure that at some point, the little girl will grow up, see the movie Pretty Woman and be like, "what. the. hell.  You dressed me as a prostitute.

Now that the outfit has caused such a stir, Mrs. Dickey has decided to auction off the outfit and donate the proceeds to charity.  This begs the question:  who the hell is going to buy this outfit?  I can only imagine how the ebay ad would go:

This begs the question: who do you suppose buys a hooker outfit in a 3T?  I mean, besides Mrs. Dickey.

Look, I get that pageants can be totally fun.  There's good scholarship money in it, the dresses are sparkly, and you get to feel like a princess.  Awesome.  Not my thing, but you go for yours.

And I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of Pageant Parents are not like the nut job dad who plied his tired two-year-old with a "special juice" of Red Bull, apple juice, and Coke to get her through her routine in the same Toddlers and Tiaras episode.  Have you ever wondered why everything has a warning label on it nowadays?  Because of guys like that.

For those parents on the pageant circuit who have not yet gone insane, I thought I could offer some tips.  I'm sure it's easy to slide down that slippery slope of fake boobs, Vaseline, and Red Bull to become the crazies on Toddlers and Tiaras.  Here's some things you should know:

My Tips for Pageant Parents

1. Red Bull is not a suitable drink for small humans.  It's full of chemicals.  If your two-year-old princess isn't perky enough, you really want to go the more natural route.  Instead of something canned, go for something freshly-made, like a Venti double-espresso mocha.  Sugar-free, of course.  I'm kidding.  Let her have the sugar.  If that fails, how about letting your kid take a damn nap?

2. Dressing a three-year-old like a prostitute is not appropriate.  No matter how funny you might think it is, it's just not cool.  There.  Now you know.  So if you go ahead and dress your daughter like that, you can no longer act surprised that people might see it as degrading to your child. 

3. If you ever make it into the big leagues and actually appear on Toddlers and Tiaras, you will be mocked by most of America.  I don't know what these parents think when they sign up for this show.  Haven't they ever watched it?  Maybe you watch it for pageant tips.  The rest of us watch it because it's a train wreck and makes us feel like better parents.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Randy the Laundry Fairy

Oh, yes.  Lydia was making videos like this waaaaaay
before everyone else.  She's on the cutting edge like that.
Randy the Laundry Fairy is a very real creature that serves only to torment me.  If you've never heard of him, you really must read this post from Rants from Mommyland

That post is pretty much the moment I fell in love with Rants from Mommyland.  It is seriously one of the funniest things I have ever read.  As a bonus, it even has a video.

The thing about the laundry is that I can get control over it, when I choose to.

So I wrote a letter to Randy, which is over at Rants from Mommyland today.  Click here to check it out!

p.s. Warning: I think I may have used a mild swear word or two in my letter.  Laundry inspires those kinds of feelings, I find.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hindsight is 20/20 and/or I'm Stupid

Dark Side Wii, I will never underestimate
your power again.
A couple weeks ago, our Wii went to the Dark Side.  It didn't die entirely; we could still stream Netflix through it.  However, it petulantly refused to play the games.

We tried cleaning the lens with some special doohickey, and that didn't work.  And then ... I kind of let it slide.  The kids are enjoying Netflix, and no one complained (much) about the lack of Lego Star Wars.

Meanwhile, we were preparing for school to start, which ramped up Little Dude's anxiety, which in turn ramped up his, um, "less-than-cooperative" behavior.  By last weekend, I was being screamed at daily.  Sometimes the screams were incoherent, but mostly they went along the lines of "I hate you! I wish I didn't live here."

I don't take it personally when he says things like that.  At the moment, it's his way of expressing frustration and anger.  We try to give him different words to use, by saying things like "I understand that you're feeling frustrated."


When he's screaming, it's not that effective, but presumably it'll help down the road, right?  I also say things like, "I'm sorry to hear that, but I still love you."  Sometimes I'll drawl it out all lovey-dovey, "but I love yooooo-oooooou."  I've got a 50-50 shot that that'll make him laugh enough to distract him from the screaming.  (Alternatively, it makes him scream more.)

While I don't take it personally, I really don't enjoy being screamed at.  This is probably stating the obvious, but in general it's very stressful to be nearing someone who's screaming, and especially when the person is screaming "I hate you!" at you.  It's also not that good for Little Dude's three older sisters, who are all pretty sensitive to sounds and have anxiety issues.

3M Peltor Junior Earmuffs, Pink
Pro Tip: Headphones
that protect hearing also
protect sanity when your
little brother is screaming.
For some reason, it dawned on me last weekend that the Lego games on the Wii are an integral part of Little Dude's stress-coping mechanisms.  He uses them to zone out.  He's mastered the games, they're predictable, and he knows where every little bonus canister lies.  The games help him relax and be less screamy.


It has been suggested in the past that I use it / withhold it as reward / punishment for Little Dude, to encourage him to potty train or whatever. I always said no, because it's too much a part of who he is.

I knew this.  And yet I chalked his behavior up to school anxiety, without giving him a a way to release the stress.  Sure, we play outside, we wrestle, we snuggle, we do all those things that help relieve stress. But the one thing that he's been using for the last three years wasn't there.

Why am I so stupid?

I don't know.  Maybe it's because I'm also trying to problem-solve eleventy thousand other issues.  Maybe it's because the Wii isn't that important to me, so I didn't see it as being important at all.  Maybe it's because I am triaging crises on a minute-to-minute basis, and barely have time and energy to take a breath and re-assess the larger picture. 

Somehow this relieves stress.
Or maybe it's just that hindsight is 20/20.

We bought a pre-owned Wii at a good price, hooked it up, and let all the kids zone out for an entire afternoon.  We played Just Dance as a family, and we played a lot of Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones.  Most of the family never got out of pajamas.  And Little Dude was happy.  And he hasn't screamed at me for a whole 36 hours.

I don't mean that the Wii solved all our problems, or that it's the end-all and be-all of stress management tools.  But it is very important to Little Dude.  So I'm going to continue to let him play "too much" Wii, or what would be too much for a typically-developing, non-Little-Dude kid.  I'm going to try to think in a more balanced way about the stress of my kids; not just what we're doing to reducing stress and help them develop coping skills, but what we're doing to release stress.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thank You Video (plus Friendship Tips for Special Needs Parents)

I've written a lot about friendship this week.  In some ways, my life can be very isolating.  But the truth is, I have a lot of friends, all of whom are there for me when I need them.  I am incredibly fortunate to have such a great family, such great friends, and such great friends who are like family.

And I am grateful.

Those posts, How to Be Friends with a Special Needs Parent, and Helping Your Child be Friends with a Child with Special Needs, left out a pretty big part of the equation.

Those of us who are parents of special needs children need to follow some rules, too.  We all kinda of know them, but they probably bear repeating. 

  • Ask your friends about their life, too.  The fact that your life may be, in fact, more stressful than theirs?  Doesn't actually make their life any less stressful, and doesn't make their problems any less real.
  • Please don't get competitive with your child's special needs. Trying to out-special-needs your special needs moms friends is especially uncool.  For example, if you've ever said something like "Your son needs speech therapy?  That's nothing.  My son needs a new tongue," you might want to rethink your empathy skills.
  • Ask for help.  Specific help.  Your friends are probably happy to help you, but they just don't know what you need.  (Don't believe me?  Check out Monday's post.)  Unless your friends are total douchebags, it probably makes them feel good to be helpful.  If a friend mentions that she's headed to the store, ask her to pick up milk for you.  Then offer to do the same when you're headed out.
  • Thank the people who help you.  Most special needs parents are totally strapped for cash, because all their money went to copays and therapies and special soft socks.  So I know you can't give lavish thank-you presents.  But say thank you.  Send a thank-you text or a thank-you e-mail.  Send a real, old-fashioned thank-you note once in a while.  Or, you know, just forward my video to your friends.
Thanks, yo.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

8 Shirts You Won't See on My Daughters

Well, holy crap.  JC Penney launched one of the most demeaning t-shirts ever created for girls this week. The Interwebz promptly freaked out, and Penney's yanked the shirt off their site within hours

In case you missed it, it looked like this:

JC Penney, girls' sizes 7 to 16.

Why, yes, it does say "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me."

Done throwing up yet?

Many people are wondering which robot monkeys approved this t-shirt for JC Penney.  After all, it's sexist, demeaning, and clearly not the kind of message any of us wants to send to our daughters, right?

Um, right?

If you're sad that you already missed the opportunity to tell your daughter she's a bimbo make everyone laugh, don't worry!  There's plenty more inappropriate crap insouciant wit out there for her, sized for infants all the way to juniors!

From Amazon, available as a onesie or t-shirt in sizes 6 months to 24 months.
Yay! Who doesn't dream of their daughter's future as a doctor lawyer teacher trophy wife?  (It's a nice career move when you're done pole dancing.)

Available at To be fair, some of their stuff is awesome.

And speaking of pole dancers, here's a charming shirt for toddlers with nipple tassels already attached!  Because it's just so hard to glue them directly to your child.  This shirt, after going viral in 2009, went from £16 to £516 despite still being a piece of crap because now it is a piece of art.

Kohl's, girls' sizes 7 to 16.
Daydreaming was my favorite subject, too.  Now I take Adderall for that.  On the other hand, maybe I should be encouraging my daughter to be proud of her Inattentive-Type ADHD.

Available at Kmart, juniors' sizes.
Awesome.  Can you major in that in college, too?  I'm sure there's good money and lots of careers available in ... Communications.

Another gem from Kohl's, juniors' sizes.
Oh!  It's hilarious on so many levels!  You're cheating on your boyfriend, and now you're going to have to cheat on your Algebra test because you didn't study.  See you on Jerry Springer.

Available at Target, juniors'.
I'm not even a religious person, but if I see this on one of my daughters, we're looking into convent school.

Available at Victoria's Secret PINK.
From the company that markets push-up bras in size 30AA for "back to school," comes this winner. I'm going to go ahead and ignore the panties that say "Earn that A" and "Extra Credit" on the butt.  Likewise the thong that says "Study Buddy."

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