Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekly Ketchup (updated): Important Autism News and Random Interwebz Nonsense

Here's what I've been up to over the last week:

Today on NickMom I have "Top 9 Things I Expect to Hear While Watching the Kids Choice Awards."

I also contribute to the daily "Take 5" spin on the news. My favorite story of the week was the cringe-inducing video of Alicia Silverstone chewing her son's food for him, and then feeding him mouth-to-mouth.

For Redbook magazine's Mamarama, I wrote 6 Spring Activities for the Non-Sporty Family. As you guys know, our major sport here is Therapy. Pretty sure my kids are going to letter in it this year.

For Strollerderby, I covered a couple of important autism- and education-related stories:
  • A study out of the Kennedy Krieger Institute shows that autistic kids face three times the bullying of their typically-developing siblings. The study is particularly helpful in that it details where, when, why, and how these kids are being bullied, and looks at a variety of educational settings. Regardless of your child's placement, it's really important information to share with your school.
YouTube's VenusAngelic is
laughing her way to the
bank (in a very high-pitched
girly giggle, I assume). 
In random Internet weirdness, I also covered:
  • A story of a 15-year-old London girl who makes insanely successful YouTube tutorials on how to make yourself look like a doll. It's really cool except for the girl's "doll" voice. Go ahead and check it out, then let me know exactly how many seconds you could watch it before wanting to throw your laptop out the window.
I also have a post about principals cracking down on risque prom wear, with some extremely specific examples given by actual high schools. Take home message: do not model your prom look on "Dancing With The Stars." I'm feeling rather grateful that the craziest thing going on at my prom was the extreme overuse of hair spray.

On the lighter side, I also created a slideshow (demonstrating my mad skillz with MS Paint) of my predictions 24 Children's Books That Scream Out for Product Placement. Because now that the Lorax is shilling SUVs for Mazda, I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing some of these soon.

Check my slideshow at Strollerderby. And yes, David Beckham does make a fine Captain Underpants.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Weekly Ketchup: Fine, it's more like monthly ketchup. Whatever.

I'm a little overwhelmed with writing projects right now, so I haven't been very good about posting here on SRMM, or even updating with links to my other stuff.

But here's some of what I've been doing for the last few weeks:

For the motherfunny site NickMom, I had:

For Redbook's Mamarama blog, I ranted about:

Over on Strollerderby,'s parenting news site, here were my favorite posts of the last few weeks:
Nutjobs Rail Against Non-Existent Trans Darth Vader Character. OMG, this is the story bloggers dream of. It has it all: Darth Vader, RuPaul, and a really nutty conservative family values group that doesn't seem to edit or proof their news releases. But they do have mad skillz with PhotoShop, apparently, and created this:

I swear to God, I can't make this stuff up. And thanks to the Florida Family Association, I don't have to!

6 Internet Trends to Skip and 6 to Keep Doing. Did you know that breading cats is a thing?

24 Etsy Toys You Can Never Un-See. It seems the fine artists at Etsy have been watching a tad too much Toy Story.

In more serious news, I covered the following stories:

Here in my own world, in case you missed it, the Pork Lo Maniac was finally diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Also, it's not too late to submit a photo for my autism awareness video project!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hey, Want to Help With an Autism Awareness Project?

One of the blog posts I wrote during last year's Autism Awareness Month was one called But He Doesn't *Look* Disabled. I've gotten this comment, in one form or another, several times. Usually what people say is "but he doesn't look autistic."

I have a pretty good idea of what people think autism looks like.


And this:

Maybe this?

If they happen to watch Parenthood, this:

I like the last one the best. But of course, Max Burkholder, who plays Max Braverman on NBC's Parenthood, is an actor. A fabulous actor, but an actor. He does not have Asperger Syndrome, his character does.

Autism looks like my son and my daughter. It looks like your child. It looks like you. So I'm going to make a video for Autism Awareness Month featuring photos of actual kids and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. 

Perhaps a video like this will stop even a few people from saying "but he doesn't look autistic." And in turn maybe I will stop me wanting to scream THAT'S BECAUSE HE IS NOT MOTHERF**KING RAIN MAN.

Ahem. Excuse me.

Yes, back to the video. The video will be similar in format to my Thank You From a Special Needs Mom video, but will hopefully include lots and lots of photos of people with autism.

I'd love for you to send me a photo of your autistic loved one (or yourself) to include. It can be a family photo, or just a photo of the individual with autism. Whatever you want. 

Legal Stuff: 
  • By submitting a photo to the stark. raving. mad. mommy. Autism Awareness Project for April 2012, you are allowing me to use the photo in a slideshow video, which will be put onto YouTube. 
  • No names, ages, or locations will be used in the slideshow. That's to protect your privacy but also because it would take me too freaking long to insert all that info.
  • No compensation will be provided for the use of the photo, unless you think that having a warm, fuzzy feeling inside is compensation. Then there will be lots.

I'm hoping this video does even a small part to raise awareness that autism is all around us, and knows no boundaries.

To Submit a Photo: Email your digital photo to Please try not to send me giant files that will take me forever to download onto my craptastic laptop. Smaller-size photos/files will be just dandy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Last Potty Post

Image credit:
Tomorrow, Little Dude turns six. At some point, I probably won't be able to call him Little Dude any more, but I'm still taller than him, so for now the nickname sticks. However, as he's getting older, my need to protect his privacy increases.

I believe that it's important to write about the unique issues associated with parenting a special needs child: both the challenges and the rewards. And know I from the comments on my posts, the comments on my Facebook page, and from the emails I get, that when I write about the long, slow potty-training process, it makes other parents feel less alone.

So know this: we are still working on it. Little Dude has made amazing strides in this department, but we are in no way completely there. But I won't be writing about it any more.

But no one understands more than me what a major issue potty-training is. Even with typical kids, it consumes your life. It tests your patience. With special needs kids, there are several extra layers of emotional, social, psychological, and physical factors on top of that. Nothing breaks your heart like a kid on the playground spotting the top of your child's Pull-Up, and hearing that child ask, "Why are you wearing a diaper?"

On the other hand, one of the most important things I've realized over the last four years of banging my head against this particular brick wall, is that it's also not that big a deal. It's important, yes. If your kid is at all capable of someday mastering this, keep plugging away, my friends. But know that this is not the be-all and end-all of your child's development. You will find ways to tuck the tops of those Pull-Ups down so they don't peek out of the tops of the jeans. You can buy loose-fit pants and longer shirts to protect your child from other people's opinions. Remember all the things your child can do, and how hard he or she worked to gain those skills.

For my final Potty Party post, I'll share what hasn't worked for us, what has worked, and what's working right now.

What hasn't worked:
Forcing him to sit on the toilet when he doesn't want to. No duh, right? Except there was a point when I tried that because I thought that's what might work. Only thing it produced was tears from both of us.

Working on a deadline. Little Dude's body really doesn't care when the first day of preschool might be, or the first day of summer camp, or whatever. Does. Not. Care.

Reading to him while he's on the potty. This actually was helpful a little bit in the very beginning, when we were just trying to get him used to sitting on the potty. But it turns out he can't listen to a story and use the toilet at the same time. Just too much going on there.

Letting him play with a Lego guy while he's on the potty. Again, too much going on. He spins Lego guys in his fingers as a stim. When he stims, he pretty much tenses up every muscle in his body. So he simply cannot void if he's holding a Lego guy. We tried it, because we thought the Lego guy would be comforting, but no. So the Lego guys come with us, and stand on the windowsill to keep him company.
50 points to Gryffindor if you can come up with
a magic spell to get my kid to poop on the potty.

What has worked:
Praise. While Little Dude doesn't talk about the potty business outside the family, he's comfortable sharing his successes with his sisters. When he's successful, he gets high-fives from everyone. 

Sticker Poster. It's not a chart. There are no particular goals. It's just a poster to put a sticker on. We tried doing goals, but it just put too much pressure on Little Dude, and it backfired. So it's just a place to collect stickers. The reason this was helpful initially was that when his daddy got home from work, Little Dude could show him any new stickers he's earned, and then get a whole fresh round of praise.

Candy. Just like when I potty-trained the other three kids, Little Dude is rewarded with a very small sweet treat for going potty. Initially, he would get a treat for trying. Sometimes I will give him a lollipop just to get him to sit there on the toilet. 

A Metric F-Ton of Patience. Once I accepted that this was going to be a really, reeeeeally slow process, things got better. The successes come in smaller, more incremental steps. When the girls potty-trained, it was like this: they learned to pee on the potty. They learned to poop on the potty. They learned to stay dry at night. End of story. It doesn't work that way for Little Dude. A step for Little Dude might be pooping in a Pull-Up in the bathroom. And then it might be to sit on the potty for five minutes, and then get a Pull-Up. Mastering a step like that is just as deserving of praise and reward as any other mastery along the way.

Making it a family project. Speaking of high-fives from everyone, one thing that has worked with all my kids during potty-training is that whenever the potty-training kid goes potty, everyone gets a treat (a Skittle or whatever). Because then it's not just me asking all the time, "do you need to go potty?" Instead, all the other little people in the house are like, "don't you want to go potty? 'Cause I really want a Starburst." 

Another way we're making it a family project is that all the kids have something they're "working on." Whether it's learning new expressions, using relaxation techniques, or taking deep breaths when needed, all the kids earn points for using and practicing new skills. When you get five points, you get to pick something out of the Prize Box, which is essentially a box o' crap from Oriental Trading, the dollar store, and Five Below. That way, everyone's working on something, everyone's earning prizes, and no one is jealous that one kid is getting potty prizes.

What's currently working:
More patience. Little Dude will get there. It's just a longer process for him. I've gotten to a pretty Zen state about it. I have been potty training someone, often more than one person, without stop, for the better part of a decade. It is what it is.  

Out and out bribery.
You can call it a reward system if that makes you feel better. The key to bribery is finding out what really motivates your kid. What finally got Little Dude to pee on the potty is that he got a Lego guy every single time he peed. Yeah. It was an expensive week. But now we've moved on, and he doesn't need that amazing a prize for peeing. Now he gets a point to apply to the Prize Box.

Pooping is a whole different story. With his sensory and motor planning issues, that's been a huge hurdle. I finally found that a separate box of prizes -- small Lego sets -- is what motivated him to poop. I had to buy the sets in advance because another key to bribery is that the reward must be immediate. Super-expensive strategy? Yes. Still cheaper than Pull-Ups? Also yes. When the Absent-Minded Professor lost his job, we had to stop that practice. And Little Dude pretty much stopped pooping. I finally caved and bought some smaller (but still special prizes) and am hoping to get him back on track. It's an investment.

The thing about bribery is that it's not like he'll need a special prize every time he poops for the rest of his life. It's a short-lived thing; it's just to get over that initial hurdle. 

Oh, and how much is our reward system actually like bribery? At one point we were literally paying him to go potty. There's a twist, though. His school was doing a penny drive for Pennies for Peace, a charity that raises money for school supplies for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Little Dude wanted to bring in more pennies, so we let him earn them by going potty. He gave all the pennies he earned to the charity.

* * * * *

So there you are. The last potty post. Remember: you are not alone. When your kid gets so big that the potty seat is too small, you are not alone. When some jackass makes a comment about your kid getting a little "too big" for Pull-Ups, you are not alone. When your mother-in-law or aunt or whoever tells you that in Her Day, all the children were potty-trained at 13 months or whatever, you are not alone.

When you can't find a preschool. When you have to explain to the school nurse. When you have the conversation for the trillionth time with your pediatrician. When someone says "well, it's not like he's going to graduate high school in Pull-Ups," and you're like, um, he might.

When you've been potty-training so long that you get rid of the board books about potty-training because your kid can read chapter books now.

When you just want to cry. When you just want to scream, "just poop already!"

Nope. You're not alone. You are not the only parent struggling with this.


If you want to read about how freaking long it's taken us to get to even this point, you can start from the beginning:

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