Thursday, December 1, 2016

Top Ten Tips for Surviving The Holidays Special Needs Style

    Tis the season! Bring on the holidays! The parties, the shopping, the decorating, the traditions, and the STRESS! Add special needs into the mix, and well, it could be a recipe for disaster. I'm no expert, but my autistic and then some son is ten, so through the years, I have learned a few things. Here's my top ten.



Number One: Prepare, prepare, prepare!


     By this I mean, do you best to know what parties you'll be attending at least a week ahead of time. I personally try to get all mine figured out by the first of December. I do this because this way I have plenty of time to prepare my son. We talk about what days we are going where, and what we'll be doing. We talk about whom will most likely be there, and about how long we plan on staying. (That's not to say we don't leave early if need be. That leads me into number two.)

Number Two: Have an Escape Plan


    Now I know what you're thinking, do you REALLY need an "escape plan?" Yes! Yes you do. Parties, people, and tons of smells and loud noises can be overwhelming to neurotypical people, imagine how it is for someone who is sensitive to all of these things? Always have an escape plan, complete with a code word. For example, we have two types.
  1. We have a code word or a signal for Liam that means he needs some space and quiet. When he says this word, or gives us this signal, one of us excuses ourselves from the party, and takes Liam to a quiet room, or outside if possible.
  2. This code word and signal is reserved for "I can't take anymore, and I need to go home." Our families know by now that this sometimes happens, and they know if we suddenly excuse ourselves and start saying goodbyes, then Liam needs to go NOW. 

Number Three: Shop online


    Many of us already do that, but I kid you not, as a special needs mom, online shopping is a life saver! The crowds, the noises, the lights, the smells, it's a lot. Grocery shopping can be hard enough, but Christmas shopping with a special needs kid is sometimes super tough. So don't feel guilty. If you can get it online, do it! If you can order your groceries, have them delivered, or even just go to the store to pick them up, DO IT! I do, and let me tell you, it's a life saver! 


Number Four: Let go of perfection


    The holidays are NEVER perfect. We're not living in a Norman Rockwell painting. All you should strive for is a peaceful and happy holiday. Which brings me to the tree. I have mild OCD. My son has OCD a bit more extreme. We clash when it comes to the tree. I used to dread doing it because all his favorite ornaments were front and center, pretty much on one branch. I'd move them, and the next time i turned around, he moved them back. I gave up. I let him decorate his way, while I mildly coax him to space them out, and I LET IT GO! Decorating the tree has been so much more enjoyable since I learned this lesson. Remember, they won't be young forever, and there will come a day that they won't care about decorating the tree. That's your time to shine! 

Number Five: Always take food


    If you don't already do this, now would be a good time to start. Find a nice separated lunch box, or bento box, and pack it with your child's preferred foods. Or take their favorites as your dish to pass at the party. Don't force them to eat foods they can't handle. Food aversions are so real, and you really don't want your kid vomiting at friends or families homes. 

Number Six: No matter how old your child is, a change of clothes is needed


    When my son hit about four, I stopped taking changes of clothes. He had been potty trained for a few years, and I figured I didn't need them. I was wrong. One Thanksgiving he couldn't get his dress pants unbuttoned. Which led to him peeing himself. I had no clean clothing. This led to my son wearing a pair of his nana's undies, and one of her tee shirts. (Thank goodness she's tiny!) This leads me into Number Seven....


Number Seven: Let them be comfy


    Many of us like to dress up for the holidays. If you're a housewife like me, it may be the few times a year you don NICE clothing, and actually wear make up. But don't force your kids to dress up. Clothing sensitivities are hell, and how much fun will they have in a scratchy sweater, and pants they can't undo? None. They'll have no fun, and most likely neither will you. My solution to this was to design my son an "ugly Christmas sweatshirt." He can't handle sweaters of any kind, but he can do sweatshirts. So I designed him one and he loves it. I also buy him nice black sweat pants. That way he's warm, comfy, and he doesn't look terrible either. 

Number Eight: Let us stim


    This applies to every day, but I'm adding it here because some parents will distract a stim when at a function or party. Don't. As long as your child isn't harming themselves or someone else, let them stim away. It makes us happy. It helps us calm ourselves. It helps us decompress. 

Number Nine: Take fidgets, tablets, phones and more


    Screen time calms us. Let us have it. Also bring fidgets or preferred toys to keep us busy. Maybe include a board game that your kids like to play that he or she can share with cousins or friends kids. Liam always has a bag of stuff that he takes and his top choices are his tablet, iPhone, squeezy fidgets, a few cars, and a game. 


Number Ten: Don't feel bad for saying no


    If your child is having a rough day, and you know that attending a party will not be conducive to him or her, then don't go. Don't feel guilty. Stuff happens. I promise you that we have missed many a party because of this reason. Family and true friends will get it. They may be disappointed, but they will get it. Instead, let your kiddo pick out his or her favorite Christmas movie, grab some snacks and chill. 

 Have a Happy Flappy Christmas


    Do what makes your child happy. Do what works for YOUR family. Do for others as you or your child can tolerate. But most of all, enjoy the holiday with your kids. They're only young once. Make memories that you will forever cherish. Even if they involve staying home in your jammies.

<3 Courtney

Sunday, November 20, 2016

According to Big Lots My Son is the Bad Kind of Crazy

    Tis the season! We are being bombarded with holiday shopping commercials. With Black Friday less than a week away, they are everywhere! I've personally been stuck on the Hallmark Channel and enjoying the sappy Christmas movies. That is until I heard Big Lots new commercial.

I went from happy holiday spirit, to shock, to anger, to sadness. 

Here's the video.... CLICK HERE



    "I went crazy in a good way...."

    ....As opposed to what other kind? Bad????

     I don't sugar coat my son's struggles with mental illness, but I sure as hell don't support furthering the stigma surrounding mental illness.

    Before you stop reading and think, "ugh! People are too sensitive! I'm tired of being so politically correct!" Think of this, CHILDREN suffer from mental illness. Do you think they, or adults, would like to be called "crazy?"

    By saying things like "good crazy," you're in fact adding to the fear and stigmas that surround those affected by mental illness. It's not about PC. It's about being a decent human being. It's about caring. It's about being respectful.

    We all know it's not okay to use the n word. Many of us are working on teaching people not to use the r word too. Well, as a mother of a child with special needs AND mental illness, I implore you not to use crazy as an adjective to describe someone. It's hurtful and demeaning.

    My son saw the video just a bit ago, which sparked the reason for this post. In my ten year old son's words, "I hate when people say crazy! It's not nice. I'm not crazy! I just have problems! Why are people so mean mama?"

    There you have it. From the mouths of babes....

    I'm reaching out to all of you, and to Big Lots too, STOP using "crazy" as an adjective!

For those of you whom like me, agree that crazy is a form of ableism, and actually care to find words to replace it, check out this post from What Privilege.

According to Big Lots My Son is the Bad Kind of Crazy

    Tis the season! We are being bombarded with holiday shopping commercials. With Black Friday less than a week away, they are everywhere! I've personally been stuck on the Hallmark Channel and enjoying the sappy Christmas movies. That is until I heard Big Lots new commercial.

I went from happy holiday spirit, to shock, to anger, to sadness. 

Here's the video....

https://www.facebook.com/biglots/videos/2186529718061587/

    ....As opposed to what other kind? Bad????

     I don't sugar coat my son's struggles with mental illness, but I sure as hell don't support furthering the stigma surrounding mental illness.

    Before you stop reading and think, "ugh! People are too sensitive! I'm tired of being so politically correct!" Think of this, CHILDREN suffer from mental illness. Do you think they, or adults, would like to be called "crazy?"

    By saying things like "good crazy," you're in fact adding to the fear and stigmas that surround those affected by mental illness. It's not about PC. It's about being a decent human being. It's about caring. It's about being respectful.

    We all know it's not okay to use the n word. Many of us are working on teaching people not to use the r word too. Well, as a mother of a child with special needs AND mental illness, I implore you not to use crazy as an adjective to describe someone. It's hurtful and demeaning.

    In my ten year old son's words, "I hate when people say crazy! It's not nice. I'm not crazy! I just have problems!"

    I'm reaching out to all of you, and to Big Lots too, STOP using "crazy" as an adjective!

For those of you whom like me, agree that crazy is a form of ableism, and actually care to find words to replace it, check out this post from What Privilege.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Being a Not So Special Needs Mother IS My Career

    It was brought to my attention yesterday that recently someone in my family (by blood, not by choice of course,) informed my mother that, "well at least my children have careers to be proud of."

    To say I was immediately infuriated was an understatement. 

    My voice went from normal to "Get the demon out of her!" in a matter of seconds. Seriously, my husband said he was waiting for my head to start spinning on my shoulders.

Wait a frigging minute!


    I'm not knocking anyone for their careers or lack thereof, but in my humble opinion, a career does NOT define us. I don't care if you're the most gifted neurosurgeon on the planet, you can still be an a$$hole, and that isn't something to be proud of.

   Truth is, I used to have a career. I self taught myself to tattoo and worked in not just one, but TWO shops in busy cities. I was in a tv commercial (it was so embarrassing,) and constantly booked. I also made DAMN good money! Then I became pregnant. I was high risk and immediately put on bed rest.

Bye bye career!


    I didn't care. The miracle inside of me was more important than a career. Fast forward a few years. When Liam was just five, and getting ready to start school, I decided I needed to find myself and start tattooing again. The guy took one look at my portfolio and hired me on the spot. Just days before I was to start working, Liam was diagnosed as Autistic.

    With a heavy heart, I contacted the gentleman and declined the job offer. Our world was spinning, much like our little boy. I started veraciously reading every book on Autism that I could get my hands on. I became a Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania Peer Mentor, to support and walk other parents through the diagnosis process. Eventually, I started a blog to educate others who were in the same boat as us.

    That flourished into a Facebook page. From there, a local support group. I organized the first ever autism walk in our town, got our local theaters to host sensory friendly movies, did Christmas parties with sensory santas, decorated the town for Autism, had a party to educate neighbor kids about autism, (our local news station actually came to it and did a story on Liam,) and so much more.

    I've grown into a better writer. I've been featured in Autism Parenting Magazine. I was published on Yahoo Parenting, (which was such an honor.) I have been featured several times on The Mighty, Sandwiches and Psych Meds, BlogHer, and more. Liam and I made the cover of Parenting Special Needs magazine. And Liam did two campaigns with Paper Clouds Apparel, to raise money for Autism charities.

    So no, as this person stated to my mother, I don't have a career per say. But guess what? In five short years I've educated and helped more people than I can even count. More people than she could ever fathom.

You know what, I'm proud of that!


    I'm lucky to be able to stay home and care for my miracle child. To be able to home school him, help him with therapy, be there for other families that walk a similar journey, and juggle a few writing jobs here and there.  I'm also proud that unlike that person, I'm not an a$$hole. I'm also not perfect, nor special, but I try damn hard to help anyone that may need a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen.

    I have made some amazing friends thanks to this journey. Friends that I CHOOSE as my family. I don't need people like her in my life, and I don't need a "title" to have a purpose. My purpose is here, and I'm okay with that.


   

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

STOP Shaming Autism Parents!

    There's a trend on social media attacking parents like myself, whom write about our lives with Autism. I could point out page names and blogs, but why give these people more attention than they deserve? Instead, I'm going to share my feelings about it.

    First of all, people need to stop accusing us of being disrespectful. They claim that we have our blogs and pages to get attention for being an autism parent, and in doing so, are disrespecting our children. How bogus is that?? (Trust me, I loathe attention. I'm happy hiding out from small talk and people.) I myself, as with many other autism parents I know, started our pages and blogs to tell OUR story. (We aren't here to tell your story. That's your prerogative.) We are reaching out and sharing slices of our lives, to connect with other parents that are walking a similar path. To help ourselves, and to help others.

    Secondly, they claim we are exploiting our children. (Another reason they accuse us of being disrespectful.) Okay, now maybe some people do that, but lumping all of us page owners and writers into that category is, well frankly, it's bullshit! My son is old enough now, that I ask his permission to share certain things. When I started, he wasn't able to make that decision. So his father and I would talk about what it was I wanted to share, and together, decide how to do it respectfully. I have never shared inappropriate images of my son. (Who would with all the pervs out there?) When talking about his severe cycles, I divulge basic information, but I never go in depth with things my son says to me in confidence. We don't tell people where we live. I also don't accept strangers on my personal Facebook.

    Thirdly, they claim that we share too much. That by telling people our story, we're in fact hurting our children. If my son has a rough day, he has a rough day. We are teaching him to own it. Shit happens, to ALL of us! If I choose to joke about it on social media, and let others know they aren't alone in this struggle, how is that hurting my child? He isn't the brunt of my joke. I am sharing to vent. Sharing to make light of a crappy day. That's how we roll in our real lives too.

    We can't sit here, behind our keyboards and act like life is all sunshine and rainbows. That's bullshit, and we all know it. As writers, we are sharing our story to reach out to all of you. These "sanctimommies" need to step off, and worry more about how they are raising their children, instead of how we are doing it. Hell, most of the autism pages I follow are much like mine. They share the good, the bad, sensory fun, inspirational posts, jokes, and more. They are real. Isn't that what we want? Why would we want to read fake crap? Not one of us is a "perfect" parent! I could keep going on about how they're judging us, but I have a life, and so I will stop here.

    One last thought.... We're all muddling through this gig together. Instead of belittling one another, let's raise each other up! Besides, falling off a high horse would be pretty painful, and I for one, wouldn't want to be the wanker that falls off!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Don't Stress the Mess - A Confession from a Not So Special, Special Needs Mom

    Here goes, a confession from a not so special, special needs mom.

    My house is quite often a horrific wreck! Not only is it a wreck, it's most likely dusty, and in desperate need of an over haul.

    You know what? It's okay. That quote, "Pardon the mess, but the children are busy making memories," well, we're doing that, but the real truth is, we're busy LIVING!

    All parents know (special needs or otherwise,) that keeping a house clean when you have kids is like eating Oreos and trying to brush your teeth. It doesn't happen. If it does happen, our children wreck it before we're even finished.

    Laundry? Don't get me started there. You're NEVER caught up on laundry. EVER. Why? Because for every person in your house, you have to count what they're wearing. Your hampers may be empty, but in a family of three (like mine,) that's three dirty outfits. Bath time, that's 3 dirty towels. Bedding? That's three beds worth of bedding. You get the idea.

    How about your floors? I only have carpet in three rooms, but in the summer time, my living room generally has more grass on it than the yard. Why? Because my son and the neighbor kids are in and out like our front door revolves. Summer is mowing season, and therefore all the grass is being tracked into my house.

    Chachkies, or as my hubby calls them, dust collectors. I used to LOVE chachkies! Any more, I loathe them. All they do is remind me that I'm too busy or too damn tired to dust them. They really don't look good any more because I can't see them through all the dust. And ceilings! Who the hell knew that you have to dust your ceilings all the time? Seriously? Who has time for that? Not me, which is why you'll see dust bunnies up there. (Please don't look up if you come to visit us.)

    We recently got a puppy. She's being trained to be a support dog for my son. There are dog toys from one end of my living room to the other. I don't dare pick them up, because she's so easily side tracked that she'll chew the carpet if a toy isn't in front of her face. If you come to my house any time soon, keep your shoes on too. You won't want to step in a wet spot from sopped up pee and carpet cleaner.

    The toilet. As a boy mom, I loathe cleaning the damn toilets. I seriously think he makes it his mission to pee everywhere but IN the toilet. Just my house? I don't think so.

    Back to laundry. My boy is autistic and has sensory issues. He changes his clothes many times a day. There could be a hamper right next to him, but the dirty clothes are either in a pile next to it, or trailing the room where he took them off. (We're working on this.)



    You get the idea, my house is a mess. It used to REALLY bother me. Especially when we had support staff for my son, in and out of here every day. Now? Well now I've learned that it only causes me undue stress to worry about it. Now I ask people to call before they come over. That way I can get that quick 20 minute straighten up in. If you just show up at my door, I can promise you, my house will be a wreck. There may not even be a place for you to sit, because my son's toy obsessions are usually all over the furniture.

    I "DEEP" clean once a week. That's Sunday. If you want to see my house looking great, I suggest you come before I finish on Sunday. Otherwise, I can't promise you'll see it clean. I really don't care. 30 years from now I'm not going to remember how messy my house was. I'm going to remember raising my son. That's what really matters any way.

 

 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

We Use CBD Oil to Help Our Autistic Bipolar Son

    Medical Marijuana is widely talked about now a days. There seems to be a wide divide of people whom accept the idea, and those who think it's just a gateway to legalizing all drugs.

    While I don't necessarily have an issue with the latter group of people, I want to reach out to them, and I hope this clears some things up for them. I also want to reach out to families like ours. Families that struggle with pediatric mental illness and more.

    First of all, Medical Marijuana was recently legalized in our state. However, doctors here can't yet prescribe it. Autism is on the list of conditions, but, we made our decision about a year ago not to wait.

    Now before you get your panties in a bunch thinking we let our 10 year old smoke pot, calm down, and read on.

    A year ago, we made the decision to try CBD oil with our son. For those that aren't quite familiar with what it is, or for those who are curious, CBD, or Cannabidiol oil is derived from Hemp, but does NOT include THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol is the component in Marijuana that is responsible for it's psychological effects.


    So CBD is made from Hemp. It's NON psychoactive and will NOT get the user "high." Though CBD and THC both act very differently, they treat many of the same medical issues.

    CBD has been known to help with anxiety, pain, psychosis, as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant and more.

    So how did we decide this for our CHILD?

    Well it wasn't without a LOT of thought. A lot of research, and we both tried it before we administered it to our child.

    I personally suffer from fibromyalgia, migraines, and anxiety, so I was the first to try it. (CBD can be used in a vapor pen/box for adults, and it can also be taken orally, for kids/adults. As a matter of fact, they now have it in many flavors.) I waited until I had a nasty headache and tried it. Sure enough within 15 minutes, my headache was easing up. I then tried it before a particularly busy day of "peopling." Again, my anxiety stayed in check a lot better than normal. (I take Zoloft for my anxiety, but some days, as many of you know, are worse than others.)

    Of course, through this process, I was relaying how well it helped me to my hubby. It was his turn next. He suffers from many fractures, and has a ton of metal in his body from repair surgeries. So my husband gave it go for his pain. For him, while it took the edge off, it of course didn't take it a way. BUT, it DID help. So, should we give it to our child?

    Our child struggles deeply with Bipolar Disorder. He is autistic as well, and sometimes the two make the other worse. Some days are a constant battle for our son. Especially in the Spring. What finally helped us make the decision to try CBD with him, was after we had to take him to ER for a reaction to a PRESCRIBED medication.

    Last year during his deep depression, my son's Doctor told us he thought Liam needed Risperdal. About a week later, on his birthday non the less, we headed to the ER because our son had a reaction to this prescribed, and widely used drug.

    There is nothing scarier than your child having suicidal thoughts at such a young age. Now add to that a child who has his head turned to one side. He is now speaking from the side of his mouth, as the other side is paralyzed. He related that his "throat was fat, and wouldn't work," and he was twitching. Oh God, the twitching. We were terrified. We thought our nine year old was having a stroke. Turns out it was Tardive Dyskinesia. (Risperidone may rarely cause a condition known as tardive dyskinesia. In some cases, this condition may be permanent.)

    Mind you, a LEGAL DRUG caused this reaction in our child. Not only do hospitals in our area have a hard time dealing with pediatric mental illness, but they are also clueless about the reactions that can come from such drugs used treat these illnesses. He was given antihistamines, watched for an hour and sent home.

    That evening my husband and I decided that something natural would be much safer than heavy psychotics. We gave our son a few days to recover, and gave him his first dose of CBD oil.

    We never looked back. Now, our son is still on a low dose of Zoloft for his depression and anxiety, and for the day to day, it helps him tons. When he cycles deeply or is unusually anxious, out comes the CBD oil.

    It helps him. It REALLY helps him. As with me, within 15 minutes of taking this perfectly LEGAL and NATURAL oil, he starts to feel better. He tells us, his "mind is less busy, and not mean to me."

    Until now, NO ONE but a few family members, and very close friends whose children have the same struggles, know we use CBD for our son. Even though it's perfectly legal, there are still some people who are uneducated about what it really is and how it helps. These same people tend to be very judgmental about it as well.

    So why I am I telling all of you this? Well, because I have always been up front and honest with my followers about our journey. I feel that if it helped our son so much, then maybe it can help yours too.

    I personally would love to see Risperdal pulled from all pharmacies, but it actually does help some people. I would just hate to see parents have to witness what we did. And I would hate to see a child struggle with those severe effects, like our son did.

    So here I am. I'm coming out. We Use CBD Oil to Help Our Autistic Bipolar Son. It works. It has been a God send. We are not ashamed, and we will not hide it any longer.