The “R” Word


In recent years, the "R-Word" has been replaced with the world "Intellectual Disability", and a campaign to raise awareness followed. Read more here. "Oh, for goodness sakes," I've heard people say, "isn't it all just a matter of semantics? Don't be so sensitive." This story, from the archives, tells one reason to be *more* sensitive: *** Matthew is a huge Beatles fan and asked me if we could go to the music store to buy a Revolver CD. He was wearing plaid shorts, a different … [Read more...]

This is what progress, with autism, looks like

Photo by Photo by Tiraporn Olsen,

My husband and I raised our family in Lafayette, California, about 30 miles east of San Francisco, where a popular Art and Wine Festival is held each Fall. For people who don't mind crowds, chaos, loud (but great) music and hot weather, the Art and Wine Festival is a lot of fun--great food, wine, beer and hundreds of booths spilling with art and hand-made crafts. Photo by Tiraporn Olsen, I don't think I need to explain to you that this well loved two-day event has … [Read more...]

Autism, disabilities, and talking about sex and sexuality


Did I get your attention? If you are the parent of a child/teen/adult with a developmental disability, you probably: a)  Cringe at the thought of trying to explain things in a comprehensible way b) Wonder if sex will ever be an issue (Spoiler alert. It will.) c)  Worry about your child’s safety d) Wish there was more information and research on all of the above. I interviewed Leonard Magnani, MD, PhD, an expert in the field of educating individuals with disabilities about … [Read more...]

How to Succeed at Inclusion


Special Education FAQ:  "My son, who has autism, just started school. He was supposed to be in an inclusion class, but they moved him after 3 days because he kept trying to leave. I guess he's happy in his small special-day class, but I don't want to give up on inclusion. Any suggestions?" Answer: I'm turning this one over to my friend Russ Ewell,   the CEO of Digital Scribbler, and Founder of E-Soccer. Russ is also Founder of Hope Technology Group.    “Progress is a nice word. … [Read more...]

You know it’s really love when…


I tiptoed into the kitchen a little after 6am to grab a quick breakfast before waking Matthew.  He'd been home for a week long summer break, and would be heading back to Camphill California near Santa Cruz, where he lives and works. "I'm ready," Matthew said, and I jumped. He was fully dressed and shaved, a small drop off blood dripping down his chin. He had already packed and loaded the car. We could have breakfast at Peet's Coffee, he told me, and we could beat the traffic. It had … [Read more...]

Autism FAQ: Which battles are not worth fighting?

Plaid on plaid on plaid

"I'm ready," called Matthew from his room, just as our family was getting ready to leave for a "fancy" family celebration. He emerged proudly, wearing garden boots, a nice pair of pants, it's top button strained by three plaid shirts (one thick flannel) layered and tucked in. This look was not going to work, but Matthew didn't back down without a fight. "I like plaid, and I shined my garden boots." When you’re a parent, you become programmed to make the most of teachable moments from … [Read more...]

Lightening Up

Lightening Up

News Flash! Being the parent of a child with autism can be stressful! You know what I'm talking about. Sometimes you just need to lighten up. My story... Matthew started making signs when he was 13. When it was my turn to host the Book Club meeting, he would tape a “welcome book club” sign to the mantle of the fireplace, and my friends smiled politely. When we ordered pizza, the delivery boy would find a sign on the door that read “large cheese pizza welcome.” During this same period, I … [Read more...]

I’m happy for you, be happy for me.


I ran into Sam (not his real name) the newlywed son of an old friend of mine, at CVS. He is Matthew's age (28) and I had not seen him for a while. Sam was always a cute kid, but man oh man, he is now a magnificent adult--tall, handsome, confident. He was dressed in his investment advisor clothes, which made him look all the more impressive. How is married life, I asked him and he told me it was great and that... he and his wife were expecting! Oh my gosh! Congratulations! Your mom must be so … [Read more...]

Autism, parenting, and learning from my mistakes


My son Matthew is approaching his 28th birthday. That would make me a well seasoned autism mom who has learned from doing and  making a zillion mistakes along the way. Here is a partial list of key mistakes that I have learned from: Stressing math and reading at every IEP meeting. What good was math and reading if  Matthew couldn't connect with his teacher and his classmates? If I could do it over again, I'd encourage his teacher, his aide, and everyone in his therapeutic circle to engage … [Read more...]

Wanted: Special Needs Parent Role Models


One thing they don't tell you when you become the parent of a child with special needs is that a good role model will keep you afloat.   Mine was Kathy. She  was the first parent of a child with special needs that I connected with. Her son John and my son Matthew were in the kindergarten together in a special day class. John, I learned, had cerebral palsy. Kathy had a bemused smile on her face when she told me this. I wondered what that was all about, but it made me feel … [Read more...]