My Daughter’s Voice

Jan 27, 2015 by

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It’s opposite day in our home. If I say “up”, my daughter says, “down”. If I say “left”, she says “right”. A never ending game where she challenges everything. Or simply offers a “no…no no no!” I am grateful for her attention and her frequent response to a question. I have a daughter and she has a voice. Autism will not take away her ability to speak up and out. No matter what her first evaluations concluded, she will ultimately not be silenced by this diagnosis.

As a woman committed to the rights of all women, I have been silent about my fears that my daughter would not have a voice. The first time I heard a recognizable word spoken by our three and a half year old, I tempered my excitement. Two years later, our little girl was just starting to request juice by pointing and using one word. More often than not though, I was convinced she was attentive to our conversations.

“First…then:” Parenting in Binary Code

Jan 19, 2015 by

We learned the “first…then” behavior strategy from our daughter’s birth-to-3 team.  At the time, the goal was simply trying to help our daughter get a sense of time and order.  “First you go to sleep for a nap.  Then, you can play more.”  We used social stories, which are essentially a tool to convey any routine, such a potty steps, the line-up of her preschool day, or what a Saturday, which is different every week, might look like.

social stories

Over time, “first…then” also became a way to get both our children to take part in some of the less desirable parts of a household.  “FIRST, we clean up from the puzzles, THEN we can bring out the books.”

First… then can also be a pretty subtle bribery tactic.  “First, we have our protein.  Then we can have dessert.”

When Should You Medicate Your Child?

Jan 13, 2015 by

sage reading

As if I knew the answer to that question, right?  I have Googled this very question, paraphrased in various ways, more than once.  Heck, perhaps that’s how you landed here now.   If so, like you I have wondered and struggled and suffered through deciding.  I have sat across from my wife, daughter, her pediatrician, teachers, and mentors in tears, wondering how to best help our little girl.  As a social worker who started her career working with kids, and often with kids on medication, I was not the biggest fan.  I saw kids over-medicated, diagnosed too soon or misdiagnosed.  I watched parents pressured into putting their kids on medication to stay in school.  I saw the helplessness and pain in parents’ eyes as they struggled with the very same decisions.

Responding to Autism’s Surprises

Dec 16, 2014 by

We are forever learning to be better parents to our children, and that is not different when parenting a child with special needs.  Occasionally, someone from Sage’s school will ask if we have any tips to respond to a certain trigger or behavior, and outside of bonding over our shared helplessness, at times we’ve got nothing.  Sometimes we wing it, probably more often than we would like.  While there are certain things we can prepare for, there are always surprises.

half donna and kids

1. The unexpected loud space:  If we know we’re headed somewhere over-stimulating, we’ll throw a pair of earmuffs or headphones in a purse “just in case.”  Yet, there are places we know we don’t need them.  Enter mistake number one.  Church is a place that isn’t “too loud.”  Well, until last weekend.  No ear muffs.

Growing Pains: Our Very Own Sitcom

Dec 2, 2014 by

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My obsession with 80’s comedies lives on. I admit to watching a lot of television growing up and as an adult I appreciate the value of ‘wrapping up’ life’s problems in thirty minutes with commercials. Growing Pains was a fan favorite and I freely admit to wishing our parenting problems could be so easily resolved with canned laughter.

As our daughter grows up and reaches new developmental milestones, we often take a step or two back. In the past month, we have made some major decisions about her behavioral health and there are noticeable changes in how she relates to the world. She has been able to have whole conversations with back and forth exchanges of information, opinion, and humor. Our longest conversation lasted over a half an hour, long enough to forget the novelty of communicating with our youngest child.

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