Saturday Morning Thoughts.

Good morning,

I’m sitting here munching stale gluten free chex oatmeal for breakfast because my doctor says my cholesterol is high and so…oatmeal.

Because… FIBER

I decided today is the day i get back to my blog and why not while I choke this stuff down?



It would be better if it weren’t over a year old.

Homeschool year 2015-2016 is DONE.

Paperwork is signed, sealed, and delivered.


I have a month to our summer school session to rest on my laurels.  (love that saying, but i imagine my niece with that name being sat on and thats no good)

Except actually I don’t because I have more school planning, our wedding to put together, kids to manage and that green stuff to try to earn.

Weddings are much more complicated than they should be.  So far we have clothing,  flowers, wedding party people, musicians, photographer, cake and catering sorted.


This leaves us with figuring out the ceremony, vows, what the musicians will actually play,  getting rings, printing programs, determining schedule day of, finishing booking hair and makeup, settling on what shots the photog (friend of the groom) will take, and countless endless other considerations most of which have fallen to me.  Mostly, to just me. It all involves talking to people, many of them strangers.


If I had a time machine I would travel back in time to 8 months ago and whisper to my sleeping self “justice of the peaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace. thats what you waaaaant”

(no I would not warn a conscious me, because I know me,  I would have stolen the time machine from me and would still be sorting out the headache of endless paradox)

I’m happy and grateful that both Kevin (fiance guy i keep mentioning) and I will have family and friends to share the day with. It’s just…


Anyway, my poor blog has just sat.


I’ve been thinking about the blog, and what direction I should take it.

I question what the point of this blog actually is,

To reach people? – only a handful of people read it. I just don’t have the traffic save for some extremely popular autism posts.

To develop my writing skills?  eerrr well, thats been sucking lately huh?

and what it is actually about

autism? homeschooling? nature? randomness?

People come here for my autism tagged posts but my subscribers are mostly home-schoolers.  I’m preaching to the choir concerning home learning and I don’t think any of my ideas concerning autism acceptance are new or all that groundbreaking.

Is it an autism parenting blog?

I hesitate to describe our lives in too much detail because bloggers (no matter how positively) who focus on their children or loved ones autism or other various struggles, leave me with a bad taste. There are some well known bloggers out there that are all about neurodiversity, acceptance, positivity, etc, who I feel put WAY to much information on the web that is a disservice to their child. Often the children do have a say concerning it, but I question if they fully realize what they are consenting to. It is a difficult line.

This is why it is rare for me to relate a personal anecdote and why I will never blog about a tantrum or private conversation, or even specific incident concerning them.


so yeah, I dunno.








Robert De Niro, Wakefield, and the autism conversation


I hope that all of my Christian readers are enjoying their Easter holiday.

De Niro and the facts behind the Wakefield Drama

By now most if not all in the autism community have heard about Robert De Niro’s thwarted plan to screen and therefore give some credibility to Andrew Wakefield’s “documentary” VAXXED. He defended his initial decision saying:

“Grace and I have a child with autism,” he wrote, referring to his wife, Grace Hightower De Niro, “and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED.”

Not long after this statement he screened the film with festival organizers and “scientists”and then pulled the film stating:

“We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”

I’m glad he took a second look and had a second thought.

A Matter of Opinion

What irks me most about De Niro’s statement is that he thought having an autistic kid factored into the rightness or his decision. I’m quite certain the matter is a personal one to him,


Robert De Niro could have fifteen autistic kids and the diagnoses himself and it doesn’t make the previous decision any less irresponsible.

I think that giving validity to a disproved theory and the conspiracy theories it generates is dangerous and does not contribute to any discussion that benefits persons on the spectrum nor the public as a whole.

Yet I don’t want people  take my opinion as gospel because we happen to have diagnoses and so our own experiences with the condition.

The facts speak to the reality of and fallout from Wakefield’s “work.”

The facts of the circumstances, the scientifically proven (or disproved as the case may be) information is always  better than the anecdote, opinion, or other individual experience regardless of who is sharing it.

At time perspectives can help us understand ourselves, other parents, and our children better but they don’t beat facts.

Should we still be having This conversation?

As for the  “conversation” De Niro wants to have,  it’s been sidetracked by Wakefield’s nonsense and endless cause/cure theories far too long.

Let’s look at some more facts:

Can we have a conversation about any of that?

Better yet


How about shifting from focusing on cause and cure to SUPPORT of  the 68 million (CDC) people on this planet diagnosed with autism?

April is autism charity “awareness” money beg month.

Money that is spent primarily in research with little going to actual support.

Can we try for something better?

















Michael Savage, Autism, Donald Trump and the truth

Like a cockroach that just won’t die, this “news” though it started circulating months ago,  has crept out from the crevices behind the toilet to horrify people anew:

“Donald Trump plans to appoint a radio host who has spoken poorly of autistic children as NIH director.”

Seriously? When I heard it I was horrified.

So I researched it.

It’s problematic if not outright false.

Let’s look at the facts of the matter.

Fact one:

Michael Savage is a conservative right wing radio show host.

Michael Savage it also an asshat.

He has in fact said that autism
“is an over diagnosed medical condition. In my readings, there is no definitive medical diagnosis for autism.” As well as that  “99 percent of the cases” of autism were a result of lax parenting. He told his audience: “They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life.'” Among the other admonitions he felt children with autism should be hearing, he said, were: “‘Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.'”

Fact two:

Donald Trump is an asshat.

We could get into why but ya know, the evidence as to why is overwhelming, and those who can’t see it, wont be swayed by me.

In regards to autism he has implied a link between vaccination and autism though those theories have been disproved.

Fact three:

Michael Savage when interviewing Trump expressed interest in becoming head of the NIH. (National Institute of Health)

Fact four:

There is no evidence that either one was being in the least bit serious and NO official statement to that effect has been made.


Want to know more?

Here is the Snopes page concerning it.



To Be “Normal”

To be or not to be, Normal?

As a writer for Quora I answered questions primarily for autism and mental health topics.
One question, I don’t remember it exactly but, it went something like:
“Should people with mental disorders wait until they are normal again to have relationships?”
I wasn’t in the mood for a nuanced argument that day, and began my answer with:
“I’m not “normal” and I never will be.”
He didn’t like my answer, to put it mildly.  He was simply astounded I wouldn’t  want to be normal nor have any shame that I wasn’t.

“Normal” is a 19th century idea brought to you by this dude:


  An out of work astronomer by the name of Quetelet
He decided to take data collected in censuses and surveys (also 19th century inventions) and apply the mathematics of astronomy to the data in order to determine averages.
Astronomers believed that every individual measurement of a celestial object (such as one scientist’s measurement of the speed of Saturn) always contained some amount of error, yet the amount of aggregate error across a group of individual measurements (such as many different scientists’ measurements of the speed of Saturn, or many different measurements by a single scientist) could be minimized by using the average measurement. In fact, a celebrated proof by the mathematician Carl Gauss appeared to demonstrate that an average measurement was as close to a measurement’s true value (such as the true speed of Saturn) as one could ever hope to get. Quetelet applied the same thinking to his interpretation of human averages: He declared that the individual person was synonymous with error, while the average person represented the true human being.
Before that, people were not compared to each other but to the ideal (perfection of god, those we felt represented god) where all but a few were found lacking. They lived their lives pursuing a goal of heaven or enlightenment.
History shows this is not necessarily a better attitude, yet the shift made way for rather darker ideas of the worth of those who for whatever reason were deemed  abnormal or less.

Genetic Fitness

In the same century as this development Francis Galton,  Darwin’s cousin, whom Darwin disagreed with I might add, decided to apply Darwin’s studies of plants and animals to people.   His work was the root of the modern Eugencis movement and is still alive and well today.  At its core Eugenics puts forward the philosophy that certain traits are more ideal and make a person more genetically “fit.” Some have gone as far as trying to engineer the perfect society by encouraging child bearing among the “fit” and discouraging it through various means from propaganda to sterilization and murder.


from wikipedia: The Black Stork is a 1917 motion picture written by and starring Harry J. Haiselden, the chief surgeon at the German-American Hospital in Chicago. The Black Stork is Haiselden’s fictionalized account of his eugenic infanticide of the child John Bollinger. The film was re-released in 1927 under the title Are You Fit to Marry?


The ideas of both Quetelet and Galton influence cultural thinking today

Even if we don’t necessarily agree with Galton, or know or believe that there really is a “norm” of humankind, we let these idea influence our thinking.

We compare ourselves and others against the perceived new view of perfection, the ideal traits, the cultural expectations we deem “normal.”

It still influences how we view people with disabilities and mental disorders and any others perceived to be “abnormal.”

You might be thinking at this point,

“but Amanda, Surely, there are typical people?”

Oh yes sure, but even “typical” people are nuanced individuals who don’t fit the mold of “normal” with perfection.

Also,  I don’t believe you can rate people’s worth as better or less based on measurement of any kind,

not in accomplishments or lack,

not in test scores,

not in contribution to economy

and certainly,

NOT in culturally preferred traits.

People are people.

No better or less than others.

The pursuit of happiness however one defines it shouldn’t be put on hold because we don’t meet an imaginary ideal.



Routine changes (Autism, flexibility and routines)

Morning dear readers,

I hope you all are staying warm.

New routines and changes have been an obstacle to writing of late, but I am hoping to work it back in.

Change and stress, but no meltdowns

I like routine to our day for its predictability. It leaves me without the stress of the unknown, my greatest anxiety producing obstacle. 

The National Autism Society (UK) states that:

“Many people with autism have a strong preference for routines and sameness. Routines often serve an important function – they introduce order, structure and predictability and help to manage anxiety. Because of this, it can be very distressing if a person’s routine is disrupted.”

I find myself best capable of dealing with changes if I have time to react and adapt. I think through possible ways plans can go awry.

Unexpected variables can throw my entire day.

value of xJenni-in-a-Calmer-Moment

My children each deal with changes in routine differently. My child most upset by routine changes doesn’t have a diagnosis. She can feel distressed when she isn’t on schedule.

My child deemed most impaired  is generally not upset about changes. He has for example, a routine of getting a bath after lunch. He will remind and then insist on one, all the way to stripping to make a point. However, when we have something else to do I tell him and he copes.

Though there is stress, meltdowns  rarely occur I think mostly because:

  • our routine is set naturally to patterns that emerge rather than to trying to fit life into something preset
  • known changes are discussed ahead of time
  • unexpected things are explained
  • contingency plans are made and discussed
  • beyond a basic framework, our schedule is not rigid

What is our Daily Routine now?

Monday through Thursday we’ve settled into  a fairly predictable pattern.

I usually wake up without an alarm between 5 and 6am.

Then I spend time sitting and reading online articles.

I also drink vast quantities of tea in the morning.

While it seems wasteful, if it were raining this woman could open her mouth and let the tea run in.










Between 7 and 8:

  • shower
  • dress
  • walk the doggie
  • make sure the kids have breakfast

Between 8 and 9

  • make the littles dress/brush teeth
  • help Pete
  • make breakfast for Kevin and I
  • read more internet

Between 9 and 12

Aidan and Little Bee are for the most part independent, working from their own work schedules. For them I:

  • facilitate via discussion/questions/assisting with problems
  • provide resources, activities, labs
  • assign and check  reading/work

Chess is an approved school time activity. The stuffed doggie won btw.








For the littles and Pete I shift back and forth between

  • lessons with the littles
  • one on one with Pete
  • lessons with all three at once

Patrick works on math








We are generally done by noon.

Noon to about 1:30 – 2

  • make lunch
  • eat lunch
  • walk the doggie
  • help with afternoon baths

From then on to about 6

If there isn’t some place to be I then work on writing, paid work, paperwork, etc.

From 6 – 9

  • make dinner
  • walk the doggie
  • clean something
  • chill with Kevin and kids

Lately Kevin and I have been watching an hour of Classic Doctor Who with Aidan and Bee.


Instead of turned off, they’ve been rather fascinated by how low tech it is.

I get the littles to bed by nine, Pete and the rest by ten and I am not far behind.

Is routine helpful or harmful?

In the end I believe routine is a good stress reducing tool, but that it is necessary to learn other coping techniques for inevitable change and unexpected events.

Feel free to comment below about your need (or lack) of routine.  Do you find it helps or hinders?


Wonderfully informative video from Autism Ontario with Michael McCreary

from the video description:

This video, which features the incredible Michael McCreary, is a wonderful introduction to autism spectrum disorder. The video was created to support customer service professionals when they provide services or support to people with ASD; however the positive response from the general public has been overwhelming. This video is so accessible and entertaining, it offers something for everyone.

So please watch and share. We want everyone to understand autism and to see the potential!

Moon Unit (No relation to Ms. Zappa)


In the winter time I cover topics that do not need a warm/dry day such as space, the forces of nature, Newton’s laws…etc.

This week the littles (6-9 classroom kids) and Pete (autistic teen with expressive language impairment) learned about the moon. The other older kids did not pass up the cookies and joined us for videos as well.


Making the moon cycle with GF  off brand “Oreo” Cookies




Books Read:


The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons


and “Papa Please Get the Moon for Me”

Visuals/Activity Added to Work Area:

DSCN9987  DSCN9990

Phases of the Moon Chart (purchased from Amazon) used as control chart for three part “Moon Phase Cards” arranged in the lunar cycle (downloaded, you can find versions of these both as free downloads and for purchase)

Videos Streamed:


Apollo 11: First Steps on the Moon (“free” on Amazon Prime)

the moon

Bill Nye the Science Guy : The Moon (available to stream free or purchase online)

Pete’s Spelling/Vocabulary Words:

rotate, orbit, gibbous, crescent, full, new, moon, satellite, astronomer, telescope, luna


Pete practices spelling words using “I speak Word Wizard” on the Ipad.

Concept’s covered:

  • Why the view of the moon changes
  • Moon’s gravity causing tides
  • Eclipses
  • Lunar month
  • Moonlight is from the sun
  • Moon myths
  • Theory of the moon creation via asteroid impact

History discussed:

Apollo 11 Moon landing, briefly touching on other Apollo Missions

A “Table ready” Tale of Two Autistics (How Montessori kicks ass)

Morning people.

As I was sitting last night researching what kind of hands on activities I could use while we learn about the moon next week, I thought about how the boys learn best, and the concept of being “table ready.”

I thought about ten years ago…

When my son with a classic autism diagnosis was in early intervention,  his therapists (skills, speech, and OT) worked with him on the floor. Or well, they tried to. Most of the sessions consisted of chasing him around the room trying to get him to attend. I suggested that if he were sitting they might have an easier time, but they insisted it wasn’t conducive to natural learning.

Pete would sit, rather happily, at meals strapped in to his booster seat. It looked like this:

Keekaroo Cafe Booster Seat_Chocolate_4322818_01

He insisted. If he wasn’t buckled, he stressed about it. One day after breakfast while he was still at the table I pulled out a puzzle and worked on it with him. I mimicked the language his therapists used. He not only did the puzzle, but he was engaged. I then added another two activities (like song games, shape sorter, story books) and then more. We got up to a half hour, then 45 minutes.  He loved it.

I learned about structured work tasks and how to use visual cues and schedules to show when work began and ended. We went from a “work” and “finished” basket to visual work schedule with velcro  numbers and a “finished” pocket for the numbers.  We covered fine motor, academics like counting and colors, sorting, stacking, matching and joint attention tasks.  He learned to point, but I never bothered with eye contact, its not really necessary for joint attention.  I bought some tasks, but usually made my own. As he aged and rapidly learned I had trouble finding /making materials with visual /hands on components and clear beginning and end of task that met his more complex learning needs.

Then he went to a small Montessori class run by our old church.  He was engaged, and fairly independent, though still in need of help staying on task and choosing work. The materials engaged him.  I began buying Montessori materials, teaching myself  and then him to use them, and then using them during his structured work time. They are wonderful.


Peter works on long division with “the stamp game”


I still fashion Peter’s learning activities into structured tasks, with written checklists to show completion. He doesnt mind working on the floor anymore. Here he is using a snap circuit to test conductivity.

He eventually started kindergarten in public school and my activities and materials ended up in storage.

My youngest son on the spectrum has a pdd-nos diagnosis and is much Pete’s opposite in some ways. His teachers would complain he wasn’t “table ready.”  They insisted in order to learn he had to be sitting straight in a chair at a desk or table.  This rarely happened. I refused to allow him to be restrained against his will, and refused when they mentioned trying to puppy train him into a chair using m&m rewards.  He also was best engaged when working with manipulatives, and balked at the pencil and paper activities that replaced the hands on work of his preschool years.

When the boys came home to learn, we went back to Montessori.  It still offers the structured tasks Peter needs, as well as hands on tactile activities for older students that keep Patrick engaged sans chocolate treats.

montessori grammar symbols, nouns, verbs, and articles

montessori grammar symbols, nouns, verbs, and articles

PLUS  Montessorians have nothing whatever against working on the floor.  Learning can happen anywhere, and the need to spread out, to move, to wiggle, doesn’t impede it.  Patrick still does school work mostly on the floor, but as he ages he also is ok with sitting at a little table from time to time as well.

Patrick using grammar symbols, on the floor of all places

Patrick using grammar symbols to identify parts of speech, on the floor of all places.

Christmas with autistic children, EXPOSED (plus “survival’ tips)

“Life is lived moment-to-moment. In anticipation of the child’s next move. In despair. In fear of the future. This is autism,” These words were written by the founder of Autism speaks a couple of Decembers ago.  We are not supposed to be living, merely existing in an autistic void of despair and suffering.

She’s so right.

My heavens you would not believe what my autistic sons have been up to. It’s been truly harrowing.

One kid often doesn’t want to eat lunch, another takes forever to complete his school work, and yet another spends too much time on his I-pad.  One time he left waffles ON his I-pad.

Truly, this is darkness.

The worse of the worst, I stepped on a lego left out by one the other day.

(if you haven’t ever stepped on a lego barefoot, you do not know pain)

The most heinous behavior occurs during the Holidays.

I thought I’d share some surveillance photos of their nefarious activities of late.

They’ve been watching Christmas tv shows and reading Christmas books.


They thought they could cover it up but no, they never put anything away.

Parents of typical children will just need to imagine what THATS like, I know, its hard.

They’ve also helped…





and managed to have a hand in our annual tradition of MAKING HOMEMADE ORNAMENTS.  (cue jump scare sound effects)

The nerve.

This time we made non-edible cinnamon ornaments to give as gifts to the grandparents.



This autistic child just recently had to have more eye surgery and yet even he participated.


I anticipate that their “next move” holiday wise, will be in the opening of presents.

Maybe we’ll see some lights displays first.

I suppose it isn’t suffering.

(hey, i still have cinnamon up my nose!)

My outlook on my children is not defined by the maybe or could haves or might have beens and certainly not by some standard of non-existent “normalcy” or narrow view of family life.

In all seriousness, I KNOW it can be hard


Celebrating the holidays with a child on the spectrum and everything going right is very possible, nay probable, with these tips in mind:

  1. Make sure your preparation activities include the child BUT Do not force involvement in activities like those mentioned above but keep them open for participation at the child’s level/desire to do so. One son used to only want to put two or three ornaments on the tree, now he stays till its finished. Example of doing it wrong: A parent inclined to force a child to sit on a strangers lap in a mall for a picture all in the name of tradition needs to re-evaluate their priorities.
  2. Have plenty of shows and books about the holiday on hand, include them in story time (an excellent small tradition to start if you haven’t already) and put them on the television. Maybe they’ll want them, maybe they won’t, but they’ll be there when and if they do. Doing it wrong: Forcing a child to sit through “Twas the night before Christmas” when they don’t want to. We’ve been having a “Christmas Carol” marathon. Kid participation has been spotty. I’m  not insulted.
  3. When going places keep hunger, tiredness, sensory issues and your child’s time limits in mind.  Doing it wrong: A child dragged to a crowded noisy mall for “fun” shopping for hours on end is set up for a meltdown. Another problem is in trying to visit everyone or visiting at homes where there is nothing to do. If you plan to stay long, bring distractions for the child. Some may say this is letting the child run the show, or spoiling. Forget that. This is respect and accommodation for your child’s differences, doing so will make it easier for both them and YOU.  I have to keep on eye on this for myself as well.
  4. Make family traditions for your holiday. It could be something religious like lighting the yule log, menora or advent wreath, a special meal,  or a tradition like ours, making homemade ornaments. Traditions tend to define us, and are remembered for lifetimes.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a happy holiday.

Note: If you really truly are just “existing” or waiting for your child’s “next move” know that it doesn’t need to be that way. Life can be better.





Sorry to disappoint, but life has been typical. (it isn’t always autism)

It’s hard to believe fall is finishing up, the “holiday” season is here.  Most of the summer was weird, and the fall surreal.

Blogging and social media time were taken over with “being with boyfriend Kevin” time.

“Boyfriend” seems such a strange word for one, since he’s in his late 40’s and two because I had previously vowed I was never attempting another relationship.


This past August Kevin asked me to marry him.  The date is set for a weekend in June 2016.

I feel so very happy.

How are the kids?


We’ve had a fairly productive time with schooling, went on a few field trips  and generally started looking for a new “normal” that includes a new family member.

Well, two family members, because we have a doggy now too.


Pete walking Cinder

I’ve also had three speaking opportunities at different Sherlock Holmes related happenings (symposium, conference, and scion society). In those talks I’ve disclosed my diagnosis, and while keeping personal info at a minimum, the boys’ as well.

The other day at another Sherlockian function I sat near a woman whose scion society I have attended in the past, but had missed the most recent meeting.

She had been worried about me, to the point of contacting me to see if I was alright.

I didn’t mind this, at first.

Through conversation I found that she had automatically assumed my absence was because of autism (mine or my children’s I couldn’t quite gather), and so thought some major catastrophe had occurred.

She didn’t even consider that like all people, sometimes life is just stressful, and often time is an issue. Automatically her mind went to autism.  I forget what she said exactly but it was along the lines of “with everything going on with you, I was really worried.”


I started to wonder if I was making a major mistake in terms of disclosure because of how autism and family life is portrayed in the media leaves us at a risk of being seen in this light.

It is a risk even with all the evidence to the contrary in my life, on this blog, and in other writings.

I decided not to bother telling her much about the reasons I hadn’t been around.  I felt like an object of pity and could see she formed so many assumptions on so little.

To be honest, I don’t feel like going back to that particular group now.

Nothing horrible nor harrowing has occurred.

Just life.

For the kids I’m thinking about:

How to engage and interest my six year old daughter,

keep my nine year old son out of trouble and interacting,

the almost twelve year old intellectually and socially  stimulated,

the almost fourteen year old son learning skills for independence,

plus helping the fifteen year old boy through high school and planning a future.

Every descent parent regardless of whether or not their child has a label should be doing that.

One kid has had health issues.

Typical kids have those too.

For me,

its a matter of continuing to try to build a career on the skills I have, paying bills, and working on a relationship.

I know its going  out on a limb, but I’m fairly certain most people think about and work on that too.

I’m having more issues with the city.

Living in Baltimore is a significant source of stress for anyone here.

My time is taken up with my fiancee, which should be no surprise to anyone  whose had a  romantic relationship or been around a love-struck couple.