Wednesday, August 9, 2017

You know you're an autism parent when...

You know you’re an autism parent when …

·         You have to give your child a head or back rub so he can sit through a meeting or church service.

·         Your child totes a stack of books and magazines every time you leave the house.

·         Words like echolalia, neurotypical and antecedent behavior roll off your tongue.

·         Initials such as IEP, ABA, ASD and ADHD are as common to you as LOL or IDK.

·         You both anticipate and dread the first day of school.

·         You mention an event and your son can tell you the date, year, day of the week and weather conditions even though it was ten years ago.

·         You hold his hand in the parking lot or when you cross the street, even though he’s taller than you.

·         His booming laughter fills the house at some silly show he’s watching on TV and it makes your day.

·         People offer you platitudes instead of offering to watch your child so you can take a break.

·         You celebrate every new achievement, no matter how small.

·         The word “change” fills you with dread.

·         You can’t even take a shower without your child talking to you through the closed door.

·         Your family room looks more like LEGOLAND than a place to relax.

·         You feel closer to your child’s therapists than your friends and family.

·         Your child’s backpack has more stress relief gadgets than school supplies.

·         Your teenager still needs naps, both at home and at school.

·         Your wardrobe is filled with T-shirts imprinted with the puzzle piece symbol for autism.

·         His wardrobe is filled with T-shirts he’s chewed holes in.

·         Your heart sinks every time the phone rings on a school day.

·         You and your spouse share a box of Kleenex whenever you hear a news story about kindness and acceptance towards an individual with special needs.

·         Your child’s music teacher has to remove the song “Oh my Darling Clementine” from her repertoire due to the fact that your son cried his heart out because Clementine is lost and gone forever.

·         Your heart breaks when your son sits in the back seat of the car after a bad day at school and sobs “I wish I didn’t have autism.”

·         You have to warn your child not to repeat what he’s heard, be it personal or political.

·         You know more about the Titanic than most documentaries on said topic.

·         Your child wakes up at six every morning, be it a school day or summer break.

·         Your son has to be given five minutes’ notice for everything, including taking out the garbage.

·         You want your child’s behavior to improve yet you love him just as he is, because he’s your treasure from heaven.

·         You love him so much, you couldn’t imagine him any other way. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Preparing your Child for Back to School - from A to Z


A is for Attitude – Some children get really excited about going back to school, others not so much. Attitude, both from the parents and the child, is essential for a good start to a new school year. Parents need to speak positively about school, friends, teachers, sports and lessons. Have fun buying school supplies, new outfits, planning schedules and everything involved in preparing for a new school year.
B is for Books – There’s nothing that will get children excited about school more than fun stories. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • ·         The Kissing Hand – Ages 3 to 8
  • ·         Little School – Ages 3 to 5
  • ·         The night before Preschool – Ages 3 to 6
  • ·         Sam and Gram and the First Day of School – Ages 4 to 7
  • ·         Froggy Goes to School – Ages 3 to 5
  • ·         First Day Jitters – Ages 4 to 8
  • ·         First Grade Jitters – Ages 6 to 8
  • ·         A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade – Ages 6 to 8
  • ·         First Grade Stinks – Ages 6 to 8
  • ·         Welcome to Second Grade by Abby Klein
  • ·       Miss Little's Gift, by Douglas Wood - 2nd Grade. A wonderful, autibiographic story about a teacher who didnt' give up on him even though he struggled with ADHD and led him to love reading.
  • ·      It's Back to School We Go! First Day Stories from Around the World, by Eleen B. Jackson. Typical first day of school from around the world - 2nd to 4th grades.
  •      Justin Case: School, Dool and Other Daily Disasters, by Rachel Vail - 3rd grade
  •      Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea. 5th grade
  •      Too Cool for This School, by Kristen Tracy - Middle School
C is for Clothes – Back to school can become very expensive for families, but having the right clothes is important for your child to feel like he/she fits in and is dressed appropriately. Check your state listing for Tax-Free days. Check thrift shops or churches in your area that might have programs to help families with tight incomes. Be sure they have good shoes to walk in, warm clothes for the winter (you do not want your child to get cold while waiting for the bus), and cooler clothes for the warm weather. If your child has special needs, such as autism, and doesn’t know how to dress for the weather, you can either lay out clothes the night before or, in my house, I’ve put a sun on the shelf with T-shirts and shorts, a cloud for longer sleeves and a snowman for winter-type clothing. We’ll discuss what the weather is likely to be the next so my son has an idea of what clothes to pick in the morning.
D is for Drink – Many schools now have water fountains with sports bottle refill stations. You might want to purchase a new sports bottle for your child or bring out the old one and get some fun stickers to ‘dress it up’ and remind them of the importance of staying hydrated at school.
E is for Entertainment – Check your local library or rent some fun movies about going back to school such as
·         The Little Princess (Rated G)
·         Akeela and the Bee (Rated PG)
·         Freaky Friday (Rated PG)

F is for Familiar – Sometimes it helps to bring something familiar to school. Check with teachers ahead of time, seeing as many do not like kids to bring toys from home. One of my sons really suffered from separation anxiety, so I made him a bracelet to wear, reminding him that I was just a few miles away and we’d see each other again at the end of the day. Or, you can make one together before school starts. For young ones, it might be a blanket for nap time, or a picture of Mom and/or Dad to keep in their backpack. For older kids who have a hard time, it can be a small reminder they can wear, keep in their pocket or in their backpack. Do not give them anything dangerous or valuable and let teachers know that your child has that memento to help them overcome separation anxiety. Teachers are usually quite understanding and can also help your child cope with their angst.
G is for Games – Games are a great way to get your child excited about school. You can create your own (I like to play the repetition game: the first person says “When I go to school I take my backpack,” the next person says “When I go to school I take… then repeats my backpack and comes up with another object such as and pencils.” Continue in a circle, adding to the list until individuals start forgetting the order of objects. Other home-made games are Memory (print out cards of school objects in duplicate, lay them down on the table face down and try to find a match). Or create crosswords or word finds with school-related words. There are many other games you can find on-line. offers quite a few fun ones for younger kids.
H is for Homework – Create a homework station for your child so he/she doesn’t have to search the house for a pencil or an eraser. In our home, we all do homework at the dining-room table. Next to it, I have plastic bins which I’ve labeled with the contents of each bin. The last three bins are labeled with each of my three sons’ names and they know to put all of their papers (except those that have to go back the next day) into their own bin. This avoids lost or mixed up papers.
I is for Identification- Identify your child’s school supplies. Mark his/her name on all items. Permanent marker works best as it doesn’t come unglued or rub off. Sew tags on clothes your child might remove, such as coats, jackets, sweatshirts, scarves, hats, gloves and sports gear. DO NOT HAVE YOUR CHILD’S NAME ON THE OUTSIDE OF BACKPACK to keep them safe from child predators.
J is for Jokes – Keep it clean. But jokes are also a fun way to get kids excited about school. has a slew of clean, funny jokes that just might give your kids the giggle they need.
K is for Kindness – This is a good time to remind your child about kindness and school rules such as don’t push, take turns, don’t talk in the hall, respect your teacher and do to others as you want them to do to you.
L is for Lunches – I won’t beleaguer this point, except to recommend you check Pinterest for ideas on what to pack and healthy lunch tips.
M is for Math – During the summer, those little gray cells in the brain seem to forget a lot, especially time tables. Help your child start the year right by reviewing their time tables. For little ones, you might do number recognition and ask them how high they can count. Make it fun!
N is for Notebooks – My sons love to put stickers on their new notebooks and binders. As long as they are appropriate, most schools and teachers won’t have a problem with this. Walmart sells fun stickers in themes such as Star Wars, Ninja Turtles, and Frozen. Have fun with this and let them be as creative as they like. After all, it’s their notebooks. (Pinterest has a few sites with free printables). also provides printable binder covers to color.
O is for Orientation – Most schools have student orientation for Kindergarten, 6th grade and high school. Be sure to check your school’s dates and times so you and your child can attend. This is a great opportunity to make them feel ready and excited, as well as feeling secure by knowing where to go on that first day in a new school.
P is for Plan – Plan something fun for that first week-end after school starts. It will give your older children, especially, something to look forward to. It could be something as simple as going to see a movie, going to the zoo, buying a new outfit, or a picnic at the beach.
Q is for Quotes – I really like to post inspirational quotes on my fridge or on the corkboard near the coat rack. Start posting quotes that will inspire your child to want to learn. Change it up every week with a variety of quotes ranging from funny to inspirational.
R is for Routine – There are some great routine charts available on Pinterest. One of them has three charts; before school routine, after school routine and before bed routine. Your after school routine list might look something like this;
·         Empty backpack
·         Set lunch box by kitchen sink
·         Give all important papers to Mom or Dad
·         Hang up your backpack
·         Wash hands
·         Eat snack
·         Do homework
·         Have fun

S is for Special Needs – Alert the school if your child has special needs. Any medical changes over the summer need to be reported to the school nurse. If your child needs special accommodations, talk to someone in the school office before school starts. Especially important are a new diagnosis such as autism or ADHD. The school will have to implement a 504 plan or an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). If there have been other major events over the summer months, such as a death in the family or a divorce, let the school know so they are prepared to help your child through counseling or other means.
T is for Talk – Talk to your child about going back to school. This is a big event in their lives and should be addressed, not ignored. Ask them about any concerns or fears they might have. Discuss their options and resources if they’re having a difficult time. Keep the conversation open.
U is for Understand – Talk to your child about the rules of learning. Some children really struggle to understand what the teacher is trying to teach them. Make sure your child knows he/she should raise their hand to ask questions, go to the teacher and if they didn’t understand the lesson and/or talk to Mom and/or Dad if they are feeling like they are falling behind. Some kids actually think they are stupid because they are not understanding. This is a terrible set-back for any child. Teach your child to ask questions about topics they don’t understand even within the home setting so they get used to the notion that it is okay to not always understand and that asking questions or asking for clarification is sometimes necessary and happens to all of us.
V is for Vacation – Vacation? Just when school is starting? Yes, kids need to know that there are breaks up ahead and fun hasn’t stopped just because summer break has ended. Highlight vacations on your family calendar or year planner (See Y). Color those vacation days and/or place holiday stickers so those time-offs are highly visible. Make it fun, so the kids have something to look forward to.
W is for Wake – Get sleep schedule back on track about two weeks before school starts. If your child likes to sleep in, try to get him/her up earlier each day until they are waking up at the time you would wake them for school.
X is for X-tra special – Spend some extra special time with your children while the sun is warm and the beach is open. Be spontaneous and go out for a stroll in the park, go get ice-cream, look for shapes in the clouds and spend a few extra minutes each night reminding your child how X-tra special they are.
Y is for Year Planner – Be sure to have a central calendar everyone can see and use. Mark important dates, holidays and vacation days, school activities, sports activities, extra-curricular activities, etc.
Z is for Zany – Be funny, be crazy, have fun together. Soon you’ll be back at work, the kids will be at school all day and you’ll be wishing you could ignore the homework they brought home. A few zany ideas might be
·         After your kids are bathed and in their pajamas, surprise them and go out for ice-cream. Trust me, they’ll think you’ve gone crazy. And they’ll love it!
·         Let your kids decide what they want for supper – and let them make it (with supervision, of course). Nothing is off limits. Even ice-cream for an entrée.
·         Take photos or selfies. Not just one or two, but bunches. Dress up like various characters, put flowers in your hair, have the kids dress up as Mom and Dad. Have fun with this.

Have a great school year!!!

Monday, July 17, 2017

These Walls Will Fall

Based on Joshua, Chapter 6.

Day after day, I circle these same old walls
My mind searching for an answer
I have to wonder at this ceaseless trudging
When you could bring them down with just a whisper.

Every dawn I awake to find nothing has changed
Those daunting obstacles still stand in my way
Yet I rise and walk on despite the questioning
Persevering as I learn to simply trust and obey.

These walls are strong, but you are stronger, Lord
Surely you will win the victory.
So I will praise you even though for now
These walls still stand before me.

I’m striving to take it one day at a time
To trust your sovereign ways and perfect timing
So I march on amid the blaring throng,
Confident these walls will soon start crumbling.

Someday the enemy will be defeated
And I’ll watch these walls come down,
For what today seems so formidable and strong
Will, one day, be mere pebbles on the ground.

Renée Vajko-Srch/ July 2017

Friday, June 30, 2017


Whether you are going out or watching from the comfort of your own home, Independence Day can be very stressful for you and your child, especially if he or she is on the autism spectrum. Sensory issues, safety concerns and lack of preparation can often spoil what is intended to be a celebration of our nation’s freedom.
Here are several tips to provide your family with a safe and sensory-friendly 4th of July.
1.      Prepare your child by reading picture books such as The Night Before the 4th of July, by Natasha Wing or Happy Birthday, America by Mary Pope Osborne. Discuss some of the sights and sounds you might experience and how they might make you feel.
2.      Caution your child about the dangers of handling fireworks. Explain the rules you would like them to follow, establish boundaries and be mindful of what they are doing and their whereabouts at all times.
3.      Pack a bag with headphones to block out some of the noise, a blanket for cover if your child gets frightened, sunglasses if your child is sensitive to the glare, comfort items such as a weighted vest, a favorite toy or stuffed animal, snack foods, games and toys to keep them distracted as you wait for the show to begin.
4.      Plan your strategy. If you are attending a show, plan on arriving ahead of time to avoid large crowds and the possibility of being separated. Create a buddy-system so no one is alone at any time. Plan to leave a few minutes before the end to avoid the mad rush, or watch the finale from your vehicle so you can drive away before people flood the parking area.
5.      Have fun. Remember, this is a day of celebration. Enjoy the food, the fellowship, the festivities and the fireworks. Enjoying good times with family and friends is the ultimate goal.

If you have a good tip, please share it with everyone. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments in the space provide below. Have a great 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


5 practical suggestions for interactions with individuals on the autism spectrum
and their families.

            Many people feel awkward or uncomfortable around individuals with autism. While some just ignore them all together, others long to relate to this special group of individuals but don’t know what to say or how to act. I would like to offer a few suggestions that might help understand the dos and don’ts of autism.
            1/ Don’t label them. You wouldn’t refer to other individuals as “the diabetic man” or “the bi-polar woman” so refrain from saying “her autistic son” or “his autistic daughter.” If you are addressing their disability for some reason, say “her son with autism,” or “she also has a child with autism.” I know, sounds a bit picky, doesn’t it? But many parents don’t like the terminology “autistic son” or “autistic daughter” because it infers that their child’s identity is wrapped up in their diagnosis.
            2/ Don’t ignore them. So many individuals with autism or other disabilities feel invisible. Whether intentional or not, they are often ignored. Treat individuals with autism just like you would treat a neuro-typical person. Many individuals with autism don’t like to be touched, so you might refrain from shaking hands the first time you meet (If you know them and know they are comfortable touching another person, then by all means, proffer your hand – they might offer theirs in response but if they don’t, that’s okay too. Next time you’ll know). Ask questions to which they can nod, shake their head or answer “yes” or “no.” If they respond with more than a single word and you can’t understand them, listen to what they have to say anyway. Talk to them at an age-appropriate level. Never talk down, just because you aren’t sure whether or not they understand. We all want acceptance and long to feel included, and individuals with autism are no exception.
3/ Look at them. Most individuals on the autism spectrum don’t make eye contact because it makes them uncomfortable (mostly because facial expressions confuse them). But that doesn’t mean you can’t look at them while having a conversation. This simple act shows you are interested in what they have to say.
4/ Don’t judge. Unless you’ve raised a child on the autism spectrum, you have no idea what a challenge it can be, at home but especially in public. Stores, churches and any public place can cause sensory overload (too many sounds, noises that hurt their sensitive ears, blinding colors, etc…) which in turn can lead to a meltdown. What might look like a tantrum to you might be an autism meltdown. So don’t judge. Instead, give parents the benefit of the doubt
5/ Don’t offer platitudes. We really don’t want to hear phrases such as “he’ll get better,” “try this, try that,” “it’s just a phase,” “if it were my child….” Leave the recommendations to the experts. Mom and dad are trying their best. Instead, just be there for them. If they want help, they’ll ask for it.
I sincerely hope this article will help you befriend someone on the autism spectrum. If they don’t respond as you would expect, just remember, they are learning life skills and everyday there are new lessons to be learned. Keep trying. I promise, it is well worth the effort!
Questions, comments, suggestions from your own experience are always welcome. Please share with me in the comment box below.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


May the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation.
2 Thessalonians 3:16

            Last night, we had a storm blow through. I woke to the sounds of thunder clapping, strong wind gusts and rain pelting the roof. The storm that had been lingering on the outskirts of our county was now upon us with a force that made me wonder if we were at risk of a tornado.
            I got up to check the weather radio, then looked in on the boys. I found Benjamin sound asleep, oblivious to the storm, noise-cancelling headphones over his ears. He is very fearful of storms, even though he knows we are safe inside our home. So when the weather man predicts a noisy night, he dons his headphones before he goes to sleep. Smart.
            We can’t always escape the many storms raging all around. At home, at work, in our nation and across the globe. Peace is a rare commodity these days. Autism and special-needs family especially know this as parents deal with frequent meltdowns, crises at school, the frazzle of days packed with appointments with their child’s therapists, counselors, doctors…. Most of us end up feeling like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
            Yet God assures us there is still peace to be found, no matter our circumstances. To obtain this peace, we need to go to the source itself; Jesus-Christ. He alone can pour His peace – deep, satisfying peace – into our hearts, minds, and souls. Just like a breath of fresh air saturates our entire body with oxygen, so Jesus fills our entire being with a sweet, calming peace. He might not still the storm that rages all around us, but He will still our hearts in the midst of the storm. His peace is free for the asking.
            This morning I asked my son if he slept through the storm. His reply: “Storm? What storm?”


Thursday, May 25, 2017


Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

            One of my favorite pastimes is working jigsaw puzzles. I love the challenge of opening a new box, then sorting through the hodgepodge of pieces for the flat-edged ones in order to frame out the puzzle.
At first glance, the various pieces seem nothing more than a jumbled mess of shapes and colors tossed into a box. Yet as I patiently sort and compare each one to the final picture, I am able to make some sense of it.
Occasionally, I run across a few pieces that just don’t seem to fit in with the rest and I am forced to lay them aside until I’m nearing the end.
            Another puzzle I’m always working on is the autism puzzle. One of our sons was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. It has been a interesting, yet rewarding challenge as we learn about autism itself, as well as work with our son to provide an environment in which he can grow and learn to live in a world that thinks and operates differently from him.
Fittingly, the nationwide symbol for autism is the puzzle piece; the pattern reflects the enigmatic and perplexing nature of ASD while the various colors and shapes represent the diversity and uniqueness of each individual on the spectrum.
Autism certainly can be very puzzling to parents as well as the professionals who work with these individuals. Yet more than that are the multitude of baffling questions associated with special needs. Why did God allow this? Will my child improve? How will my child cope in the ‘real’ world? Where do I find help? Will he or she ever be able to live an independent and fulfilling life?
Most of us will never receive answers to some of those pressing questions. A few, certainly, but not all. In our humanness, our understanding is limited. We struggle to comprehend God’s purpose in all of the complexities and challenges of raising a special-needs child. We can’t see the final picture because God has not revealed it to us. Yet.
This is where faith plays such an important role. Even though our present circumstances reach beyond our limited and finite understanding, we know God sees the final picture. Though some of the pieces just don’t make sense, He knows exactly where they fit in. Without those pieces the picture is incomplete, but when each one is in its proper place, even the questionable ones, the result is perfection.
One day, when we stand in God’s presence, we will see through spiritual eyes. All we have endured will finally make sense. Every moment of our lives will, at last, be understood in the grand scheme of His perfect plan.
For He holds the jigsaw box cover and the picture He’s been working on is simply stunning.