Friday, December 21, 2007

So very sad

Here's what's been going on...this is the message that I posted on several local Autism message boards...

December 21, 2007

Hi Autism Family,

I have some very sad news today. Yesterday, the Autism Community in Cincinnati lost one of its finest, Theresa Sharp.

Theresa was an amazing mom to her son Justin (7) as well as her two typical children, Evan (9) and Kayla (3). She had a passion for helping those affected by Autism and she touched the lives of everyone she encountered. She was an example of love, acceptance and finding the joys in Autism. She was an inspiration to me and a good friend. I will miss her terribly.

I believe there is a lesson in every tragedy and the lesson here for me your children more than anything. Love everything about them, including their Autism. Always appreciate what you have and not think about what you don't. Look for the blessings every day, they are always there.

The arrangements are being made today and when I have them, I will share. In the meantime, please pray for Theresa's beautiful children and her family.

Kiss your kids,

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 10, it went

I can't even express how excited I am. And I'm not even sure where to start so I'll try to keep it simple.

Last week, I wrote several journal entries while I was out of town. They're below exactly as I wrote them. It was an emotional an eye-opening week. An amazing week.

As I sit here today, I know without a doubt that I have found the answer for Jakob and me. This is it. This is the only program other than the diet that I will recommend for parents. It's the only one that makes any sense to me. It's the only one that makes any sense for any child with Autism. I believe in it 100%.

The premise...teaching a child with Autism that the world we're living in is a more interesting, fun, exciting place to be than the world they're living in. That there's nothing better than connecting and being with other people. That communication gets them what they need and want. This program teaches children how to live and thrive in a world that they currently don't understand and can't handle. The child leads us...Jakob will show me the way into his world and I will show him the way out.

If you are a parent of a child with Autism, please take a look at this with an open mind and an open heart. I know that what I write doesn't even come close to explaining this program so if anything I write resonates with you, please investigate further. I'll include the website and resources at the end.

Here is some of my journey and a flavor of what it's all about...

December 3, 2007...Day 1

I am in Sheffield, Massachusetts at the Autism Treatment Center of Amercia. We flew into Hartford last night and drove almost 2 hours in the freezing rain to the Option Institute which is home to the ATCA. I'm here for 5 days to learn everything that I can about the Son-Rise Program.

The journey that brought me here began last February when a friend of mine urged me to watch Oprah, the day she featured teachers from The Secret. I saw the show, ran out to buy the DVD and the book. As I watched the DVD, I knew that there were answers in all the information for Jakob. So, I started reading...a lot. I immersed myself in tons of information about the Law of Attraction, and thoughts become things, and the power of the mind, self-healing and just plain happiness. I've always known that what I wanted more than anything for Jakob was for him to find peace, experience joy and feel love. That's all that ever really mattered to me. I'd go the bookstore and books would just pop out at me and when they did, I'd buy 'em and read 'em. One day, I felt a tugging to the psychology section where I saw one copy of the book, "Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues". I read it in 2 days (and it was a BIG book). I cried throughtout the whole story...the story of a child diagnosed with Autism whose parents were told that their son was "hopeless" and was destined for institutionalization. Well, they weren't satisfied with that prognosis and set out on their own to help their son. After only a few years, their son no longer had Autism. Amazing story and everything they did made so much sense to me. It all seemed so right. So, here I am in the middle of the woods, ready to learn how to do what they did.

I'm excited and I'm ready. This feels so right.

We just got back from registration and breakfast. Most of the people who work here have English accents and they're so very friendly. The parents are a different story. Sitting in the room was a little difficult for me. I could feel their pain and their helplessness. I even started to cry a little in my oat meal. Class starts in about a half an hour. I hope what they learn today will ease their anguish. I know what's coming and it's all about happiness being a choice. It's a choice I like...a lot. And a choice that I want to teach Jakob.

Five hours worth of presentations/classes today...3 hours this morning and another 2 this afternoon. Quite a group we have here...44 moms, 21 dads, 4 grandpas, 2 grandmas and 17 volunteers (people who will work with kids). All of us here total 61 kids who may benefit from the program if the parents choose to implement it. There are 17 states represented and 7 other countries, including Nigeria, Ireland and the Netherlands. There are pictures of all our kids posted on boards in the main classroom....good looking bunch.

A lot of the stuff we covered today I've already been doing...accepting Jakob as a gift (not a burden or sad story), using what motivates him (toys and activities that he enjoys) and always approaching him with a loving and accepting attitude. Easy.

What I love about this program is it is 100% based on love and acceptance. It's all about joining him in his world in order to bring him into ours. It goes back to so many things I've written about before and have known in my heart for so long.

The main things that this program focuses on are eye contact, communication, interactive attention span and flexibility...the Big Four. All the other stuff will come later, naturally when the Big Four have improved. Perfectly aligned with my beliefs...who cares if Jakob can add and subtract, sit in a circle or draw a square if he doesn't care if I'm in the room, doesn't look at me or talk to me. First things first.

Sharing all the details of the program, I can't do. There are several books that I can recommend that explain it way better than I ever could. I will share some of the bits that really have an effect on

I am Jakob's greatest resource. I know him better than anyone else and I know him better than any test result, evaluation, doctor, therapist, "expert", family member or friend. It's taken me some time to say that and really mean it. I have that confidence now. My wish is for all Moms to have that confidence too. I think so many Moms are so frazzled and constantly freaking out because instead of listening to their inner guidance system, they listen to everybody else..."get this kind of therapy, react this way when your kid does that, this is the only answer, this is a good as it's gonna get, you're just gonna have to live with it". BS.

And...there is no such thing as false hope. Hope is a beautiful thing. It feels good. Hope is key and essential to success in any area of our lives. Hope is the belief that what we want can be had. I have a lot of hope...tons of it.

That's what was big for me today. All the practical stuff that I can use during daily interactions with Jakob, I'll be able to write about as they come up. I can't wait.

My plan is...Jakob will not return to school after the holidays. Jakob will begin a full-time Son-Rise Program at home. This week while I'm gone, a new playroom is being built for him in the basement and he will be spending anywhere from 8-12 hours per day in there. It'll be 8-12 hours every day focused on the Big Four. I love the Big Four.

Tonight we watched "Son-Rise", the movie...made for tv in 1979. The hair, clothes and music made me giggle...I remember it all very well. Very inspiring. Just more evidence that I'm in the right place.

Tomorrow's a big day...lots of classes and a couple of one-on-one sessions with counselors. I'll get to explore some of the roadblocks I may personally run up against when setting up and running this program. That oughta be fun. They scheduled me with senior counselors...probably a good idea since they certainly won't have any trouble getting me to talk. Poor clue what they're getting themselves into...

One final thought before I pass's so very nice to be around people who see the beauty in children with Autism. No negative talk's all good. They understand that all the kids are just doing the best that they can and all their behaviors are just their way of trying to deal with a world they don't understand. They accept that the kids see the world differently and it's ok...everything they do is ok. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone felt that way about our kids...and us?

Day 2

Busy day. Another 6 hours of classes today and an hour-long consultation with a senior teacher tonight. Our senior teacher was actually the woman who taught our afternoon speech session. She was perfect for us since Jakob is still non-verbal. A lot of valuable insight into how to motivate Jakob to talk. As it has always been, I know he has it in him. Now I know some things to do to get the words out of him.

It's truly amazing to me that more people don't do the Son-Rise Program. It makes so darn much sense. It's explained so clearly how kids with Autism see the world, how things affect them differently than it affects us and what it's gonna take to reach them. No-brainer. Maybe that's why. Since Autism seems so complicated, people figure the solution has to be complicated too. Well, it ain't.

Sometimes, the information is so simple that I feel stupid. Seriously. And even though there are some things that I've been doing for years and things that I've known about Jakob from the beginning, I kick myself that I didn't do more...that I didn't trust myself enough to do it more.
But...the past has no power and the only way to affect the future is to focus on NOW. I know that, so focusing on the NOW is what I'm doing here in the woods in Massachussetts. It's cold here...and there's a little snow, a lot of ice and some pretty impressive wind gusts...that's the NOW weather report. There are signs up around here that warn of deer hunters so "don't go in the woods" and also "beware of black bears". Cool...I really hope I see a bear...from a good, safe distance.

So...what we covered today. I had to look in my manual to remember the much info that I'm still just absorbing. The big one was "stimming" behavior...self-stimulating, repetitive behaviors that when Jakob does them, it's obvious that he's in his own world. We got a real good look at why kids with autism do them and it was really eye-opening for some. Bottom line...he's doing it because he needs the predictability, it's comforting, it may be self-theraputic or he may just be needing to tune out the world because it's too overwhelming for him. It makes him feel safe. It's not bad...nothing he does is "bad" or "unacceptable". And the way to handle it when he does it...join him. This is something I've been doing for awhile and the response from Jakob has been amazing. It totally cracks him up and he loves to see that I'm having fun doing the same things that he obviously enjoys so much. It's a way to connect with him. It opens a door. This is a very simple concept that I feel is ok to just throw out there for other parents who read this to try. Do it...and do it enthusiastically. Get into it. Try to see the world from their perspective.

I know anytime one of the "experts" would say "he shouldn't do that" or "you have to stop him from doing that" or "hold his hands down when he starts to flap them", it felt SO WRONG. It felt awful. It felt mean. It felt so unaccepting and controlling. I know I'd never want somebody treating me the way I was being instructed to treat my son. It was always asking for a fight...and who wants a fight??? And why would I ever want Jakob to feel like I didn't accept him? Just plain mean.

We spent the afternoon learning some techniques to encourage communication. Good stuff, really good stuff.

I'm anxious to get home and try it all out with Jakob...and it's only been 2 days. We have 3 more days to go and the manual is thick. I'll be coming home with a whole new level of understanding and a definite plan.

The plan will unfold in future journal entries as I put it into action...

Day 4

Yesterday was so busy, I just didn't have it in me to write. And quite honestly, I needed to get past my frustration. I was so frustrated and irritated that I hadn't found this program sooner. But more annoying than that was why I hadn't heard about this program and why more parents didn't know about it. (I'm great now, feeling good, feeling strong.) But every parent needs to know about this program. I've run the gammet. I've tried damn near every one (hyperbaric chambers I haven't gotten to but I was investigating). This is the one that feels right. No other even comes close to comparing. And once other parents understand what Son-Rise is, I believe that they'll feel it too. It's so natural.

I'm so happy to be here. I'm so thrilled to be learning everything I've learned these first 4 days. I'm so excited to go home and put into practice everything I've learned. I can't wait to learn more tomorrow. And I'm so looking forward to sharing with other families what this program is all about.

The concept is so simple, so common sense, so easy and so much fun. No more forcing Jakob to do anything, no more dragging him places he doesn't wanna go, no more calling any of his behaviors "inappropriate" or "unacceptable" or "undesirable". I finally know, with complete confidence, that he's doing the best he can and it's ok. He's fact, he's great. He's perfectly happy right where he's at. I'm the one that wants more for him and that's ok too. We just have to start right where he is. I now know how to do that. And I know how to start where we are and build upon that...and build it all the way to recovery.

I've spoken to so many parents here who feel the same way. We're all in the same boat. When we were asked what we want most for our kids, we all had basically the same answer...we want to connect with them and know that they know how much we love them. But before Son-Rise, we'd all been told to push them to be more "normal", and we've listened. We've forced them into school settings and into therapies where it was obvious that they didn't wanna be there. They cried and kicked and screamed. Why?? For what??? So they could draw a circle? So they could stand in a line with other kids? So they could use scissors?? How is any of that gonna help them make a connection with other people? What's more important??

Our world is scary for them. They don't understand it. They see the world in a way that we can't even imagine...the sights, the sounds, the smells, the sights. It's too much. And when a child is tantruming or running away or "stimming", it's just their way of trying to deal with this overwhelming environment that they don't understand. And here's the kicker...all the things they're doing to cope with our world...we try to make them stop doing. So here we are, taking away the things that make them feel better...are they gonna wanna connect with someone who's doing that to them? Are we behaving in a way that's going to build their trust in us? Are they gonna want to be a part of a world that causes them even more stress than they're already feeling?

Inner peace, joy, love, happiness...let's go for that. Jakob laughing, looking me in the eye, being with me, connecting with me...let's go for that. Jakob and I having a conversation...let's go for that. Let's.

One of the many things that I've heard here that made me cry is a story of a girl who had polio when she was a child. The doctors said she would never walk. When she was 20, she won several gold medals in the Olympics in track and field. Here's what she said..."The doctors said I would never walk, my Mom said I would. I believed my Mom" That really got me. If I don't believe in Jakob, who will? No more flickers of doubt. I believe.

Back to December 10...

Well, that's how it went. Right now, I'm not sure what else to say. I barely touched on all the principles. There's so much more.

Jakob's playroom in the basement will be finished by the weekend and I can't wait to get him in there.

I can say this...I've begun using some the specific methods with him and I can see the difference already. He's looking at me more, he's paying more attention to me and he did his very best to say "I love Mama" yesterday. "I love Mama"...I've been waiting a long time for that.

I look forward to sharing our journey. I promise once it's up and running, the beauty and the benefits of the program will be well-expressed.

You can request a free information packet with a DVD that is a must-see.

A must read (in addition to "Son-Rise the Miracle Continues" by Barry Neil Kaufman):