Dana Meijler is mom to a fabulous daughter on the autistic spectrum and a social media junkie. Living in Amsterdam, by way of Pittsburgh and Tel Aviv, Dana drinks too much coffee and diet coke while she muses about raising a daughter with special needs, being a stranger in a strange land and whatever else floats her boat at any given moment. In addition to blogging on Kveller, Dana also blogs on The Times of Israel and on her own website. And, oh yeah, Dana also has a day job.
As an expectant first-time mother, I did what every expectant first-time mother does. No, not mainline Nutella (well, yes, I did do that, but that's not what I am talking about). I read. Because…that's what good parents do, they read, right? I had books for different moods. When I was feeling like I just wanted the plain facts in chronological order, I read Murkoff and Mazel's “What to Expect” books. When I was feeling hormonal and earth-mothery, I turned to Dr. Sears' “The Baby Book,” and when I was… >> Read More
One of the duties thrust upon us as Jewish parents is to live a Jewish life so that our children may also develop a Jewish identity.
I must admit that I am a failure at that most of the…time. See, I have an autistic daughter. My husband and I are not very religious and truth be told, we are lazy about traditions. My parents weren't religious either but we did go to shul and light Shabbat candles and celebrate holidays together with our extended family. I went to religious school, to Young Judaea… >> Read More
One of the things I love and admire about Judaism is its focus on life. Judaism, unlike many other religions, is concerned more with this life than what comes in the hereafter. Judaism does provide…rituals for mourners to cling to in those dark days after a loved one dies, but beyond the first weeks or year of mourning, life resumes, and any mention of the departed one brings sympathy and comfort from those around. My dad killed himself 10 years ago. The ritual afterwards was completely different. He couldn't… >> Read More
I have been watching the Happy Birthday Colin movement on Facebook for the past couple of weeks. I have been both fascinated and touched by the outpouring of compassion and generosity that…seemingly millions of strangers have expressed towards Colin, a boy with special needs who has trouble making friends. After Colin told his mom not to bother with a birthday party since he doesn't have any friends, his mother, feeling awful, took to social media, built a Facebook page for his birthday, and shared it, hoping… >> Read More
My daughter is a 10-year-old living with autism. As I watch both her body and her mind grow, I am hit in many different times and many different ways that my daughter is not a little kid…anymore. Gone is the unsteady toddler on wobbly legs and the silky hair that could be washed with a washcloth. Gone is the little one who at the end of the day would cry a sea of warm tears because she was so tired, but who couldn't relax enough to fall asleep without my hand… >> Read More
This morning I read this piece about a woman who had a fat mother whose shame about her body changed her daughter's ideas of beauty, and not for the better.
I am fat. I am fat enough that I…notice that people stare at me and avert their eyes uncomfortably when I make eye contact with them. People cast their eyes downward at me on airplanes if they realize I have to sit next to them. Believe me, I am the uncomfortable one, having to somehow fit my plus-sized form into those tiny commuter… >> Read More
It's been nearly six years since my daughter was diagnosed with autism. Like many other parents who hear their children have life-long challenges ahead of them, my husband and I went through the…seven stages of grief, but I also Googled. Furiously. While I found no shortage of information, what I found by and large more than anything was that "early intervention" was key to improving the symptoms of autism (personally, I hate calling them behaviors because that makes it sound like it is something which can be… >> Read More
My daughter had a colossal meltdown last night and I handled it badly.
My patience gave way after 40 minutes of defiance and my tone went from neutral to impatient, agitated and finally, about…three-quarters of the way through, to angry. There, I said it; I yelled at my autistic daughter. I am a lousy mother, right? Who yells at their special needs kid? Apparently, I do. It's been a difficult time for my daughter. New school year, new bus, new classroom, away from a lot of her friends.… >> Read More
When you are raising a child with special needs, it often feels like the diagnosis takes over your whole life. My daughter has autism and there isn't a day and often not an hour or a minute where…autism doesn't occupy center stage in our lives. It's there, everywhere you go, throwing up hurdles and roadblocks, preventing joy, happiness, and discovery and sending your senses into overdrive at the drop of a hat. In those brief moments that you are not dealing with it, you are likely talking someone's ear off about it… >> Read More
Summer vacation is upon us.
All over Facebook I see statuses of parents dealing with school being out. Grateful posts about not having to pack lunches quickly turn into posts about the hassles of…shlepping kids to baseball practice or kids being underfoot saying, "I'm bored" 600 times a day and in between happy vacation photos and day trips and amusements parks. In other words, the stuff of life. Or at least the stuff of life when you are a parent. As the parent of a special needs child,… >> Read More
The last couple of weeks, I have been surprisingly emotional over the death of actress Jean Stapleton.
The television show
All in the Family
was a big part of my childhood and Jean Stapleton's…passing almost feels like a member of my own family has died. I know that sounds starstruck and kind of stupid, since All in the Family was a television show and not real life. Yeah, yeah, I should pick up a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and spend my life doing something meaningful rather than watching TV.… >> Read More
This post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.
A week or so ago I was contacted by one of Kveller's…editors telling me about their month-long series on talking to your children about God and was asked if I wanted to perhaps write a piece for it. Being the mom of a child on the autistic spectrum might add an interesting voice to the series. "Sure, I'd love to." Hold on a second. I've never… >> Read More
In our world there are statistics all around us. No where is that more true than in the world of autism.
There is the whole one in 88 kids are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, which is the big…ugly, awful stat but there are loads of little stats, particularly if you start investigating treatment options, dietary options, and so forth. The one that hit me the most when my daughter was diagnosed with autism was this one: 80 percent of marriages where there is a child with autism end in divorce. Roughly speaking,… >> Read More
In honor of Mother's Day, here's a touching piece about how other mothers can help relieve your constant parental worrying.
As the mother of a special needs child, more often than not it's all…about the worry. Actually, parenting in general, but parenting a special needs kid in particular, is a life sentence of worry with a side of second guessing yourself. As if that wasn't enough, you also get to frequently experience disappointment for your child. Although I have never been the mother of a non-special needs child,… >> Read More
It happened again today.
My daughter went outside to the playground in front of our house and within five minutes the kids that were out there headed for the hills.
It's happened before, many…times. The scene usually plays out like this. My daughter looks out our front window and sees kids at the playground across the street from our house. She furiously rushes to me and asks if she can go play outside. After a good five minutes of her running around aimlessly in excitement and me running… >> Read More
While the world of autism is talking, blogging, and arguing about Autism Awareness Month, over here we have been dealing with another kind of awareness. One in which autism, like with a lot of other…things, brings challenges, not just to Maya, but to me as her mom. Puberty. A few months ago I wrote a post about how I and everyone around me were noticing changes in my daughter and my fears about how to talk about it with her. She's still so much of a kid, a kid that plays… >> Read More