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Jan 9 2013

Special Education Speed Dating

By at 9:43 am

I’ve heard it said that you don’t know how good you’ve got something until it’s gone. This is a story about the opposite. How I didn’t know how lacking something was until I left.

As the Yiddish saying goes, change your location, change your luck.

When we picked up and moved more than three thousand miles away from our home in order for me to stay home full-time and be a better care giver to our son, who is on the autistic spectrum, I anticipated many positive changes. The most pleasant surprise, however, has been the school system. I now realize, with that ever-clear hindsight, that our old school system was lacking. Sorely lacking. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2012

Traveling and Asperger’s Syndrome Don’t Always Go Together

By at 2:02 pm

airplane flying through the skyIn about one month’s time, God-willing, my newest niece or nephew is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Dallas, TX. The following week, family from all over the country will descend on the Lone-Star State in order to welcome him or her into our family and into our covenantal people. I, however, will be making the trip alone. And it saddens me.

Different families have different approaches, I have discovered, when it comes to family simchas. As far as my family goes, presence at a family celebration, be it a college graduation or a baby naming, is de rigueur. Even when it involves cross-country flights. Distance was never considered a barrier to attendance. Neither, to the best of my knowledge, were finances. Somehow there was always a way for the family to be together.

Which is why my decision to travel solo next month is a painful one. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 15 2012

News Roundup: New Studies on ADHD, Autism, and CT Scans

By at 12:56 pm

All the Jewish parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.

are you my mother? book cover

Part of the Kindergarten Canon.

- Education Analyst (and father) Michael Petrilli has developed a list of 100 books he feels every English-speaking child should read. (Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

- A new study by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine shows that the development of ADHD in children may be linked to how much mercury-rich fish the child’s mother ate during her pregnancy. (Reuters)

- The Upper East Side is home to a great “breastfeeding resource,” Yummy Mummy, which caters to moms of every sort, and offers prenatal breastfeeding classes to locals. (New York Times)

- Children with autism may wander away from home more frequently than was once believed, according to a new study, which says that about half of those children with Autism Spectrum Disorder will run away from home, and of those, at least half are missing long enough to raise serious concern. (ABC News)

- A significant increase in the number of children given CT scans when brought to a hospital is raising a red flag for some who believe such tests may increase the risk of cancer later in life. (Reuters)

Aug 30 2012

Teaching My Autistic Son How to be Cool

By at 4:06 pm
pokemon characters

I guess these guys are cool?

I knew as a mother, I was going to have to teach my kids things, like teach my daughter to put on makeup, or my son to ride a bike. But this? Seriously?

I am now expected to do something as a parent I never expected to do. I need to teach my 6-year-old how to be cool. (Huh, what? Can’t I teach him about sex instead? That might be simpler.)

To the outside world, Reuben is like every other 6-year-old. But we have a secret. What comes natural to other kids can take upwards of 100 hours to teach him. My son is on the Autism Spectrum. So far every issue we have faced, I have taken in stride, until now…. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 24 2012

Easy Behavioral Tips for Kids with Special Needs

By at 10:15 am
little boy pulling hair tantrum

No more tantrums.

My son Reuben is 6 years old and was diagnosed as autistic three years ago. My kid is not so different from yours; he is just an exacerbated version. Reuben gets scared of the dark (mostly when he doesn’t want to go to bed), doesn’t want to eat brussels sprouts (who does?), and smacks his sister when I’m not looking (though sometimes I think she might deserve it).

The difference is in how difficult it is get him to modify his behavior unlike your kids (although I am sure you would disagree).

Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2012

Do All Our Kids Really Need to Feel Like Winners?

By at 2:54 pm

trophyOn the last day of his after-school tennis program, my 6-year-old came home with a trophy.

“Wow Zack, I’m so proud of you!” I said.

“Why? Everyone got one.” His blasé tone shifted immediately and somewhat manically to intense excitement.

“Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” Zack chanted as he pumped the trophy overhead, just like he’d seen a classmate do at his recent reading awards ceremony. Read the rest of this entry →

May 23 2012

Time-Saving Tips for Extra Busy Moms

By at 12:14 pm

pocket watches

Everyone is busy and everyone has trouble keeping up. While I don’t claim any special level of industriousness for myself, I can say that, in the phrase people often use, I have a lot on my plate.

I’m divorced, and I live in Israel, where I have no family, other than my children, to help me out with life’s occasional emergencies. My sons are 16 and 12, and my older boy was diagnosed with autism (PDD/NOS) at age 3. He goes to a number of afterschool therapy appointments every week and sometimes I fill in for his aide at school during the day. My younger son has his own afterschool activities, some of which he cannot get to on his own. I work as the movie critic for the Jerusalem Post, reviewing films, covering the Israeli movie industry, and interviewing Israeli and foreign filmmakers. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 6 2012

Autism, Passover, and Spring Cleaning

By at 9:35 am

Raising a child with autism comes with a lot of crap. I’m not talking about the stares from strangers, the battles with insurance companies and school boards, or even the underlying, ever-present stress of wondering what my son’s future will look like. That’s all part of it, of course. But the crap I speak of today is of the tangible, dust-collecting variety.

What can I say? Autism takes up a lot of freaking space. There are the binders of therapist-recorded data, the pendaflex folders filled with evaluations and invoices, and, of course, the endless piles of teaching materials.

From the huge dry erase board on which we draw Benjamin’s daily schedule, to the card next to the bathroom sink featuring a pictorial breakdown of the act of hand washing (water on, wash hands, water off, dry), to the playroom closet stuffed with toys and games and visuals his therapist uses during sessions, our house is pretty much blanketed with tools that help Benjamin learn to communicate, follow routines, and transition more easily.

Benjamin, 8, was diagnosed 6 years ago, so by now these items have become a natural part of the landscape of our home—a part I rarely think about them. That is, until Passover rolls around. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 27 2012

Friday Night: All Florida-Bashing Ceases on Shabbat

By at 11:43 am
palm trees

Shabbat shalom, indeed.

Over the summer we moved from Brownstone Brooklyn to suburban Florida. While our three children are thrilled about year-round pool and playground access (which actually is pretty awesome), for me it’s been a rough transition.

I miss my friends. I miss my kids’ friends. I miss my kids’ schools. I miss the front porch of our 100-year old house. I miss being able to walk a few hundred feet to get a coffee, a light bulb, or a manicure.

So yes, I complain about our new home. A lot. Luckily for those obligated to listen to me, though, there is one 25-hour period each week when I cease all Florida bashing. See, on Shabbat, I kind of love it here. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 27 2011

Hanukkah, Autism, and Captain America

By at 5:52 pm

captain americaMy son Zack was 2 when his big brother noticed him for the first time. One minute we were all hanging out on the couch in our pajamas; the next Benjamin was on top of Zack, giving him a bear hug. Every couple of minutes he’d get up, only to pounce on the little guy again seconds later.

The whole time (and it went on for quite a while) my husband and I sat there speechless, shocked and amazed and choked up by the sight of our autistic (and therefore seriously socially delayed) 4-year-old finally showing affection toward his little brother. And Zack, well, Zack just lay there, grinning like a 7th grade girl who’d just learned her crush liked her back.

It’s been almost four years since that lovefest and I’m sad to report there haven’t been too many repeat performances. I’m not saying my boys don’t have a relationship. They do, and in fact it happens to be a relationship that is very special and unique. Zack watches out for his big brother, and he’s the first one to yell out, “Good job, I’m so proud of you!” when Benjamin says a new word or learns a new skill. I know Benjamin loves his brother back, but unfortunately autism makes it pretty impossible for him to express that. I think Zack gets it, but still, I feel for the kid. It sucks to give and give and give without getting anything back.

That all changed recently, when Zack opened a Captain America doll, the Hanukkah gift his brother had chosen and wrapped for him. See, Benjamin’s school had this totally brilliant idea to take a field trip to the mall. Parents sent in cash and listed the recipients’ interests (superheroes for Zack and Elmo for Ayla, our youngest), and the students (with some guidance from their teachers, I suspect) went shopping for their loved ones.

As usual, Benjamin didn’t seem to register Zack’s over-the-moon, “Thanks Benjamin, I love it!” But what happened a couple of days later was just as rewarding. I walked into our playroom and found Benjamin holding Captain America and pressing the button that makes him talk. This, from a kid who barely ever touches anything in that obnoxiously fully-loaded playroom.

Obviously Benjamin’s choice wasn’t arbitrary. He liked that chatty, leotard-clad figurine, and I like to think he thought Zack would like it, too. I also like to think they’ll be playing with it—together—soon.


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