Posts filed under: Autism

April is autism awareness month and with a prevalence of 1 in 68 children, you’ve probably heard of autism. It’s difficult to explain what autism is as it affects each person differently. My sons have the same diagnosis but are on opposite ends of the autism spectrum. Life is difficult for both the person with autism and their families as there are many challenges to deal with every day. Challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication as well as comorbid conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, sleep issues, gastrointestinal issues and sensory processing disorder. I don’t have it all figured out. I just do my best to know my kids and focus on what I can do to help them. What I didn’t expect is that they would teach me some of the most valuable life lessons in the process.

Focus on solutions, not problems

Autism families face challenges every day. Between the obsessions, the meltdowns, the lack of communication and the worry of what the child’s future will be, it’s easy to feel defeated. Like in any situation, if we chose to focus on all the problems, it will feel insurmountable. To focus solely on finding solutions helps to feel empowered. For example, my son can’t speak so we teach him to sign, he can’t write so we’re teaching him to type. I admit that I have to remind myself often, but my kids make me believe that there is a solution to every issue and that anything is possible when you focus on the positive.

See the wonder in everyday life

My son was born premature and the fact that we almost lost him to medical complications definitely gave me perspective on what’s important. However, in our busy routines, it’s so easy to forget to appreciate the little things in life.  Kids with autism see things others may not notice. They also have a fascination with things such as twinkling lights or bubbles. My son will stare into a flower and it’s as if he sees every tiny detail. Some might see it as a weakness but to me, it’s a strength. Being able to look at things differently and see details that might have gone unnoticed is a choice that we can make to be more mindful and grateful for the little things.

Don’t be afraid to be different

Whether it’s working from home or any other uncommon choice, do what is right for you. For kids with autism, anything that is the norm usually doesn’t apply. My kids taught me a  “whatever works for results” attitude when dealing with their sleep, feeding and sensory issues. Sometimes we need to get creative to come up with a solution that works, no matter how unconventional or unpopular. For example, no matter how much I wanted my son to fit in, public school was not a good environment for him to learn. Homeschooling is not a conventional choice but all that matters is that it is giving us the results we need. He is calmer, happier and more willing to learn than he has ever been.

Releasing preconceived notions will open your eyes

Everyone has a story that we’re not aware of and situations are not always what they appear. Autism is an invisible condition so people can’t tell just by looking at a child that they have autism. If you see a grown child having a meltdown in a store, you’ll  think that the child is a spoiled brat or that his parents have no authority. What you might not be aware of is that sensory processing disorder makes the child hypersensitive to lights, smells and the noises until it sensory overload causes them to have a meltdown. It’s these preconceived notions and judgment that cause so many autism families to isolate themselves. We can see things through a different set of eyes when we’re not limited by preconceived notions.

Learn to dance in the rain

We all go through difficult situations and some things in life are difficult to accept. If you wait for it to get better before moving forward, you’ll miss out. Getting a diagnosis for not only one but both of my children was heartbreaking but behind that label of autism is still my little boys that I love. All they want is to be loved and accepted as they are. My children will always have autism and although I have my moments, I try to remember that life happens with or without me. Don’t let whatever is not perfect in your life stop you from living it and enjoying it because life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

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  • e Big Blue Hug - Autism Artist

A young autistic boy’s way of communicating with his father becomes beautiful art

I remember hearing about The Big Blue Hug on the local news. We immediately turn up the volume on the television when we hear the word autism. I was particularly touched by Ellis and Jason Goldsmith’s story. Ellis is a local autism artist here in Montreal.

Ellis has autism and at age 5, he could barely speak. His father, Jason decided to start to draw to enhance the communication between him and his son. Because Ellis thinks in pictures, the drawings helped him understand. Within a few months, Ellis was communicating with his father through drawings of his own.

Ellis made a drawing to ask his father for a bed time hug. Touched by the drawing his son made, his father decided to trace it with glass paint and make it a piece of art. The final product is a beautiful glass frame representation of his son’s beautiful drawings. That is when The Big Blue Hug was born.

When I liked The Big Blue Hug‘s Facebook page, I thought to myself: “I should reach out and ask to write about them.” Before I could do that, Jason Goldsmith sent me a message to let me know that I had won a piece of art by liking their Facebook page. Ellis randomly picked me as the winner. Isn’t life funny that way?

I was so thrilled to receive the piece I chose entitled “Let Good Things Grow”. Although the pictures on their website are beautiful, they don’t do these shining pieces of art justice. They are even more beautiful in person!

Even more beautiful than their pieces of art is their vision. They want to give Ellis the opportunity to develop life skills by participating in the family business. And their dream is that one day The Big Blue Hug will function as a studio with a special needs team. I wish them continued success and in their own words: “Let good things grow!”

You can buy Ellis’s beautiful art on The Big Blue Hug

e Big Blue Hug - Autism Artist

Chantale is the mother of two handsome boys with autism. Although she is homeschooling them, she is constantly learning from her children. She shares activities that are adapted for special needs on www.virtuallyateacher.com

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  • Autism Artist Heidi Vormer

The day I went to hear Heidi Vormer speak I was not sure what to expect. I have read everything about autism, I watch everything about autism and I live autism every day! Most information I hear is usually old news to me. This was very different than anything I ever heard before.

Listening to Heidi was like having a conversations with my sons, if they could have a conversation with me. I hung on her every word because everything she said was more valuable than gold. And like a window into my children‘s world, she gave me insight and she gave me hope.

If you are interested in a consultation with Heidi but you don’t live in the Montreal area, she is also available for consultations via email.

Heidi is not only an autism consultant but she is also an amazing artist specializing in photo-realistic drawings. I am so happy to have her as a guest blogger today!


Autism Artist Heidi Vormer

Remrov: Autism Consultant and Artist

Who understands you better than a person who has autism herself?

My name is Heidi Vormer and I was diagnosed with autism when I was 21 years old. This is quite late, especially because my family and I already felt that I was different since I was very little. I struggled with practically every aspect of my life without knowing what was causing this. Since I was 12 years old I went to social workers, consultants, and psychiatrists and I went through quite a number of tests to find out what was going on with me. But the results of the tests were always: “Has trouble coping with her parents divorce”. Deep inside I felt that this was not what was causing all my struggles in life, and when I finally received the diagnosis autism I felt incredibly relieved. I had spent my whole life wondering what was going on with me, and this had created quite an impact on my self esteem. Now I finally knew what it was, and I also knew that I was not the only one.

The first time I thoroughly realized there was something different about me was when I started elementary school. I saw all the other kids around me playing, laughing, talking and socializing with each other. They were interacting with each other in a very natural and automatic way, and they all seemed to be very extroverted. My whole world was inside my own head. I didn’t know how to interact at all. I didn’t know how to socialize, how to communicate, or how to behave. I didn’t understand anything of the whole world around me.

Autism Artist Heidi VormerBut of course I did want to fit in. So I decided to study all the other kids. I studied and memorized their words, their behaviour, their posture, language, everything. With a photographic memory this wasn’t such a hard thing to do, although I didn’t understand anything of what I was memorizing. I managed to memorize all their actions and their responses, and then I copied these in similar situations. This helped quite a bit with fitting in because nobody even knew that I didn’t even know what I was doing or saying. But my responses were quite limited. Every time a question or situation was completely unfamiliar to me, I didn’t know what to do or what to say. But on a social level, among those other kids, I seemed to do quite fine with my strategy.

The classes in school were a different story. I didn’t understand the language of the teachers or what was written in books. In fact, I was seldom able to hear the teacher or to concentrate on reading. Besides the teacher’s voice I also heard kids whispering in the back of the classroom, the teacher talking in the classroom next to ours, cars outside, a dog barking, people riding their bikes, kids talking in the schoolyard and the sounds of the ventilation system. And all those sounds came in equally loud. They were all competing for first place. For me it was just impossible to filter the teacher’s voice out of all those other noises, and due to this I often left school with failing grades.

My post elementary schools were even worse. My ‘study and copy’ strategy didn’t work with older students and I didn’t fit in at all. I was bullied and beaten up every single day, not just by a few bullies, but by large groups of students. I also struggled a lot with my schoolwork. Since the schools were a lot bigger than elementary school, there were also a lot more noises and many other distractions. It was just impossible to hear the teacher or to read a book. Besides that, I always took language incredibly literally, so when I did hear the teacher I often misunderstood everything that was said. And every time I tried to answer a question or found the courage to say something, all the other students laughed and the teachers often became angry. But I did have my strategy to arrive at home with acceptable grades. Whenever we had a test for a class like geography or history we always had to study many chapters and pages of text that I just didn’t understand. So I decided to memorize every single page, the page numbers, lay-out, amount of columns, pictures, and every single word without understanding the text. During the test, when a term or a name came up, I knew exactly on which page number it was located and in which column, and I knew all the other words and pictures around it. I had a picture of each page in my mind. And this way I managed to get an acceptable grade.

Throughout the years, I thought of many tricks like this to get myself through situations and to make my days manageable. I kept studying people. I watched TV and the same movies over and over again to learn people’s behaviour, language and customs. Even though at first it was all just copied Autism Artist Heidi Vormerwhen I was communicating or interacting, I slowly made it my own until I was confident enough to try to find my own words and language inside myself. I learned a lot about my difficulties but also about my strengths. I used my strengths and gifts to make up for my difficulties. I went from being a little and frightened person who didn’t understand any language to a person who is confident and who has quite an amount of self knowledge and who knows what she needs to manage her life. I’m at the point of my life now where I want to share my story and educate people about autism. I want to pass on to other people with autism and their families and friends what I have learned and everything that helped me. And to build bridges to everybody else who wants to learn more about autism.

I immigrated from the Netherlands to Montreal in 2013 to start a new life with my North American boyfriend, and we’re happy to be here together. A year and a half ago I started my own autism consulting services. I gave a few very well-received presentations until now at different venues. I’ve also had a few clients already whom I’ve helped steer towards a more pleasant and manageable life. People can contact me for help, information, advice, or a presentation about autism. I can give people with autism and their families understanding, recognition, a listening ear, advice and insight from my own perspective and experiences. I can observe and recognize the cause of problems and issues and I can give you solutions and ways to improve your situation and your life.

Besides an autism consultant, I’m also an artist. I specialize in very photo-realistic drawings of people, animals, trees and houses and everything else I find interesting. Because of my autism I see the whole world in tiny little details. My drawings tend to be this way too, very precise and detailed. For me the whole world is a very chaotic place. When you’re out in public you have to focus on so many different details of information at once. And all those details compete for first place. This can be extremely exhausting. When I’m working on a drawing I only have to focus on one thing, the details of my drawing. This is one of the reasons why I love drawing so much.

If you are interested to see more of my artwork please visit my website: www.remrovsartwork.comAutism Artist Heidi Vormer

And when you are interested to learn more about my services as an autism consultant you can visit my other website:

www.remrovsautism.weebly.com

Heidi Vormer

Remrov Autism Consultant and Artist

 

 

It’s time to order your Holiday cards! You can buy Heidi’s holiday cards on Fine Art America.

Please note that I am not an affiliate of Remrov or fine art america.

Chantale is the mother of two handsome boys with autism. Although she is homeschooling them, she is constantly learning from her children. She shares activities that are adapted for special needs on www.virtuallyateacher.com

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  • Tyneise Seaborough
This post is sponsored by Tyneise Seaborough. Please see my full disclosure.

10 Practical Solutions to Everyday Challenges

I would never pass up the chance to learn more about autism. My goal as a mom of two boys on the spectrum is to stay informed and be equipped to help my children. I happily agreed to review Hope for Autism for the author, Tyneise Seaborough. Ms Seaborough is a pediatric occupational therapist and she has worked with children with special needs for the past 10 years.

Tyneise SeaboroughWhat I enjoyed most about this book was the format of part one. It doesn’t only mention the issues that children with autism face but it also gives you possible solutions. Isn’t the solution the most valuable to parents of children with autism? Awareness is important but when a parent wants to help their child, what they need is tools. In this section, you will find practical tools for everyday life issues.

In the second section of the book, the author interviews professionals such as an ABA therapists, a speech-language pathologist, a physical therapist and others. The information provided in these interviews can help parents understand the different types of therapy available. It also outlines how the child can benefit from each type of therapy.

The M-CHAT evaluation tool is included in part three. If you are unfamiliar with diagnosis process, the M-CHAT will show you what criteria is used to diagnose your child. You will also find basic information on social stories which is a very effective tool for teaching children with autism. Lastly, part four provides you with a full list of resources for every state as well as resources on the internet.

All in all I think this book is a great resource for parents. The information’s value might depend on how long ago you received your child’s diagnosis and what resources you have in place already. However since this is a recent book, you will find the most current resources and solutions for your child’s issues. Most importantly, you will have practical ways to help you child with his every day struggles.

You can buy Hope for Autism on Amazon.

Visit www.hopeforautism.info for autism facts, red flags and information on occupational therapy.

Hope for Autism is also on Facebook.

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Chantale is the mother of two handsome boys with autism. Although she is homeschooling them, she is constantly learning from her children. She shares activities that are adapted for special needs on www.virtuallyateacher.com

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Where does it hurt?

A few weeks ago I broke my toe. Who knew one little piggy could hurt so bad! The doctor checked me out, had an x-ray taken, patched me up and sent me home. I had to walk with crutches which is not as easy as it looks! That was frustrating but what was more frustrating was everyone wanting to help me. Where does it hurt?

I appreciated the help, don’t get me wrong. However it was also like a knife in my heart. People were going out of their way to open doors for me and asking: “Are you OK?” “What happened?” It hurt me because no one does that when I am out with my children. They have no problem staring and judging when  either Cookie or Chocolate Chip has a meltdown. I rarely find people who are understanding or asking to help.

Autism is not visible so people might not realize my children’s challenges. That doesn’t change that it hurts when people make rude comments or get aggravated by my children’s behaviors. I can take insults, not well, but I can take them. What I can’t take is people judging or insulting my children. I don’t even expect anyone to try to make it better just please don’t make it worse! They didn’t ask to have autism. If they were wearing a bandage on their head, would they get treated differently? What if they were in a wheelchair?

When I heard about Robin Williams’ suicide. It surprised me because I didn’t know he suffered from depression. Having fought bouts of depression myself, I know the kind of despair that can come from it. See past the autismHere is a person that made people laugh for a living when indeed he was hiding behind laughter. May he rest in peace.

My heart hurts much more than my toe ever did. My broken heart stems from the fact that I wish people would react to my children’s pain like they did to mine. Instead of judging them, I wish others would just see past the behaviors. See past the autism and see the amazing little boys that I see.

Chantale is the mother of two handsome boys with autism. Although she is homeschooling them, she is constantly learning from her children. She shares activities that are adapted for special needs on www.virtuallyateacher.com

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