About Cari

Mother of one child on the spectrum, one off, and stretched thin in between. Writer, reader, swimmer, Midwesterner, public radio supporter. I believe in punching in for the day job and aiming for your dreams. My dream of writing a novel, Sparrow Migrations, just came true. Read more from me at www.carinoga.com
Author Archive | Cari

Burned by summer? Read on

Summer…it turns me upside down
Summer, summer, summer
It’s like a merry-go-round.

Just like the Cars sang, the merry-go-round that is the calendar is about to turn to Summer.

School ends next week. It’s even getting warm in my northern Michigan town, finally. I can’t deny it any longer.MerryGoRound

Summer’s tough for many families with a child on the spectrum as the spine of the structure of their lives–the school day—vanishes. Our last one was miserable. Long, unstructured days provoked my son’s easily-aroused anxiety, which sent his behavior spiraling down. Lacking that six-hour school day break, my husband and I were more stressed, to the point where I sometimes fled to the garage to scream obscenities as a release. Frequent disruptions cropped up—for vacations, therapists taking vacations, guests visiting—compounding anxiety and stress and misbehavior. To top it off, we didn’t have air conditioning.

Notice the past tense of that paragraph, though. This summer, I am vowing, will be better. One huge reason: We enter it poised for the payoff that led us to choose a Montessori school for our son two years ago. Next year, he’ll return to the same classroom. No transition will loom over Summer 2013.

In hindsight, we believe anxiety over an ill-suited new teacher contributed significantly to last summer’s trials hell. Well-founded anxiety, as it turned out, since we had to request a new classroom assignment three weeks into the school year. He’s thrived in the second class ever since. An encouraging sign: Christmas break, which I had dreaded, wound up going fairly smoothly.

We’ve also lined up more structure, in the form of an ABA therapist who will work in our home three days a week. Michigan passed autism insurance reform last year, making this more affordable. Clearing all the hoops with insurance meant starting back in November. But we did it.

One more thing. My vow is better. Not perfect. I’m not deluding myself about the reality of the summer merry-go-round. But the garage is still there. We don’t have air conditioning, but we got a ceiling fan. When I feel our world start to spin out of control, I can lift my face to its cooling breeze and remember summer, too, shall pass.

How are you preparing for summer?

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Novel about autistic boy who loves birds aims to advocate, too

Tell me a story.

Mike Wallace, the legendary 60 Minutes journalist, said that’s a universal human desire. Kids may be the ones who ask, but everyone loves to hear a story. On Stuart’s and other parenting blogs, we love to nod our heads as we recognize our own kids in his words.

Sparrow Migrations (middle shelves) in good company -  John Elder Robison and Temple Grandin

Sparrow Migrations (middle shelves) in good company – John Elder Robison and Temple Grandin

What if you could enjoy a story, and support autism advocacy? Today and tomorrow, you can.  The book is called Sparrow Migrations, and it’s my first novel, published just this month to coincide with Autism Awareness Month.

Sparrow Migrations is the story of Robby Palmer, a 12-year-old autistic boy, who witnesses the Miracle on the Hudson plane crash in New York City. He becomes obsessed with birds after he learns they caused the crash. Robby also finds his life intersecting with other crash witnesses and survivors, as all are transformed by the extraordinary event—and by each other. The novel was a semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest in 2011 (top 1 percent.)

In April, I’m donating $1.88 per book sold (in a nod to last year’s prevalence numbers) to autism advocacy organizations. In my hometown I chose the local parent support group and a program to get iPads to public school students on the autism spectrum.  As the first stop on my book blog tour, Stuart gets to pick the organization: Autism Society of America Today and tomorrow, I’ll donate $1.88 per paperback sold ($14.95 on Amazon) to http://www.autism-society.org

In this way I’m hoping to spread the word about the novel, and also generate some funds for smaller, local autism advocates that don’t have the reach of the big, blue guys.

One more thing: The striking cover was designed by a graphic artist who is autistic. Anie Knipping is the author of Eccentricity, a memoir of her life lived on the spectrum. We connected through one of those fluke friend-of-a-friend situations, and I’m very proud to show her talent on my cover.

Hope you’re up for a good story.

Buy Sparrow Migrations on Amazon >>



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The yin and yang of parenting on the spectrum

We’re coming up on the one-month mark for a new ADHD medication for our seven-year-old son, who’s also on the autism spectrum. It’s always tricky to be objective about tracing results back to causes, but so far, the results are encouraging.

For the first time, he’s asking open-ended questions. Questions that indicate a curiosity about how things work, from a car engine to the mechanism behind a video exhibit at a museum. He’s been able to curtail some of his impulses – like doing the puzzle he just opened– when I announced it was bedtime.

The tattoo I got for my son and daughter works for my husband and me, too.

The tattoo I got for my son and daughter works for my husband and me, too.

It’s gratifying to see, not to mention a relief. After a bad experience with a different ADHD med last summer, the absence of negative

consequences is a positive in and of itself.

For me, though, it also provokes guilt. Because the only reason our son is on this medication is that his dad pushed for it.

Feeling burned by the first med, I resisted our doctor’s suggestions to try this one for almost six months. My husband didn’t oppose me, but gradually, after receiving input from school, he began his own low-key lobby. Finally, reluctantly, I agreed to try it.

And so far, it appears he was right and I was wrong. Thus the guilt. Did I deny our son six months of growth and progress because of my supermom proclivities? I’ll fix it/handle it/solve it myself. I don’t need any help from some drug.

This isn’t the first time my husband has been the ballast in parenting decisions. It goes way back to infancy, when we started part-time daycare. I felt like I should handle all the caregiving myself. That’s what a good mother does, after all. Even though I hated it and was going stir crazy at home all the time.  Mike took the reasonable approach. Let’s try it. It doesn’t have to be permanent.

Seven years, two kids and one sane mother on, it was by far the best decision for our family. Yet I still don’t know if I could have made that decision myself. So on this, my first post on Autism from a Father’s Point of View, I want to ask: What is it about dads? Is there something in the Y chromosome?  Is our dynamic reflected in your parental roles, too? And is it the balance that matters most, no matter who provides the yin and yang?

– Cari Noga is a writer in Michigan and mother to a son on the spectrum and a neurotypical daughter. You can read her blog here. In April she will publish Sparrow Migrations, a novel about a 12-year-old boy with autism who becomes obsessed with birds after witnessing the “Miracle on the Hudson.”


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