Autism and the mystery injuries

One of the biggest problems with Autism, whether your child is verbal or non verbal, is the lack of information. Even if your child speaks quite well, there’s a good chance that you won’t get the information out of them that you’re looking for.

In my case, this is never more apparent than when my son has a random cut, scrape or bruise on his body. And I don’t intend to speak for everyone but I have spoken to more than enough other parents to realize that this isn’t isolated to just my experience.

Introducing the bruise

bruiseThis bruise, pictured right (click to see full size), appeared on my son’s leg this week-end. It’s in the back of his leg, under his knee… which leaves us wondering if it was there sooner and we just didn’t notice, if it appeared during the week-end at some random point or if it actually happened this week-end.

The problem is this… my son doesn’t remember how he got it. This isn’t surprising because most people really don’t remember getting a bruise, since it tends to appear well after the impact that caused it.

But in my son’s case, and I assume many Autistic cases, this is bit more common.

Of all the things he remembers….

My son, like many (but not all) Autistics, has quite the amazing memory. He can hear a story book one time in September and remember it word for word in April. He remembers games I played with him when he was just 1. But ask him how he got a scratch on his face, or a scrape on his arm or, in this case, a bruise on his leg… and he simply will not have an answer.

I’m not sure if it’s selective memory blocking… you know, not wanting to be able to recall a painful event, or if that sort of event really just doesn’t get stored in there sometimes.

What I do know is that it’s not an ideal situation. I don’t mean that from just a convenience stand point but from a safety stand point.

As a parent, you see these injuries and wonder if there is a bully, an abuser, an unsafe environment… you want your child to be safe and not having the information sends your mind into overdrive. Chances are though, he just fell down, hit something too hard, tripped over another student or who knows what… but it’s probably just one of many sores that children are going to get. They play pretty hard.

The Mystery

Still, we’re left wondering. How did this bruise happen? It’s nearly black. It’s very big and not only that, what you don’t see in the picture is that it goes straight across the back of his leg and even appears much more lightly on the other leg.

To me, this means he got whacked with something (like a stick) or that he fell back against something like a hard chair or something.

I’m fairly certain that it’s an innocent bruise (no one intentionally hurt him) but again, I don’t know what did it because he doesn’t know.

As a parent, that’s scary. As a parent of a child with Autism, it’s one more issue to deal with on top of countless others.

If there are studies on this, I am unaware of them. I’m not even sure how they could study something like this. But I suspect that if it was possible, the results would show that I’m not the only parent that has to play detective to find the cause of random injuries. In fact, I would wager that it’s all too common.

Do this happen with you and your children? Please share your experiences.

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Mother’s Day – Remembering how I got here

This is the first part of a two part series. This post, I dedicate to my mother who gave me the strength and experiences that I needed to be able to handle what ever might come may way later in life. It turns out that it is a good thing she did. For that and all she did, I will always be eternally grateful.

I have one of those minds that remembers the craziest things… things from when I was 2, things that everyone else has forgotten… I remember where the scar on my knee came from even though I got it when I wasn’t even old enough to walk.

When you have a mind like that, you have to realize, everything has a lasting effect on you. Everything. Some things have more or less of an effect than others but it’s all there… all the time.

I’d like to tell you about the one thing that sticks out the most in my mind. It wasn’t from my toddler years. It was from my teen years… you know, those rebellious, often depressing, very overwhelming years.

The back story

My mother was what you would probably call “the problem child.” When your mother tells you that they’ve done it all, that there isn’t anything you could do that they hadn’t already done… well, in my mother’s case, it’s probably more true than for most.

She went on to become a paramedic and then a nurse and now works for the city in a government job… she’s done quite well for herself despite what may have been a “troubled” youth.

I remember

When I was a teenager and friends (and not friends) were drinking or even doing drugs…. I was a rather depressed kid. I didn’t do any of that stuff and had no interest in it. However, that didn’t stop friends from trying to convince me to “lighten up.”

What my mother told me, which might not be what most mothers would say, really stuck with me. I’m going to paraphrase it but this is the general idea:

I’m not saying you should try those things but I’m not going to tell you not to either. You’re a very smart boy. I’ve done just about everything that you could do so I know that you’d be alright if you did too. If you really want to try things, I won’t stop you. Just be safe and know I’m always here if you need me.

Ok, I paraphrased a lot.. it was a good talk and it wouldn’t make sense if I told you exactly how it went without context. But I think you get the idea.

Freedom to fail

What my mother gave me was the freedom to fail… at the time, I thought “How strange. Why would a mother tell her son to go ahead and do stuff that he could get addicted to and then… who knows what would happen?”

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that the freedom to fail is the exact the same thing as the freedom to live.

We all know that telling a teenager not to do something is the same thing as pushing them to do it. It’s not until you are given a choice that could shape the rest of your life that you realize a few things:

  1. You are in charge of your destiny. You’ve had control all along… it’s just been pointed out to you.
  2. Others have failed before you. You can follow to gain the same experiences or learn from theirs. It’s your choice and if you’re smart about it, you will gain valuable experiences either way.
  3. You are your own person. You are going to have to make up your mind on your own.
  4. You can only help guide, you can not control. That includes your own children. If your intentions have been good and you’ve done your best, have faith in their decisions.

My mom did have faith in me, even when I did not. Faith that I’d do just fine no matter what decision I made. That’s because she had gotten me to that point where she knew I’d be alright no matter what decision I made.

And in giving me that choice, made a huge impact on who I am today. I see my own children in a way that I know is very different than I would have if I had never had that talk with my mother. I’m not sure if it would be better or worse exactly, just different.

Children of my own

As you know, I have one child with Autism and one without. Would I have the strength, patience and understanding that I have now without my mother having faith in me that day? Possibly, it may have been a little different though.

Autism is one of those things that makes your parenting experience unlike anyone elses. Parenting in general is hard enough but when milestones are missed and all the other challenges that come with Autism, you find that you need to be so much more than the parent that everyone else told you that you’d have to be. It’s so much harder, so much more challenging.

For me though, it’s ok. I learned a long time ago that I have the freedom to fail. Not to fail my children, but to not have the answers. To not be able to be strong every single day of a year’s worth of sleepness nights. To get angry when other parents judge me because my son has a meltdown in public.

It’s not a thicker skin that I’ve developed… it’s that I have a decision, I’ve made a decision. That no matter which decision I make, it’ll be alright. That’s the freedom to fail… that’s the freedom to live.

The world still scares me and I still want to protect my children but I now know that they will be fine. When the time comes, when they are uncertain of themselves… I’ll have faith in them. I know they’ll make the right choice.

The Lesson

She didn’t say it, but she taught me the most valuable lesson I have learned in my entire life, simply by giving me the choice:

  1. I make my own decisions
  2. She has faith in me
  3. If I’m smart, it’ll work out alright no matter what I decide
  4. The freedom to fail is the freedom to live

Love you mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

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How Mario taught me just how much help to give to my children

There are a lot of different parenting styles out there to match a lot of different types of parents. One of the biggest and most obvious differences we see in each other is how much we try to “help” our children.

HelpI put that in quotes because we do all try to help (there are some parents that don’t but that’s another matter). However, some of us don’t do enough and some of us do too much… both of which probably isn’t really helping at all.

If you never help your child, you’re teaching them to be independent but you’re also teaching them they that they can’t depend on you at all. If you help them with everything, you’re teaching them to be dependent for life and never be able to fend for themselves.

There needs to be a healthy balance and I think I’ve found it… in video games.

Mario Dad to the rescue

I’ve posted several times about how my son loves Mario and even how it’s been quite beneficial in his development. It wasn’t until recently that I realized another way in which these games help him… and it’s then that it dawned on me how I can best help him.

In my house, my wife is almost as much of a Mario fan as Cameron is… I’m a fan too but I prefer the much more difficult games, I like the challenge.

As such, when my son gets to a level or a boss that has him stumped, he immediately asks for help. If my wife is unable to help, they call on me and I pick up the controller, beat it and go back to what I was doing.

As I said, it got me to thinking about helping our children in general.

Helping – In the game

The game is a challenge, it’s difficult. Most of it he can manage on his own, he can figure it out. He learns problem solving skills as well as hand-eye coordination.

When it gets too hard, he tries several times but fails. I join him, watch him try and then try it myself.

If it’s a level thing, I do the hard part and promptly give him the controller back to finish the rest of the level himself. If it’s a boss, I just beat the boss and let him collect the reward and move on.

He watches me… 9 times out of 10, this helps him to return to that level or boss and beat it himself next time.

Helping – In real life

Life gets pretty hard sometimes… it’s all relative. For a 5 year old, having to finish all your veggies before you get ice cream is about the equivalent to me having to finish the dishes before I get to watch a movie.

Anyway, sometimes a child (even our adult children) get to a spot in their lives where they’ve tried but are unable to move forward.

He tries several times and fails, I see what he’s trying to accomplish and then I do it for him. Keep in mind, if it’s an issue, just like a game level, I help him overcome the task and give him back the controller to finish the rest.

I give him the exact amount of help necessary to over come the obstacle, making sure he understands what happened so that, should he encounter it again, he can over come it himself, and then I go back to what I was doing before.

Helping – Just the right amount

Your children are going to learn all about failure. Failing is a part of life. You can’t just let them fail at everything they do so that they become stronger but you also can’t protect them from failure for ever either.

Also, if you want your children to help people later in life, you’re going to have to show them how to help. And your children do learn it.

If you do it all for them, the only thing they’ve learned is to keep asking for help… in everything they do.

Not all of us are video game players, but we all have the capacity to help out… thinking about it in terms of those Mario games helped me to strategize and put into practice the way that I can help my children in all things.

Obviously, not all situations will be that simple but I think it makes for a good base for how I approach most situations where my boys need my help.

Do you try to balance how much you help? Do you know parents that over or under do it?

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Autism, Vaccines, Brains, Epidemics, Genes, Wakefield – What does it all mean?

Over the last week, I’ve been tweeting and sharing story after story which only further disproves the whole undying vaccine issue. I’m not sharing them to change anyone’s minds but rather just to share the latest news. But then today, a news story was released that forced me to question whether or not I should be trying to change minds after all.

Measles Invades The U.S.

vaccinesYes, just like last years Whooping Cough story, we have a disease returning to the U.S. that was previously all but wiped out. In this story about the measles, a family decided not to vaccinate their child, took a trip to Poland to pick up another child and brought the measles back with them. Now there are over 1000 people exposed in Utah.

Great, so they decided not to vaccinate their child… is that fair to the 999 other children that are now at risk? The article doesn’t specify but it’s safe to say that some of those children are unvaccinated as well, some may be vaccinated yet still might contract it and very likely, some children are yet too young to be vaccinated… in which case, that is a very scary scenario indeed because children that are too young are at a much higher risk of severe reactions… maybe even death.

Should I be letting that family make their own decisions or should I, in good conscience, be trying to convince that family that really should have been vaccinating their child all along? Perhaps if I (rhetorically of course) had convinced them, this could have been avoided?

I’m going to share the news stories again with you right now and this time, I want to try to show you why these stories are important. Hopefully this will help someone to make the right decision and avoid another outbreak.

Early Brain Overgrowth Linked to Autism

In this study, read more here, it is discovered that children with Autism had a brain size around 10% larger than that of children without Autism. Bigger! Why is this important? Well, first, it is an identifier… anything that helps us identify Autism in children is a plus.

Secondly, if some anti-vaccine people are correct and mercury is a big part of the blame, they’d have some very big explaining to do since one of the symptoms of mercury poisoning is Microcephaly (small head). Also, it should be noted that these are symptoms of methyl-mercury… the stuff that was used in vaccines was ethyl-mercury… which has such a short half life that it’s considered nontoxic.

Children with Autism have larger brains, not smaller heads.

‘Autism Epidemic’ Challenged by UK Study

The biggest fear pill that we’re forced to swallow in every single media/news broadcast is how much the number of Autism cases has risen in the last 20 years. This study, read more here, in the UK, decided to find out if the numbers really have been rising.

Researchers picked 618 random adults (over 16) and performed an assessment on them and what they found was that around 1% of adults did in fact fall on the spectrum.

What has happened is that many people did not know they had Autism, there was no way for them to be diagnosed as children since so very little was known about it back then. And adults today, even if they still feel as though they don’t fit in, find no reason what so ever to question it nor do they see any reason in getting a diagnosis as it would serve no purpose. They’d have the piece of paper but that’s it.

If 1 in 100 people had Autism 16 years ago (remember, the people tested were over 16), and the number is still 1 in 100 right now, then that proves the lack of an ‘epidemic’.

The reason I put that in quotes is important. When I posted the story to Facebook this week, someone asked: “Doesn’t that just mean it has been an epidemic for more years and now we can actually begin to deal with it?”

The answer is no.

The definition of an epidemic: An outbreak of a disease or illness that spreads rapidly among individuals in an area or population at the same time.

Ignoring for a moment that Autism is not a disease (it’s a disorder), we can now prove that Autism does not spread nor is it increasing in numbers. Therefore Autism is most certainly not an epidemic.

What does this have to do with vaccines?

Well, 20 years ago, vaccines had thimerosal, you know, that ethyl-mercury stuff… which should mean that there would be MORE Autism 20 years ago than today since almost all of our vaccines no longer have thimerosal today. Right? We took it out 10 years ago, the number of Autism cases should have gone down.

If we rule that out, then perhaps it’s the number of vaccines given in such a short time. Which, if the epidemic theory was correct, would make sense. But now that we can show that the rate of Autism was around 1 in 100 back then, when children had less vaccines than they do now…. we must conclude that the number of vaccines is not a factor either.

The amount of vaccines have changed, the amount of Autism cases has not.

Researchers identify 18 novel and highly significant genetic markers for ASD

In this article, read more here, researchers have broken down Autism into 4 sub types, and have found 18 genetic markers (10 of which are common to 2 or more sub types) that are common in Autistics.

This is big news because it means that they’re narrowing it down. It also means that they’ve specifically determined that Autism is genetic.

Does it mean that there is no “sub type” that is not more likely to have a reaction to environmental toxins that could resemble or cause Autism? No it does not. However, it does prove that genetically, they’ve already got it… it’s just a matter of having something trigger it and when.

Let me put it another way, if a sub type is one that is classified as having Autism lie dormant until triggered by something in the environment… well then, it’s only a matter of time. If vaccines do trigger it… what’s to say that food chemicals don’t too? or acid rain? Or artificial sweetners? or car exhaust? or cigarette smoke?

You get where I’m going with this? If you’re still worried about mercury after all I’ve told you and you now see that Autism is genetic… then chances are, all those vaccines you skipped will be for nothing once your child takes their first bite of a tuna fish sandwich. There’s far more mercury in there than all the old thimerosal vaccines combined.

It’s genetic… That’s why 1 in 100 adults have it, that’s why 1 in 100 children have it. That’s why their brains are 10% larger rather than having smaller heads. This is all beginning to add up.

But Wakefield told me to be Anti-Vaccine

It may surprise you, but I am linking to Age of Autism this one time because this transcript is actually important to point out. Wakefield, the guy often blamed for the anti-vaccine movement, actually never told anyone not to vaccinate their children.

In that interview, he states:

Ralph Nader was for safer cars .. he wasn’t anti-cars.  I am not anti-vaccine .. the vaccine strategy .. the vaccine policy in this country is not safe .. the safety has never been proven.

….

The safety studies of that vaccine are largely inadequate .. not my words .. the words of an international expert .. “largely inadequate”.   The safety studies have not been done .. I’ve not said “Don’t get vaccinated”.  I strongly advocate for the use of single vaccines.

Bold was added for emphasis.

 

He’s certainly not helped in making that message clear, but it needs to be clear. Whether you believe he is an honest man or he’s a thief that lied so that he could have his own vaccine patent in place to make himself rich… it doesn’t matter. What matters is that even he thinks that you need to vaccinate your children.

Actually, let me say that again… he had a patent for his own vaccine! He simply wanted to have the MMR vaccine split up into 3 separate vaccines, one of which he had a patent for.

Why would he develop a vaccine if he wanted you to not vaccinate?

Conclusion

Whether you feel that the vaccine schedule needs changing (it doesn’t actually, but that’s another matter) or you feel that vaccines need more research or you feel that vaccines need to be ‘greener’…..  do NOT STOP vaccinating your children!!!

Seriously people, there is no way in the world that it’s “healthier” or “safer” to not vaccinate… not in a million years.

Now, I do understand that some people simply can not vaccinate… allergies, adverse reactions or what have you… medical reasons do arise that make it unsafe to do so.

But personal paranoia is not a valid excuse! You can’t risk your child’s health and safety, not to mention other children’s health and safety, based on your own unproven fears.

Get all the information in the world, take what ever safety precautions you feel you need to take but vaccines work. You were vaccinated as a child. They may have saved your life and you didn’t even know it. That’s how they work.

If you’re pro-safety or concerned or what have you, that’s fine. However, if you’re anti-vaccine, to the point of not vaccinating your children at all, I no longer accept your opinion. I no longer accept your freedom to choose. Instead, I’ll do my best to change your mind.

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Confidence for you. Acceptance from everyone else

I do my utmost best to post and tweet and share about Understanding and Acceptance with people around the world. I feel that it’s my way of doing my part to ensure that in the future, life will be a little more fair and just for my child as well as all people with Autism.

Lesson for those without Autism

To the people around the world that do not have Autism or even know anything about Autism, I try to encourage them to gain some understanding such that they can accept those with Autism for who they are and how they are. To give them an equal opportunity to be every bit as much of part of society as I am even if they feel uncomfortable about it.

Perhaps those with Autism will feel more comfortable if everyone would have a bit more understanding and acceptance.. in time, it would balance out. The anxiety would go away and other people’s judgments would go away too.

At least, that’s what I would like to happen. It’s no easy task though.

Lesson for my son and those with Autism

self confidence

Self Confidence

Everyone teaches their child the same lesson: “You can be anything you want to be, if you just believe in yourself.”

These days, when prozac is sold more than any other drug in the world, self confidence is hard to come by. It’s even harder for those with Autism that may feel like they’re living in a world where they don’t fit in, constantly being judged or worse…. where they simply can not exist.

No, I don’t know how I’m going to do it… I don’t even know how I would do it without Autism being in the picture. But I do know that it’s what I have to strive for. It’s what I have to help him strive for.

I know it’s possible though because I believe it. I honestly believe that even if no one ever does gain any understanding or acceptance that my son can and will do just fine. In fact, he’ll be awesome.

The test will be if I can make him believe it…

And when he believes it, he will be awesome, no matter what stands in his way.

In a perfect world

It’s a bit of a contradiction when you think about it… telling everyone to accept those with Autism for who they are and telling those with Autism to not care if anyone else accepts them.

But that is the reality of how it needs to be. My son can do anything, he can be anyone… if he believes it, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

That’s not to say that I want my son or anyone else to be egotistical, but rather that I want them to realize that even a person with Autism that can not speak can go on to be very brilliant, skilled, successful… if they believe it enough. Believing it will allow them to find a way to make it happen.

Before that can happen, we need everyone else to help encourage that, and nurture it. Which means teaching them understanding and acceptance.

It’s a contradiction, it’s a cycle.. we need acceptance to help those with Autism achieve their potential but those with Autism don’t need anyone or anything to reach their potential if they believe in themselves but they need acceptance in order to believe in themselves.

In the end, that’s what it boils down to. Understanding and acceptance from you will give others the strength they need to believe in themselves where they may have lacked it before.

When we all accept it, we all believe it and when we all believe it, they believe it. That’s when the real magic happens.

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