Sunday, April 29, 2012

And the Honor Goes To....

Sometimes having a child with Autism isn't all bad.  Sometimes it can make you burst with pride, and want to shout from the mountain tops.  Katie brought home a letter from her middle school, announcing that she has been accepted into the National Junior Honor Society.  About a month ago, she had received a letter explaining that her gradepoint made her eligible for consideration.  But the Honor Society is about more than just grades, so she had to fill out an application form and write 2 different essays.  They also look at activities that you belong to in school and in the community, and also service projects that you have been a part of.  Katie was very dedicated to completing this form, and worked really hard on the essays as well.  After turning in her paperwork, the waiting game began.  Then, a few weeks later, it was official.  She will be inducted at the end of May in a ceremony at her school.

My oldest daughter is very intelligent.  She was also accepted into the Honor Society, and has been active in the organization ever since.  But, without taking anything away from her, or any other child in the Honor Society, it is a completely different feeling for me to see Katie be accepted by this group.  To sit back and remember that Katie didn't even talk until she was almost 5, to think that she used to have to ride a bus for almost an hour to go to a special school for autism, and now look at her.  Not only is she back in our home school district, but to excel in her studies on top of all that.  I understand that her work is modified for her.  I understand that she has some limitations in certain areas.  But she is applying herself to the tasks given to her, and working hard to do her very best.  She has her challenges that she struggles with, but she also has areas where she can really shine. 

I have always found with Katie that any milestone she reaches is always a rollercoaster ride for me.  I am naturally a sentimental person, I cry at preschool graduations and dances, first days of school and 5th grade camp.  Milestones are bittersweet.  They not only signify a big step in a lifetime, but they also show how far a child has come.  For Katie somehow they also magnify how different she is than other children her age.  I don't let her know how I am feeling inside, but sometimes I really struggle with important events.  Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking "how would life be different" if Katie didn't have Autism.  But, like I have said before (and blogged before), if Katie wasn't Autistic, she wouldn't be Katie, and I wouldn't be me.

This milestone of Katie being in the Honor Society is different than other steps she has taken.  This, for me, is all happy.  It is all good.  It is all proud.  There is nothing about this event that makes me sad, or makes me gloomy or causes me to ponder life.  I think it is because I honestly never even thought about her being in the Honor Society.  I don't mean I didn't think she would make it if she applied, it just never even crossed my mind.  I wasn't anxiously awaiting the letter in the mail, or sweating it out to see if she was eligible.  In this case, I guess ignorance was bliss. 

If you take a good look at the application, Katie is perfect for the Honor Society.  Aside from her honor role grades, she is very active in her community.  We actually ran out of room on the application when we were listing her service project activities.  My parents are extremely involved with their Kiwanis club, and always take my kids on their projects.  This means Katie and her sisters spend alot of time helping others.  They ring the Salvation Army bell at Christmas, deliver food and clothes to the local shelters, pack up meals for Kids Against Hunger, and help with the Easter Egg hunt.  My parents have instilled in my children the love of helping others and serving them.  Another requirement Katie had to fullfill was activities.  She has always been involved with the local Autism group, doing bowling and soccer.  She also was a cheerleader for our church, helped out at Bible school, and was a school safety.

When we completed Katie's application, it really made me pause.  Here is this child, burdened with a lifelong disablity, but not letting it hold her back for one minute.  She is not sitting at home, lost in her own world.  She is out there, living life, making friends, helping others and blowing everyone away by her charm and her smile.  Living life does not come easily to her.  School and rules and socialization and fun and common sense are not automatic for her.  Sometimes I wonder if the sky is the limit for her.  Not only because she wants to live her life to the fullest, but also because she doesn't think of herself as having limitations.  So why should I?  Why should I think she has limitations and difficulties and trials and tribulations if she doesn't see that in herself? 

I honestly hope that Katie being inductied into the Honor Society does not make some parents mad.  I hope that they don't think, "My kid is smarter than her", or "Her work is modified" or "They just let her in to be nice and she doesn't deserve it".  The Honor Society is about more than good grades, which by the way, she does get.  It is about integrity and character and service and involvement, all qualities that Katie has.  I hope they also realize that it is not a competition.  Just because Katie got in, does not mean that she took a different child's spot.   I know I don't have to justify this to anyone, but I felt that it needed to be said.  Because sometimes, in our Adventures in Autism, some people don't understand just how far that Katie has traveled.  How hard that she has worked.  How much she has struggled.  I am so proud of her!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Good Girls Gone Bad

Katie got off the bus the other day with her head hanging down.  That is never a good sign.  Usually it means that she lost something, or got her clothes dirty, or forgot her spelling words in her desk at school.  She even came home looking guilty one time because a classmate had gotten into trouble.  This time it was more serious.  My good girl has gone bad.

"Mom, I got detention," she told me with tears in her eyes.  I won't go into details about the how and why, but let's just say she was into someone else's business.  Nosing around where she shouldn't of been.  Now, frequent readers of my blog know that this is a common problem that occurs around my house.  Katie is constantly in my business, looking through my calendar, reading my emails, searching my text messages.  She is always rooting through her sisters cabinets and drawers, closets and dressers, making them all crazy in the process.  My youngest daughter has threatened to put a lock on her bedroom (which would not work out too well, because she shares a room with Katie).  I am sure they feel as violated as I do, although they make more of a fuss over it.  No one in our house has any privacy with Katie around. 

She also has a habit of listening in on conversations, "evesdropping" around corners, and drawing her own conclusions from what she hears.  She will often fly off the handle, hysterical, over what she thinks is going on, when she couldn't be farther from the truth.  Any time she overhears that someone is in the hospital, or going to the doctor, she screams, "They died!"  Although I shouldn't have to explain myself to her, sometimes I have to tell her what is going on, just to calm her down.  If she hears someone fighting, that means to her they are getting divorced.  If I am complaining about someone, she thinks I hate them.  The whole process of dealing with her overexaggerating everything can be exhausting to say the least.  Not to mention that she repeats bits of conversations that she hears when it is inappropriate.  A few years ago her teachers learned that when they were gossiping about someone, they shouldn't do it in front of Katie.  She might not look like she is paying attention, but she is. 

The funniest part of all of this is that she is very up front and honest about it.  I don't believe that she is deliberate in her snooping and evesdropping.  I think she is just curious, observant, and has a hard time controlling the impulses that drive her to do these things.  I am not saying she is an innocent angel, I am just saying that I don't think she is sneaky or devious about it.  She will be the first to admit what she has done, and she will also tell on herself.  "Mom, I saw in your calendar that we are going out to eat!" Or, "Grandma says we are all going on vacation together!" 

My husband was very worried that having a detention would freak Katie out.  He thought she would cry and carry on, and blow the whole thing out of proportion.  Amazingly enough, she handled it very well.  We talked about what she did wrong, and why it was wrong.  We talked about why it deserved a detention, and what to expect during the detention.  I gave her a punishment for doing something wrong, and she tried to weasel out of it and make her own punishment.  Then we talked about why she had to stick to that, and not talk her way out of it.  It was so hard for me to make her go through with it all.  It would have been much easier on all of us to just have her say, "I am sorry", do her time at school, and be done with it.  But I knew if I did that, she would never learn the consequences of her actions.  She would always think that a punishment could be talked out of if you cried hard enough.  And my other daughters would see the whole thing and think that Katie gets away with everything.  That is not a good example for them.  I have tried to raise Katie just as I have raised them, and I can't change that now. 

So my good girl did her time.  It was only a lunch detention, but she served it, and I think she actually enjoyed it.  I think it made her feel a little grown up, especially when I told her that I had detention when I was in middle school too.  It showed her that sometimes good people make mistakes too, but just because you are a good person, that doesn't mean that you don't have to take account for your actions.  And just because you get in trouble and make mistakes, it doesn't turn a good person into a bad person.  We all make mistakes.  We all have to pay the price for them.  Then we can move forward in our lives, and hopefully learn something from the situation.  Sometimes our Adventures in Autism gets us in trouble, but down the road, it can make for an interesting story, a funny anecdote, and some street cred.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Instruction Manual

Don't you wish kids came with an instruction manual?  A reasonable instruction manual, that had clear, colorful pictures, and was easy to follow.  Step by step instructions, a "trouble-shooter" guide, maybe an index and glossary.  Don't you wish there was a 24 hour help line to call?  I mean, besides calling your mother or the doctor a million times.  I really wish there was an Autism Help Line.  I wish there was a friendly mother-type who was manning the phones, that could answer any question that I might have, and solve any little problem that might come up.  Answer the questions without making me feel stupid, or selfish, or uncaring.  I wish I had that 10 years ago when Katie was first diagnosed with Autism.  Instead, I felt alone, scared, and utterly helpless.  I felt like the weight of the Autism world would crush me, and that I would fail my daughter.

I am not sure how this happens, but over the years I have had many people referred to me for help.  Newly diagnosed autistic children, their parents somehow get my number and call me.  I have spent many hours talking to moms and dads, most of which I had never met (and still never have met).  I have counselled them, given them advice, listened to their stories, and tried my best to assure them that they will make it through.  I do not have a special degree in autism, I have not been formally trained, but since I had been through it myself, since I am living it day to day, caring relatives and friends have sent them to me.  I obviously don't give them any sort of medical advice, I give them the advice that I wish someone had given to me.  I give them the step by step instruction manual that I have never written down, but has served me well.

Step 1:  If you suspect that there is something wrong with your child, sit down with your partner and talk about it.  Talk about your concerns and what specifically is worrying you as soon as you notice it.  Yes, some people overreact, but wouldn't you rather know for sure if something is wrong, than let time go by just because you don't want to "cause a stir" or be labelled as a "crazy parent".  Talk about your concerns with your partner, and see what they have to say.  See if they have noticed things, and write all of this down.  That way, if you have to approach a professional later, you will remember exactly what you need to say.  So many times people have gotten nervous during the doctors visits, and forget everything that was bothering them.  Write it down, talk about it, don't be afraid to ask others who are close to your child for their opinion.  But prepare yourself to hear something that you might not be comfortable with.  If you ask, keep an open mind to what they have to say, and write down their concerns as well.  All this information will help the doctor later on.  There is not a definitive test for autism, most of the diagnosis will be based on observations, so if you have written down what you have seen at home, it will really help in the process later.

Step 2: Start the conversation with your family doctor or pediatrician.  Do this sooner, rather than later.  If your child does have Autism of any type, early intervention will be the best possible help for them.  You do not want to waste a lot of time being embarrassed to ask questions.  If you do not agree with what the doctor says, feel free to go for a second opinion.  During this time, do some research into what autism is.  There are many websites online that have specific descriptions, questionnaires, and resources available.  Look into as much as you can.  If your child does not get an autism diagnosis at this time, keep watching them and observing what made you uncomfortable before, and feel free to keep consulting your doctor on their progress.  Not all children suspected of autism actually have it.  Some have other issues, some are just different children.  Be ok with that.  But keep on top of things. 

Step 3:  If your child is diagnosed with autism, find out what resources are available to you in your area.  If your child is still young, sometimes there are early intervention programs through the school district.  Call your district and find out.  Sometimes districts consolidate their resources and you might have to go to another city.  If your child is school age, you will want to consult with your district about creating an Individual Education Plan for them, which is a meeting that you will go to with your child's teacher, and other staff that will assist your child with their education needs.  These meetings will be held annually, to assess if your child's needs are being met.  These IEP's are basically a legal contract between you and the school system, to say what resources will be provided to your child. 

Step 4:  Keep an open mind to your child's other needs as well, including their mental health needs.  Some children will need to see a specialist in one area or another, possibly a social worker, or psychologist, sometimes a nutritionist or speech therapist.  Hopefully either your family doctor or the school district can help you determine where else you might need to go for assistance.  At some point, some autistic children also are benefited by certain medications for anxiety, depression, compulsive behaviors, and other issues.  As a parent, you might have to make some tough decisions on whether or not you think medication is right for your child.  And keep in mind, their needs will change as they get older.  They might start developing different habits, behaviors, and obsessions as they grow.  What works for a 4 year old may not work for them when they are 14, or 24. 

Step 5: Bring your child into the world as much as you can.  This sounds easier said than done, and it is easier for some than others.  But they belong in the world as much as anyone else, and autism awareness is out there.  Don't be afraid to say to strangers that are staring , "She is having a bad day today, she has autism", while your child is having a tantrum.  I have known crabby old ladies, who have been glaring at me in church, to bless me and my child when I turn to them and tell them she is autistic.  Do you have to do this?  No, but it makes it a lot easier when people are kinder to you. And people are kinder when they are aware, and the only way you can make them aware is by telling them.  Bring your child to the store.  Bring your child to the movies.  Bring your child out to dinner.  Bring them on vacation.  But also find you child activities that are autism friendly.  Find a local organization that has sports or clubs for them.  Then they can laugh and play and grow and be themselves with others like them.

Step 6:  Don't forget about yourself, your partner, or your other children.  Take time for you, carve out some time that is just yours.  Do not wrap your life around this child so completely that you loose yourself, and resent them in turn.  Do the same for your partner.  Take care of each other.  Spend alone time together.  So many people end up divorced over things like this.  Also, make sure that you find some one-on-one time for your other children.  Make sure that they know that they are important, and special.  Let them know that you understand how hard it is to have an autistic sibling, but make sure they also know how special that autistic sibling is.  Teach them all to love each other and help each other and accept each other, but also recognize when they need a break. 

Step 7: Hold your autistic child to the same rules as everyone else.  Bedtime is bedtime.  No means no.  Time outs are time outs.  Chores need to be done.  Manners need to be followed.  If you follow this step from the beginning, it will really benefit everyone later on.  When they get to school, they will understand rules.  When you hold them to the same standards, your other children will be able to see that everyone is loved equally.  Of course your autistic child will need different standards, different guidelines, different consequences.  But if you start from day 1 raising them just as you are your other children, but altering for their understanding and needs, it will be so much easier in the end.  I am not an expert on Autism, I just know what I know from living it day to day.  What works for me and Katie may not work for you.  But take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  There are many of us living the Adventures in Autism together.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slumber Party

I am nervous. Katie is on her very first friend sleepover. This is a huge deal for her, and she feels so grown up. Her friend, who is 17 and also has a form of autism, is like Katie in many ways, but different in others. Her mother suggested having a sleepover a few months ago, since her daughter has never had a friend spend the night, and we thought this might be the perfect opportunity. Since she knows how Katie can be, and Katie won't be bothered by anything out of the ordinary that her daughter might do, we decided to try it. My oldest daughter also loves that family, so she was invited along too. That made me feel better that she could help Katie out with whatever she might need, and also be there for emergency purposes. Autistic children tend to create different emergencies that other people might not understand. Like dinner not being on time, or dogs barking, or drinking too much pop at nighttime.

Sleepovers are an intregal part of the growing up process. They foster independence, solidify friendships, create long-lasting memories, and produce endless pictures to remember them by. My rule for my children was that, unless it was family, they had to be in 4 th grade to have, or go on, sleepovers. My oldest has had endless friends over. They make cookies, walk up to the corner store, make movies, watch tv, plan their lives, and eat non- stop. My youngest just began the sleepover years, and could not wait to get started. We even framed a picture of her and her friend at the first sleepover. Katie, however, has never experienced the fun. One reason is that she talks herself to sleep every night for a few hours. What friend would put up with that? Another reason is that I don't know if the friend, or the family, would be able to handle the random issues that Katie creates. To see her for a few hours in school, or in sports, or at church is one thing. But Katie, 24 hours worth, is quite another.

I trust my friend. We have spend endless hours discussing our daughters and their issues. I have heard many stories about what she deals with, and she has heard mine. I know that whatever Katie might come up with, my friend has probably already seen and dealt with, with her own daughter. And if she hasn't seen this specific problem, at least she won't get rattled or spooked or horrified by it. So what exactly am I expecting Katie to do that is so horrible? I have no idea, but it is going to keep me up tonight. Because, even if I am confident in my friends ability to handle Katie, and even though my oldest daughter is with her, I am still terrified by the fact that she is spending the night at a friends house. Don't ask me to explain it, because I can't. People who know me understand this about me. It is just like the night before school starts. You know the school, you have met the teacher, you love the classmates, but you are still nervous for them. I was the same way before she went to her first middle school dance. She was excited, there were plenty of chaperones, her friends were there with her, and all I wanted to do was hide behind the door and peek in to watch.

It is a bittersweet moment for sure. Bitter because you just never know how she is going to act. Bitter because so many things could go wrong. Bitter because it is a step closer to growing up. Bitter because this is only her first sleepover and her little sister has already had 3. Bitter because she has never been invited by other friends, even if I wouldn't let her go. Bitter because, although her older sister is ther as a friend, I wouldn't have let her go without her big sister to watch over her. But sweet, so sweet. Sweet because there is a special, special family out there that we have so much in common with. Sweet because she has a friend that loves her for being Katie, and Katie loves her back. Sweet because my oldest daughter is there, watching her, protecting her, but also encouraging her to live her life big. Sweet because sleepovers are part of being a grown up girl, and she wants to be a grown up girl so very much. Sweet because my friend has been texting me constantly, so I know that Katie is having the time of her life.

Sometimes I stop and look at Katies life. It is no so different from other girls her age. She might not have a lot of friends, but the friends that she does have are very good to her. She might not talk on the phone all the time, but she does have girlfriends call to chat. She might not live on the computer, but she loves to send, and receive, emails. She is growing up in bits and pieces. Slower than some, faster than others, but just right for her. In about 3 inches she will be taller than me. She already can wear my clothes and most of my shoes. As scary as all of this is to me, I want her to become a teenager as easily as she can. I want her to do everything that she wants to do, be in whatever club or sport or event that she wants to try. I guarantee that she will find her niche in life and become comfortable in her own shoes, regardless of how scary her journey is for me. I love that she is on a sleepover right now. I love that my friend and her daughter welcomed her into their home unconditionally. I am not going to sleep tonight, because even though Katie's Adventures in Autism are thrilling to her, I white knuckle it all the way.

Monday, April 9, 2012


The Easter Bunny was very good to Katie this year.  He brought her a new Disney blanket, the Muppets movie, some toys from Disney "Cars", a bunch of candy, and some Pepsi.  There were a few other small presents, and she was thrilled with all of her gifts.  The Easter Bunny still comes to our house, and so does Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  Obviously, my oldest daughter is in on the situation, but my youngest still believes, and so does Katie.  I am hoping that she will always believe in the wonderful childhood stories that most kids grow out of way before they get to middle school.  I can only imagine that sometime, in the next few years, someone either at school or somewhere will clue her in to the harsh reality of the world.  But is it too much to wish that it never happens?  Is it too much to hope that she will always stay innocent, and believe in fairies and gold at the end of the rainbow and Disney magic?

I don't want Katie to stay young forever.  I don't want her to be naive about the world, I don't think that would do her any good.  I certainly hope that she doesn't get hurt by her believing in fairy tale things, but there is just something special when your children get excited about the holidays and the fantasy characters that appear and bring them treats and presents.  The whole world gets a little magical, and we can forget about our busy lives for awhile if we stop to focus on the special times that we share together.  My father in law will tell you I never want my kids to grow up, and in some ways this might be true.  I am looking forward to seeing what kind of adults that they will turn out to be, at the same time wishing they could slow down a little and enjoy the youth that they are quickly leaving behind. 

Katie is in a different category, though, and I imagine no matter how old she gets, there will always be a certain innocence that will never go away.  That can help her and hurt her at the same time.  It can help her by always focusing on the good in people, and believing them to be kind and gracious to her.  It can hurt her when all of the goodness turns out to be a lie, or worse, if there is no goodness at all.  I think she will have a hard time understanding cruelty.  I believe that it is out there, and she has been exposed to it, but I don't think she recognizes it for what it is.  I can't be there for her all the time, protecting her.  In fact, when she is in school, she is away from me more than she is with me.  I have to trust that she is safe and happy, and make sure that when she comes home, I find out all about her day and whats worries or troubles her.  If I think that there is something going on, I have to get to the bottom of the issue and make it right the best that I can.

I have a very happy child who genuinely enjoys her life.  I am very fortunate in that, because sometimes Autism can manifest itself with anger or aggression, or sadness or anxiety.  Katie has her issues, don't get me wrong, but I think I was given a very special gift in Katie's personality.  Maybe one of the concessions I am receiving, in return for being a mother of an autistic child, is that she will always be innocent and always believe in all the fun things that childhood creates.  If this is the case, imagine how much fun it will be when her sisters are older and have children.  When they come over for Christmas, "Aunt Katie" will be right in there with them, sitting on Santa's lap, baking him cookies, writing him letters, and listening for the reindeer footsteps on the rooftops.  Who wouldn't want an aunt like that?  I am excited, and also terrified, to see what sort of adult Katie will turn out to be.  Will our adventures in autism take us to Disney, watching for Tinker Bell flying through the sky, or will Katie loose her innocence like every one else?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Light It Up Blue - Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness month, as I am sure you all know.  It seems that autism is the "in" thing right now, and people everywhere are jumping on the bandwagon to support it.  April 2nd was "light it up blue" night, and people nationwide put blue lightbulbs in their porchlights.  Several well known buildings and structures also lit up blue.  This month you will see people with their puzzle piece ribbons and pins, bracelets and necklaces.  But how can YOU support autism awareness?  How can YOU personally make a difference, show that you care?

There are quite a few autism charities and organizations that are in need of support.  Autism Speaks, the Autism Society of America, and Jacks Place for Autism are just a few if you are looking for more of making a financial contribution.  They do research, are advocates for the children, provide resources and information, and bring the families together.

But what if you personally know someone with autism?  How can you help out?  It all depends on how well you know the family.  If you are close to the family, but not the child, you can do something nice for the whole family.  When a child has autism, the entire family is affected, and sometimes it is nice to acknowledge that fact by recognizing how much they all do for the child.  Sometimes just giving them some recognition goes a long way.  Buying them dinner one night, or making them dinner.  If you feel comfortable enough with the child, you can babysit for a few hours so the parents can go out for some alone time.  Bring the parents a bottle of wine.  Or a case of beer.  Or a gift card out to dinner.  Stay later when the kids are in bed and just let them talk.  Let them vent, let them cry.  Let them voice all their worries and fears that no one ever bothers to ask about.  Let them be weak for a few minutes, since they have spent all day fighting to be strong.  Tell them they are amazing parents.  Tell them that you are there for them. 

And don't forget the siblings!  Sometimes they are in much need of some personal attention.  Take them out for an ice cream, or play a game with them.  Let them know how wonderful they are, and how much good that they do every day by being a sibling to the one with autism.  Let me talk about it.  Let them know you understand how hard it can be, and how unfair it might seem sometimes.  But also let them talk about other things, things that are important to them.  Give them your undivided attention, because that is something they probably don't get alot of.  Ask them questions about their lives, sports, school, friends.  Don't judge them for being selfish or mean if they get angry at autism.  We all do sometimes, and it is nice to have a safe place to let it out.

As for the child with autism, what can you do for them personally?  It all depends on the child, how well you know them, and what makes them tick (or go off like a time bomb).  If you are close to them, spend some quality time with them.  Connect with them on a personal level.  Find out what interests them, and share that together.  You have to be careful to follow their routines and rules and structure, however.  You don't want to force yourself on them, thinking you are doing your good deed, but completely freaking them out in the process.  Learn what their favorite music is, or movie, or book, or sport.  Bring them something little that represents that, and see where that leads.  Take it slow and follow their cues.  You can do more harm than good if you are trying to bond with an autistic child and you are not paying attentions to what they need, or want, or like.  You can freak them out in a second if you come on too strong.  Watch their eyes, and their hands, and their face.  Be careful of body contact.  Some crave it, some are horrified by it.  If you don't know, please ask first.  If you are trying to connect with them and it doesn't seem to be working, don't get frustrated or mad.  Stop and take a look at why it isn't working.  Sometimes it takes them a while to warm up to you.  Sometimes you might think you have made no impact at all, but later they will be talking all about you and everything you said and did.  I have seen that happen so many times.

All of these things may seem so small, and they may not seem like important things to do for autism awareness month.  But they are huge, and they get right to the heart of autism awareness.  All of these things are YOU showing that you are aware of autism, and you want to help out and support those affected where they need it most.  They need it in the day to day activities.  They need to know that they are not alone.  You can go to a big rally, or walk in a walk, or write a big check, but at the end of the day, autism is still there.  Sometimes the little gestures mean so much more.  And they are never forgotten.  I remember every time someone has done something for me and Katie, and my family.  I remember every conversation, every hug, every listening ear. 

There are a few things that you do not want to do, or to say, to families affected by autism.  You do not want to tell them they are lucky to have other children.  You do not want to tell them, "But they look so normal!"  Please do not tell them about every article and news story and internet link that deals with autism.  Sometimes we do not want to read about it any more.  Sometimes we do not want to see what others like us are going through.  At some point we might want to reach out and see how others deal with autism, but I know in the early years, if I saw one more magazine clipping about autism, I would cry.  I didn't want to watch it on TV because I lived it every day.  It is easier now, but you never know what point the family might be at.  Never assume someone is autistic just because of their behavior or speech.  Don't ask their family if they are.  If they want you to know, they will tell you.  Sometimes the family is in denial, or sometimes there isn't anything wrong with them at all.  You can't assume you know what autism looks like, and you might end up offending a lot of people that way.  Don't force your good deeds upon families affected by autims.  If you want to offer to babysit, or cook, or do whatever, please offer.  But also know when to accept a "no, thank you" without being offended.  Sometimes others good deeds just don't fit in with what the child needs or wants.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to support autism awareness.  You don't have to spend any money at all.  Your support, and your kindness, and your patience are the most important things you can give to help us all in our Adventures in Autism.