PBS KIDS to Air Autism-Related Episodes of Popular Children's Shows

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To help promote autism awareness, acceptance and understanding, PBS Kids will be airing autism-themed episodes of several popular children’s shows throughout April, Autism Awareness Month.

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These Popular Kids’ Shows Will Have Autism-related Episodes in April!

Starting April 10, Autism Awareness Month, PBS KIDS will air a lineup of autism-themed episodes.

These episodes will help promote autism awareness, acceptance and understanding.

The lineup begins with a new episode of “Sesame Street,” that introduces Julia, a muppet on the spectrum.

Episodes of “Dinosaur Train” and “Arthur” will also be featured.

April 10, Sesame Street “Meet Julia”

April 10, Dinosaur Train “Junior Conductors Academy”

April 10, Arthur “When Carl Met George/D.W. Swims With the Fishes”

April 11, Arthur “Pets and Pests/Go Fly a Kite”

April 12, Arthur “Carl’s Concerto/Too Much of a Good Thing”

April 13, Arthur “He Said, He Said/Bunny Trouble”

We hope this spreads acceptance this April — and beyond!

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This Local Business Provides More Than Just Workplace Training for Autistic Adults

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Beneficial Beans Cafe and Garden provide workplace training and raise funds for adults on the spectrum.

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This Local Business Provides More Than Just Workplace Training for Autistic Adults

Beneficial Beans Cafe and Beneficial Beans Garden are located in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Their 12-week training program prepares individuals for community-based employment.

Employees learn time and task management, customer service, attention to detail and how to respond to change and feedback.

100% of the garden’s proceeds benefit adults on the spectrum.

The program was created by Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC).

SARRC hopes raise funds and foster job skills for autistic adults.

“They taught me that I can do anything, especially with the coffee, that I put my mind to,” -Kristopher Wipprecht, Beneficial Beans Garden And Cafe Intern

To learn more, visit autismcenter.org/beneficial-beans.

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My Son's Awesome Response About the Autistic Power Ranger

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Hot on the heels of the recent reveal that “Sesame Street” has their first autistic Muppet, there is a re-boot of the “Power Rangers Movie.” And you’ve guessed it, one of the Power Rangers is autistic.

As a parent of kids with autism, one who is a 9-year-old Power Rangers fan — I literally squealed with excitement when I heard the news.

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are back! A group of ordinary school kids find themselves instilled with alien powers they must master as a team to save the world. Among one of those “ordinary kids” is one with autism.  This didn’t really strike home until I told my son, Anthony, about it.

“Anthony, you know the ‘Power Rangers’ movie that’s coming out soon?”

“Ohhhh yes.”

“Well, this is really exciting — the Blue Ranger has autism, like you. He will be a bit like you.”

“Oh mom, that will just make him even more like me.”

Then I listened as my amazing son told me the ways in which he is already like a Power Ranger.

1. He is brave.

Anthony struggles with several challenges. He is brave to get over his fears and worries every day.

2. He is strong.

Take a boy with autism and ADHD who spends all day jumping about and you get someone fit. He’s no longer losing weight due to his medication, so he is lean and strong — not unlike the Power Rangers.

3. He wants to help and protect people.

OK, he was beginning to pull at my heartstrings, but it’s true. Anthony tries to protect everyone. He seems desperate to keep everyone safe. The best way he tries to do this is by helping others follow the rules and his general empathy far exceeds what you may think you’d find in a 9-year-old boy with autism. He even wanted to protect the kids who bullied him at school so they wouldn’t get into trouble.

4. He moves fast.

Anthony loves speed. Roller coasters, driving on motor ways, he’s even into motor sports himself. It’s as if he should have been born on a planet with a faster spin. When he’s rushing around the house, he’s almost a blur.

5. He’s good at fighting.

OK, that sounds a bit of a disaster but it’s not, really. Both Anthony and his brother David are on the autistic spectrum and they are both sensory seekers. It’s a bit like having an itch that you need to scratch I guess. But it’s not an itch, it’s a need for pressure or loud noises or something else that stimulates their senses. This means they seek out touch and contact — hugs, rolling and rough and tumble play are in abundance in our house.

And my absolute favorite which I’m paraphrasing for comprehension:

6. “I’m not the same as everyone else and it can be difficult sometimes, but I’m still best when I’m myself.”

The Power Rangers are special and they are different from the other kids in school. This means they have to take on evil aliens and protect the world. But being who they are makes them stronger in their battles and leads them to victory. And at the end of the day, even though they are different, they’re also just kids who go to school.

Yes Anthony, you are awesome.

Needless to say, my eldest boy is super excited the “Power Rangers Movie” has just come out. Well done to those involved in the making of the movie, who made it even more relatable for our lad. His only suggestion was if he’d chosen a Ranger to be autistic it would be the red one, but only because red is his favorite color.

Follow this journey at Rainbows are too Beautiful

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The Little Ways We Show Our Daughter on the Spectrum How Loved She Is

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I have been reflecting on love. Both how my princess shows this and how we ensure she feels and understands love. My princess has trouble showing any affection. As an example, the rarity of hugs is so sparse I only can remember a handful this past 12 months. Once at Christmas time and another before her surgery late last year. 

We don’t look for the “l love you, Dad” or the big embrace, nor the vocal approval, gestures or small niceties. The notion of sameness, predictability, safety is what is sought, and this is what is given. This gesture of love is received, and we see this love in her through reduced anxiety, her huge smile and her ability to adapt and overcome the little things because she knows it’s pleasing to her mum and dad.

The receipt of love is quite simple: it’s called adjustment, acceptance and seeking out ways our princess feels safe and protected. Love is seen again through her engagement and interaction with her siblings. The fighting and distance subsides, and closeness and plays enter the room. The rare and extraordinary occasion is celebrated not with balloons, high fives and cake; but instead, we have a quiet word, huge praise and a well done. In our family, love is infrequently verbalized from the children. Reserved with their feelings, it’s difficult to gauge where they are at and to explore their feelings further. We deliberately express our love loudly to all our kids with text messages, verbal “I love you”s and extravagant hugs.

The “I love you” is an important routine. It’s nonnegotiable. We want our kids to feel and know they are loved. Even though it may sound forced and at times unwanted or difficult to give, the message is important, and even though hard to ascertain, appreciated or at best tolerated. We have been exploring other ways to express our love for the kids, in particular, our princess, a girl who often misses social cues and prefers her company. We have had success recently, and although we have not seen many words exchanged we defiantly have seen love exchanged.

I have spoken several times of Jenna’s grandparent’s (my mum and dad) and the deliberate learning curve they journeyed after hearing of Jenna’s autism diagnosis. The questions, study, and willingness to learn has been nothing short of a Godsend for us. We went from feeling we were doing this all on our own to having a family that openly accepted Jenna for who she is and loves her the same regardless.

I thought I’d share some of the little but extraordinary feats they did to demonstrate the love they have for her. They brought a house 18 months ago and had discussions with Jenna about her wishes and what she would like in a house. Jenna’s response was “I want my own bedroom.” A huge ask and a huge imposition — I thought, “They will humor the idea but be unable to follow though,” as the request was vast and impractical. Mum and Dad set up a bedroom for Jenna shortly after buying the house. The bedroom became her safe place, a place her dolls live, a place to change clothes, etc. But it was bigger than this to Jenna. This bedroom was a place to escape the noise and in turn a place to be noisy. Mum and Dad created an extension of her home with them. They expressed to her she belonged, she was loved. Mum and Dad let me parent my child and coped with the meltdowns and extreme behaviors. They loved her and made it OK for her to express herself or be anxious. It doesn’t stop there, though. After a meltdown, Jenna is always quite sheepish, embarrassed and at times ashamed. Mum and Dad always took the time to understand the why. They also made the time talk to her and help her work through other ways to express concerns.

It’s an obscure way to show love, but one of my favorites and one Grandad takes much pride in is teaching our princess sarcasm, which often passes her by, sometimes leaving her embarrassed or uncomfortable. Dad patiently takes the time to explore the hidden meanings of jokes and even gets her to practice on him her latest script she is learning. In addition, Mum and Dad take the time to listen to her jokes. They laugh with her, not at her, and connect with her at her level. This is a special and dear time that she doesn’t do with any other people.

The little things scream “I love you” to Jenna. There is always Zooper Doopers in the freezer. Being a fussy eater, Mum and Dad have learned her staples of party meat pies and mac and cheese. It’s always offered, and it’s never too much trouble to cook her a separate meal or allow her to eat after the others have finished.

My favorite expression of love this year is time. Mum and Dad have invested in our princess. They have been there for her, changed plans for her and made room in their house for her. Because of this investment we have seen an acceleration of her skill set that we thought was years away. They’ve shown her love by giving her the best gift ever, time. Thanks, Mum and Dad.

Follow this journey on My ASD Princess.

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Learning to 'Let Go' and Watch My Son on the Autism Spectrum Be Independent

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Being a “helicopter mom” wasn’t something I planned on. I always knew I would stay home for a few years, if possible, but surly I wouldn’t have a problem with hiring babysitters and dropping the kids off for a few nights out or some quality time with my husband. This all changed when we realized our oldest son wasn’t processing verbal communication and other social queues, leading to an autism diagnosis.

We are currently just over two years into our journey, and our daily life and routines seem “normal” to us, and our son is thriving. We have arrived at a place of accepting the challenges, and it’s becoming our family norm, however out of the blue, a new set of fears and anxiety appeared with a vengeance, which seems to be the trend in parenting regardless of your child’s needs. You find your stride and then a new challenge, task or fear will set in with a new stage in parenting.

I have found this new “independent” child my most fearful stage thus far.

My son who struggled so much around age 2-3 has thrived so much in his two years of therapy and ear surgery. On many days we don’t think twice about his diagnosis nor notice he is different from many of his peers. Many of our friends at school and their parents don’t know of his ongoing journey with autism, and he is in a class with many friends and is so outgoing and very loving. He plays games and talks to his peers, he makes fart nosies and makes jokes and goes to the movie theater to see the latest animated flicks. I find myself getting teary eyed over things that are so simple, yet seeing him be connected and truly into activities, friends and having meaningful conversations is something I still am taken back by at times. This was the first year he stood up and performed at his Christmas concert at preschool without running off stage, trying to knock over the podium or simply seeing us in the audience and immediately coming over to sit with us.

With all of his accomplishments and milestones I can’t help but also be going through by far the most challenging stage, filled with fear and anxiety and it’s overwhelming. I must learn to let the “leash” out a little, just a little, giving him room to explore and play like other kids, alone, without me.

Even during the days when I was so scared about never hearing a sentence come out of his mouth and wondering if he would be able to communicate back and forth with us, I at least knew he would be safe. I was always there. I didn’t leave his side for the first three and a half years, ever. When I did leave him it was in organized and set circumstances with my parents or at school with his aide. Milo does great in environments he has already gone through. He needs to check everything out, open every drawer, look in every closet and throughly inspect his surrounding. He has mastered the maps of our local zoo, museums and friends’ and families’ houses as well as his preschool. He is in his bubble of comfort, or should I say “my bubble of comfort”?

My husband and I have always been constantly “on” him because he would run. He was a wind-up toy always wound. The moment you would put him down he was off. One day we wanted to see how far he would get from us at the beach (it was empty) without him looking back. We never got the chance to see when he would look back because he never did, and he kept running. I think he would have gone for miles if we would have let him. Another evening we went for a swim at out local athletic club. We were all sitting around the table eating dinner, my husband, myself, my parents and both my kids. We were in the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden Milo got up from the table and started walking towards the pool. My husband got up and we both started yelling his name to stop. We were just feet away from him and sure enough he walked straight into the pool. He was 2 and a half. We quickly got him out, and I remember my mom saying in a surprised voice, “He just walked straight in to the pool!” I smiled and just said, “Yep,” and started packing up our things to immediately leave and get everyone safe in the car, as it usually took me awhile to recover from safety events going wrong. It reminded me too much of what could happen if we weren’t always “on.”

These are just two stories of many that could have turned out really bad. We have “lost him” at our complex while walking the dog while my husband turned to say hi to neighbors, we have “lost him” when he ran ahead a little too far and ducked into the bathroom at the zoo. We never take our eyes off him, and yet he has found many opportunities to slip away. As he gets older, as he grows and develops into a little boy who wants more independence I’m trying to learn to accept that he is not that little boy/toddler who always ran away. He is now almost 5, he is very responsible, loves rules and for the most part follows them. He is learning boundaries, and I will try my hardest to let him have acceptable boundaries. My mind will never forget the little boy he was, and the sleepless nights that had faded away are returning with the notion that he is growing up and wanting independence.

He is not that boy anymore, but the lines are blurred for me of what “was” and what “is.” As we sign him up for kindergarten I find myself anxious and full of fear, for his school now has 60 kids and his new school will have 600. As he asks to play with the neighborhood kids his age or walk up to his aunt’s and uncle’s house, I find myself worried and not able to breathe if I can’t be there or see him.

I have recently signed him up for summer camps and other programs that don’t warrant me being with him. I know this is so important for his development, however I’m constantly in a state of worry. And I know I need to let a little bit of that go. I need to trust him. He deserves it, he has earned it, he deserves to discover and explore without the constant hovering of eyes watching his every move.

I keep reminding myself this is why we do what we do hours of therapy — therapy that is fun, engaging and has totally helped him learn to check in with us and follow rules, and although I’m not sure when I will let go more, for now I’m happy to say I’m trying. Inch by inch. I’m not comfortable with it, but as they say “great things never come from comfort zones.”

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Thinkstock photo by Murchundra

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On Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month, Accept I Am Autistic

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April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month, and I want to focus on the acceptance.

It has been about a year since I received the blessing of a late diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I wish to be accepted for all of what it means for me to be autistic. It means different things for different people on the spectrum. What does it mean for me?

I wish to be accepted for my difficulty when it comes to making eye contact. Please know I am listening carefully when you speak — possibly more carefully than other people you know. I wish to be accepted for having big emotions — even though you might think I don’t have any at all. And along with that, I wish for others to understand sometimes I have severe difficulty regulating those emotions. In fact, I used to self-harm; now I stim.

I hope you understand that while I have great empathy (I am vegan for the animals, after all), I sometimes struggle with theory-of-mind. This makes it difficult for me to know where you are “coming from.” I hope you know I am still capable of love — very much so.

Please accept I personally know a heck of a lot about a little. I have restricted interests and would love to talk with you for hours about them. I will also try my best to be interested in what your passions happen to be.

Most of all, accept I am autistic. Don’t assume I am neurotypical because I appear “normal,” hold a job, have an apartment, etc. I work very hard for these things and am very conscious of the efforts I put forth to achieve what many neurotypicals could take for granted. Embrace the fact I am different, and be embraced for your differences, too.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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