Archive for May, 2008

Autism One Conference

May 28, 2008

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. My wife and I just returned from the recent Autism One Conference in Chicago. What a great experience this was for us.

It was almost overwhelming to be in a place where we were surrounded by fellow parents of autistic children…to be in a room with others who know exactly how we’re feeling and what it feels like to deal with the early days following the diagnosis.

My mind is still trying to process everything we learned and experienced there so I’m sure I’ll do some follow-up posts later, but here are a few highlights…

The Jenny McCarthy keynote speech was incredible. She was very inspiring and I like how she just kind of tells it like it is. At the end of her speech, they showed a trailer for an upcoming documentary that she’s involved with. I seem to recall at the end of the trailer they showed a website for her film, but at the moment I’m not having success recalling the website or finding it through google.

We went to a social they held one of the nights where we had the opportunity to chat with parents who are members of TACA which is a group that helps parents of autistic children. We were able to chat with people who have kids that are recovered or are recovering. There is no one-size-fits-all scenario when it comes to the different treatments you can do, but it was still good to hear that so many people are having success using the biomedical approach. Sometimes you hear stories of almost instantaneous recovery, but most of the parents told us it’s a slow and steady road, but that if you keep with it, you might be amazed how far your child will go.

I could list all the amazing sessions we sat through by some of the top doctors and minds that are trying to change the course of autism, but the names probably don’t mean much to anyone not affected by autism. I can just say that it was affirming to know that much is being learned about autism.

It was interesting to hear one of the speakers say that 10 years ago he used to go to autism conferences and it looked like a bunch of zombies were walking around…no one had any reason to be hopeful. But this speaker said that this year’s conference in particular was a revelation to him as he saw so many people walking around excited and that there was a real sense of hope and optimism in the air.

After sitting through the sessions and talking with other parents, I feel confident that we’re on the right track with our son. It’s going to take time, but I have a feeling that there are much brighter days ahead for us…and for countless other families that are in a similar situation.

It was also just a great chance for my wife and I to get away together for a few days. Many thanks to Grandma and ‘Pa for watching our little guy. It didn’t take long though (I’d say we were only gone for about 10 minutes or so) before we started wondering what our little guy was up to. It was sure nice to see his adorable little smiling face when we got back.

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Must Love Dogs

May 19, 2008

I’ve never been much of a dog lover. I have nothing against dogs per se. But for some reason, I’ve never been the type of guy who wants to own a dog, pet a dog, pick up a dog’s poop, etc. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve actually been somewhat afraid of dogs and usually try to keep my distance from them. If I’m out walking and see a dog, I’ll usually cross to the other side of the street and try not to make eye contact with them. Perhaps they won’t smell my fear and won’t come to attack me.

It’s not like I had some kind of run-in with a dog that has left me scarred. I’ve never been bitten or chased by a dog. My earliest memory of being scared of a dog was when I was just a little fella and I went fishing with family. I saw a dog pee on some tires and I freaked out and made my Dad hold me. Side note…isn’t it weird the stuff you remember? I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday but I will always remember that dog peeing on those tires. Luckily the tires didn’t belong to us, so no harm, no foul I guess.

There are so many similarities between my son and I. We have the same feet, same nose, same chiseled good looks, same love of a good poop, the ability to take forever to put socks on, etc. But one thing my son is doing now I know he’s not getting from me….he seems to absolutely love dogs.

We’ve been going for walks just about every evening the past few weeks after dinner. Along the way we usually see at least 3 or 4 dogs. There’s one in particular that gets pretty close to us because the dog’s yard has one of those invisible fences. When that dog sees us he keeps running back and forth and barking like crazy. The first time this happened I thought my son would get upset or not even notice, but instead he started laughing and laughing. Every time we pass a dog now, he laughs as hard as he can. When we get past the dog, he’ll crane his neck around to get one last good look at the mutt.

Yesterday we had a nice walk and when we got home, my son was running around the driveway and the yard. A little dog from across the street came running over (the dog’s name is Jackson which is kind of a neat name for a dog I think). Jackson practically tackled my son and he just laughed and laughed (my son, not the dog). Jackson was licking him and climbing all over him. My son was so gentle with him and was just having the time of his life. Watching him with Jackson gave me a glimpse into what a ‘normal’ life must be like. For those few minutes, I wasn’t thinking about autism, or life lessons, or anything. It was just a little boy having lots of fun with a little dog.

Where did he get this love of dogs from? As you now know, not from me of course. I’ve certainly never wished dogs ill will and I’ve never taken part in an illegal dog fighting operation, but my son has never seen me give a dog too much attention. My wife had some dogs growing up, but she’s never shown any desire for us to have one now.

But our little guy just loves these four-legged little creatures. I wouldn’t bet on us owning one anytime soon (we can barely keep the carpet clean the way it is). But maybe we’ll have to pay Jackson a visit from time to time.

Down the Drain

May 14, 2008

As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve begun to go ‘green’ in our home to keep as many toxins away from our little son as we can. So far this has mainly entailed buying organic food and switching to more natural cleaners.

The other day I got one of my first tests when I discovered the bathroom sink was clogged. In the past I would have just poured some Drano or Liquid Plumber down there and we would be good to go. But I know that stuff must be pretty nasty as there’s all sorts of warnings on the bottle and it’s been known to stink up the house pretty bad.

So off to the internet I went in search of a ‘natural’ way to unclog that drain. Now I know you’re probably thinking, “Wouldn’t the most natural method be just to pull out the junk yourself that’s in the drain?” Well, yes and no. First off, I pulled out what I could but it was pretty gross and that didn’t get everything. Also, I’m not too confident in my handyman abilities so the less poking around I do in the drain the better.

I had a sneaking suspicion that a little baking soda and/or vinegar might do the trick. It seems like one or both of those items can pretty much do anything. Seriously, you can use baking soda as a dentifrice (that’s what it says on the package…I love that word too…would be a good name for a metal band), to put out fires, to wash garbage cans, deodorize the fridge, make clay, etc.

And vinegar’s nobody’s fool either. A barber once told me I could put some vinegar on my sideburns to moisturize them. I never tried it but I’d bet it would work and I would smell great too. Also another great name for a band (the vinegar sideburns).

I ended up following some of the advice I found here and by using about a cup of baking soda and a cup of white vinegar followed 15 minutes later with some hot water, I had a clear drain in no time! Eat your heart out Drano!

It was a cheap, safe way to get the job done. Plus, when you pour the vinegar in after the baking soda, you get a cool, lava-like science experiment to enjoy for a few seconds. My luck though and the vinegar/baking soda combo will eat my pipes away or something. But for now it was a success.

Excuse me now while I go lather up those sideburns…..

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 11, 2008

I’ve been having a hard time finding the words to say how amazing a mother my wife is. She’s been great since the day we brought my son home, but I’ve seen her really shine ever since we’ve been dealing with autism in our lives. All mothers deserve a nice day today, but man these mothers of autistic children should get a little extra recognition today.

My wife does everything for our family. I love you hon and I hope you have a great day!

I think Al Gore would like us

May 5, 2008

I’ve had to come face-to-face with a rather ‘inconvenient truth’ lately. I shop at natural food stores now. I’ve become ‘one of those guys.’

You know the guys I mean. Shopping for granola, buying natural products, wearing their hair in a ponytail regardless of their age, wearing Birkenstocks with wooly socks.

Ok, well I don’t have a ponytail yet (that could take years to grow…maybe I could get a clip-on one?), and I don’t like to wear sandals (although in the spirit of telling the truth, I did use to wear socks with sandals a few years back until I was teased by our office secretary.)

I am a shopper now though at natural and organic grocery stores. Now that our son is on an organic, gluten/casein free diet, this is a necessity. We can get some stuff at our regular grocery store, but these special stores have so much more.

The first time my wife and I went to one to look for stuff for our son, I almost had the feeling I imagine one has going into an adult bookstore for the first time (not that I would know). What would I find in there? Should I make eye contact with anyone else? What if someone I know sees me going in there?

Ok, so it’s not like it’s embarrassing to go to a natural food store. But I know I used to think it was odd when a former co-worker of mine was eating organic stuff. He would always have some kind of drink with a weird name, lot of sprouts and tofu, and he even used something called “Tom’s of Maine toothpaste.” Well, as of a few days ago our house proudly contains some of “Tom’s” toothpaste (just for our son though, I’m being defiant and still using Crest.)

The first few times we shopped there I got a kick out of all the ‘earthy’ people I encountered. There’s really a few categories these shoppers fall into. There’s the middle-aged ponytail guys I already mentioned, there’s the really old couples who are rail-thin and are always looking at things like flax and/or natural toilet paper (which is one thing I think I’d definitely have a hard time buying. I’m all for the environment, but my butt needs a little more than sandpaper to get the job done). There’s also the goth-type looking chicks too who are kind of pale and look like they could use a hamburger.

The last few times we’ve gone though, I feel a bit more comfortable there. The more I’m learning about all the crap that’s in our regular foods, the more I appreciate a store like this. I thought we would be doing this organic thing just for our son, but I would probably do well to limit my intake of arsenic and other hormones that are in our foods. I’m hairy enough the way it is, the last thing I need is to accidentally get some more testosterone or something from a cow.

I appreciate that these people who own these stores and shop there are trying to do something to make us healthier and to save the environment a bit. I have quite a ways to go before I can be considered totally ‘green’ but just in the last couple of weeks our family has switched to natural cleaners and our food is definitely a lot better too.

So if you’re scared to go into a natural food store, don’t be. As far as I can tell, no one will bite you, and in fact I think I get a lot more smiles from people than I do at the regular stores. And now I know where to go if I ever decide to replace my deodorant with a pumice stone.