Monthly Archives: April 2013

10 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Independent Life After High School | SKILL #5

We continue our discussion of independent living skills with the fifth item—the ability to go places on their own. Sure, they may need our chauffeuring services for a while, but the goal is for them to make this happen without us.
I remember going bowling with my son when he was little. Then taking him to the bowling alley and watching while he bowled with friends. Eventually I was able to drop him off at the door. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight—in some cases it’ll take years until the child is ready to be cut loose–but plenty of preparation results in lasting benefits.
SKILL #5 – Teach your child to go places independently.
Certainly we don’t want our child to be afraid of exploring his or her own community. Starting when they’re young makes it easier so you can build on mastered skills. Gradually you’ll want to extend the distances. Trust me, your child will be ready for this far before you will be!
Child:             Get the mail, walk to a neighbor’s
                      house, etc.
Pre-teen:        Walk to and from school, a friend’s
                      house, park, library, post office, rec
                      center, etc.
Teen:             Learn how to use public
                            – Be familiar with routes and
                            – Know what the fare is and how
                               to pay it
                            – Know how to buy a pass and
                               request/use a transfer
                       Walk to a nearby store, library,
                       restaurant, cinema, after-school  
The ultimate goal is to create a comfort zone of mobility within the community for your child. Starting early will set you both on the path to success.




The self-reliant individual is a self-confident person. For more strategy ideas, contact me today at


My Quest for the Perfect Study Tool is Over

I’m always on the lookout for a decent online study tool for my son. When I stumbled upon this one, I truly felt I struck gold.     Image

You can study and master virtually anything. A student can make his own sets of flash cards—or study from the millions of sets already there. [Yes, millions!] It’s ridiculous.

My son redeemed himself—and his geometry grade—in a matter of days with the help of these tools. What I really like is that Quizlet offers six different ways to study:

  1. Flash cards
  2. Track progress as you learn
  3. Matching
  4. Spelling [type what you hear]—18 different languages!
  5. Test your knowledge—it’s automatically graded
  6. Play games that earn points by typing in words before definitions vanish from screen. Flash cards even ‘speak’ (in 18 languages)! With the click of a button you can compete with your friends, a study group or just against yourself in learning games that present the same information in a different way to help you master it.

If you’re a visual learner, pay a measly $15 per year to be able to upload visuals. It’s worth it! Otherwise, this is free.

Categories include arts & literature, language & vocabulary, math & science, history & geography, standardized tests, professional & careers—even the written driver’s test from the DMV. Make your own sets or study from sets already there.

Quizlet has free mobile apps, too. And as far as strength in numbers goes, getta loada these:

  • #2 app in the free Education category of the app store
  • #160 website in the U.S.
  • 1,429,568 study sessions today
  • 80,491,444 visitors (last 12 months)
  • 22,568,741 study sets
  • Over 14 million people use Quizlet each month

Oh, and by the way, my endorsement of Quizlet is completely unsolicited. It has made a difference for us and I want to share this info with other parents. A cool footnote is that Quizlet was started in 2005 by a high school sophomore who was studying for a French test. 

Children’s Books on Autism

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of our favorites are here. Having some of these titles available for your child and other family members helps to put a friendlier face on the issue–especially if you’re dealing with a new diagnosis. And these books show kids that they aren’t alone. Having story characters who possess similar traits or behaviors can be a great equalizer. What’s more, these are just good books! Please share your favorites with us.


Happy reading!

Desperately Seeking A Mom…

I’d like to use this space today to do someone a small favor.

This dear woman reached out to me recently, referred by a mutual friend. She happens to be a jewelry stylist, and she wanted to donate some bracelets for Autism Awareness Month. I’m touched by her generosity and The Orange County Asperger’s Support Group benefitted.

She and I exchanged many emails and finally, after our “business” was done, she sent me a note and asked me to help her find someone. If this person is you, please let me know!

She wrote:

“…I told you that I wanted to share a letter with you. I’m ashamed to say that this ‘letter’ took six months to write for no good reason. I wrote it thinking about posting it to my FB because I cannot get this woman—this hero—out of my mind. Here goes:

Early the morning of Monday, October 22, 2012, I was flying from Madison, WI to Chicago on my way to return to California. I had just had a wonderful visit with my mother in Madison and although I was sad to leave her, I was ready to get back home to my family. I was also excited about beginning a new job the next day.

I took the first American flight out that morning—I’m not sure if American has renumbered it since then so I won’t give the flight number. All that I know was that it was dark and once seated nobody on the flight seemed to be awake. As soon as we boarded, shades were drawn and the passengers weren’t even interested in coffee; they didn’t want to wake up quiet yet; instead I guess they were hoping to catch a few last zzzz’s before reaching Chicago and/or flying off to other destinations.

My seat was toward the back of the plane. As I settled in, I became aware of the sound of a children’s cartoon. I smiled to myself thinking, ‘Some little one sure had to get out of bed early.’ Pieces of the cartoon’s melody kept playing over and over to the point where I looked back to see if the DVD was stuck on one track.

The tune was indeed coming from a DVD but I soon realized that the listener was purposely replaying the same tune piece again and again. And, despite my prediction that the one listening was a ‘little one,’ the listener was in fact quite tall and muscular. My guess is that he was between 17 and 25 years old. He seemed to delight in his viewing and was very engaged in both the tune and the fast moving images across the screen.

Next to him was a very tired looking woman about my age. She was quiet and did not read a magazine. She didn’t have an iPad or a computer or knitting—she just sat quietly. She certainly wasn’t able to fall asleep because every minute or two the young man let out the biggest, loudest belly laugh I have ever heard. I couldn’t help but smile thinking that if the whole world laughed like that, there’d be no hate or terrorism.

It was obvious at least to me that the young man had some form of autism. He seemed content in his world and I’m sure that he didn’t intend to disrupt anyone around him.

Except that lovely belly laugh did. After watching two or three passengers craning their necks to get a glimpse of the back two seats in the plane, I wondered, did his mother purposely sit him in the very last seats of the plane thinking that the environment would be less disruptive to him? Less disruptive to the other passengers? I think that most passengers were baffled about the noise because the airplane was dark so it was difficult to make out who the mystery passenger was or what the source of the ‘disruption’ was.

I remember one passenger calling over the flight attendant to ask angrily if ‘she would please tell the passenger who’s making all of the noise to quiet down so we can get some sleep?’ The flight attendant quietly said, ‘No, I don’t think that’s possible. Do you need a blanket?’ Good response, I thought.

I continued to think about that woman—probably the young man’s mother—and wondered about this trip: Did she travel often? (I doubt it). How early did she have to get up to get him ready and in his seat? (Probably earlier than I got up and I got up at 3:30 a.m.) Where were they going? How would the busyness of O’Hare affect him? Because he was such a big guy, would she be able to control him? How would she respond to the stares and whispers?

And I began to imagine her life: When was the last time she had some time alone with her own thoughts without cartoon reruns blaring or those spontaneous outbursts? How much of her life was devoted solely to caring for him? Was she able to have any hobbies? Could she ever enjoy a visit with her mother as I had just done? What was her life like when he became anxious or agitated?

I felt very small as I considered her big act of love and service to her son; the quiet perseverance that she no doubt had; the constant demands on ‘her’ life. Here, I had a tendency to get annoyed at the tiniest things and run out of energy after doing practically nothing. She probably didn’t have those luxuries.

My row departed the plane before she and her son got off. I was hoping to at least give her a kind smile and possible words of encouragement and tell her that I enjoyed her son’s laugh, but I lost track of them.

I saw them through the crowd at O’Hare. She was walking quietly beside her son who was looking down at the DVD player he was holding and spontaneously laughing. I smiled.

I told myself that I would find her and write a note to her of encouragement, but of course ‘things’ got in my way. This is that letter.

As a stylist for Stella and Dot, I would like to gift her with an item for our Autism Awareness Collection (photo below). Proceeds go to the HollyRod Foundation. It would be my honor to recognize what a special woman she is and to thank her son for letting me know what a real belly laugh sounds like.”

So I’m posting this in hopes of finding this woman. She likely lives in the Madison area since the American Airlines flight originated there, or maybe she was visiting the same time as my friend. Again the flight was the morning of Oct. 22, 2012. 


Stella and Dot Autism Spirit bracelet.

This is the “spirit” bracelet which denotes the wonderful yet complicated beauty of autism. Twenty percent of these sales goes to the HollyRod Foundation [] to support autism.

If you’re not familiar with Stella and Dot, you can get more information on the stylist’s webpage:


Do something caring and kind for our dear Earth today and everyday.


10 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Independent Life After High School | SKILL #4

With graduation season not far off, we are reminded of the importance of transition to independent adult life. Think of the various things you do to organize your household—then figure out if your teen could do the same for him or herself.   Image
Our focus on transitions resumes with this fourth installment of ways to prepare your child for life after high school. How many times have you said, “I was going to do that today, but the day just got away from me…”? It’s no secret that keeping track of everything can be a challenge for the best of us. For sure, it’s a skill set that our kids have to be taught. It’s all about planning ahead. Helpful supports include calendars, planners, a system of reminders or alarms, or technology such as a Smartphone, iPad or the like. [It’s a fact: schedule use is one of the best predictors of employment success.]
So teach your child to design and maintain schedules for different areas of his life: school assignments, leisure time, chores, personal hygiene.
SKILL #4 – Teach your child to organize his time, tasks and things.
Some other things to think about:
You’ll be surprised how having an orderly life can reduce anxiety. Start teaching these skills now! For more tips or an individualized program, contact me today!

Getting Caught with Your Zipper Down…

My son wears his jackets zipped all the way up to the top. Always. And it’s uncomfortable for him to wear a button down shirt—opened—over a T-shirt. I could never figure it out. And he was never open to my suggestions of doing differently.

ImageThen a psychologist who works with adolescents and young adults on the spectrum recently explained that it’s a common behavior of kids with ASDs.

I decided to broach the topic again, using a system I developed for talking to my son when I want to get him to consider changing a behavior.

Step 1:  Set the Mood    I don’t know about you, but I’m much more reasonable when my stomach is full, my surroundings are familiar and the tone is safe and positive. So I ask him to sit down with me for 10 minutes [or less] to relax—and I dish up a yummy snack for both of us.

Step 2:  Acknowledge    Lovingly state the obvious. Hey, I notice that you enjoy wearing your hoodies zipped all the way up—whether it’s cold or not. It must feel right to you.

Step 3:  Wait for Response         

Step 4:  Suggest              Regardless of his response, I again acknowledge it and then move on to a suggestion. Lots of people wear their hoodies zipped about ¾ of the way up. You might want to give that a try. It’s a cool look.

Step 5:  Wait for Response

Step 6:  Conclude             Wrap it up, be calm. Let me know how that goes for you.

About a week after our ‘talk’ I overheard him say to his dad, “Notice how I’m wearing my jacket now? I only zip it this far.” Good thing I let my husband in on what I was doing. Otherwise I know he’d be scratching his head!    Image

I honestly think he wasn’t aware of the options available to him. He’s rather black and white about things. Either the jacket is on and zipped completely, or it’s off. There’s nothing in between. But we’re gradually introducing gray to his color palette. And we do it with love and without judgment.

Fear of the unknown

Anticipatory anxiety. My son struggles with it. I struggle with his struggle. And I try to help.  Image

When I see he’s getting overwhelmed or frazzled, I try my best to stay calm because the last thing I want to do is fuel the fire. Here are some of the ways I try to defuse it:

  • Provide positive supports—visual [photos of favorite things] or auditory [music] or simply offer to help.
  • Try to turn the negative anticipation/expectation into positive anticipation. This fear of the unknown is just that—unknown. So it could be something good just as easily as it could be something bad. I try to be optimistic; many times that attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that’s always nice!
  • Redirect or distract—instead of exacerbating the issue by listening to your racing heart or spiraling out of control, I like to have a quote or saying—a new one each day—that keeps me in a positive mode. It could be a video clip that lifts you up. One thing my son likes is a widget I put on his desktop: it’s a picture frame. And all the photos/visuals stored in his computer’s ‘My Pictures’ file play continuously like a slideshow. I put movie-related things here, i.e. pictures of movie directors, actors, scenes from movies, movie posters and so on. [This helps keep him from going off-track and logging onto Once he does that, he’s lost forever.]
  • And finally, I ask a question: If this is an overwhelming, upsetting feeling, what gives you a comforting, good feeling? What can you look forward to? Visualize that to help push you through the anxiety.  Image

Simply having someone talk to you in a relaxed, unruffled manner does wonders when you’re in an agitated state. [But the other night my son was too far gone so my husband encouraged him to yell out or scream if it would make him feel better. I’m glad he didn’t yell—but probably just having the permission to do so made it okay. After lots of pacing and machinations and drama, he was ready to listen. Then we did the redirect step and won him back.]

A little TLC goes a long way, too. I like to end with some loving, supportive words dished up with a little snack.

Ahhh, another crisis averted. Sort of.

What are some strategies you use with your kids?

ARM will be at Irvine Resource Fair, April 18 – STOP BY AND SAY HELLO!

Be sure to stop by the ARM | Autism Resource Mom table at the upcoming IUSD CAC RESOURCE FAIR.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 – 6-8:30pm    Irvine High School Gymnasium, 4321 Walnut Ave., Irvine.



Fun Activities for Families Dealing with Autism


Aquarium of the Pacific: Autism Family Night
5:00-9:00 p.m. (Last Monday every month)
$12.95 for adult and $5 for children.


ImagePretend City: Family Autism Day
5:00 – 7:30 p.m. (Last Monday every month)

                                                                  RSVP needed–call 949-428-3900 x233. FREE 


ImageAMC: Sensory Friendly Movie

Selected AMC Theatres nationwide

• Kids can get up, walk around, talk, dance, sing or whatever they need to do, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the safety of other guests.
• Moviegoers can bring their own snacks.
Lights on throughout the movie.
Sound lowered throughout the movie.



Soul At Home: Yoga for Teens with Autism
3:30-4:30 p.m. (every Thursday)


ImageAST: Games/Movie Night (Santa Ana and Culver City)

5:30-9:30 p.m. (First Friday of each month)

Kids enjoy an evening of games, movies and gluten-free pizza!

RSVP needed. Contact: Shawna (866) 278-6264 or

Have fun!