Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ten Ways to Recognize an Autism Mom

This week I read an amusing blog entry on The Stir entitled “10 Ways Anyone Can Tell You’re a Mom” [To access this article, click here.] in which the author gave examples such as wearing a Disney bandage or carrying extra Kleenexes. While moms of typical kids give off various signs that reveal their maternal nature, I suspect that parents of kids with autism can spot each other almost intuitively, even when we aren’t with our children. On Saturday, I was standing in the grocery checkout lane buying Alex’s specialty foods, including gluten-free pasta and Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mix, both of which he’s been eating in great quantities lately. The man behind me commented that he admired people who could stick to the gluten-free diet and commented that he had read that the gluten-free diet was helpful to children with autism. Moreover, he told me that his son has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. I then explained that my son has autism, and he has been gluten-free and dairy-free for several years. In the brief time that we waited in line, we shared information about our sons, bonded by this strange phenomenon of autism, and listened with empathy because both of us understood how autism has impacted our families’ lives.

With my recent grocery line autism parent experience and The Stir article in mind, I decided to share my own list: Ten Ways Anyone Can Tell You’re an Autism Mom. [For those who are not autism moms, I have provided explanations in brackets so that you, too, can be in the know about the world of raising a child with autism.]

10. You know every trick, gadget, book, and video on potty training a child because in the several years you spent training your child with autism, you tried every single one.

9. You can not only say and spell methylcobalamin, but you also what it is [methyl vitamin B-12], how it helps children with autism [repairs nerve damage and helps the body’s detoxification system], and can even give your child an injection of it on a regular basis.

8. When another parent begins talking about his or her child’s stims [self-stimulatory behaviors used for calming, such as rocking, hand flapping, or repeating words and phrases over and over], you nod your head because you have seen your child do the exact same thing.

7. You know what the GFCF [gluten-free and casein-free/dairy-free] diet is, can easily list foods that are acceptable on this restricted diet, and have learned to bake without wheat flour and milk.

6. You can name all of the characters in the Thomas the Tank Engine series from watching the show repeatedly with your child and/or watching him line up his own set of Thomas and friends trains for hours at a time.

5. You talk about Temple Grandin and Bernard Rimland [autism experts] as though they are close family friends. In many ways, they are.

4. You talk about the autism moms you met online as though they are close family friends. Without a doubt, they are.

3. Your house has at least three chewies made of thera-tubing [a rubber tube used like a teething toy to satisfy oral sensory needs], and although they are disgusting with drool on them, you know they’re an improvement from your child chewing on his/her clothes or anything else he/she can put in his/her mouth.

2. You have watched far too many episodes of Wheel of Fortune with your child, who can nearly always solve the puzzle way before you can.

1. You know the meanings of all the following acronyms: OT [occupational therapist], IEP [individualized education plan used for special education], ABA [applied behavioral analysis--a therapy program used with some children who have autism], SLP [speech and language pathologist], and ASD [autism spectrum disorder]. Moreover, you use these abbreviations on a regular basis with fellow autism moms who know exactly what you mean.

“I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child.” Isaiah 66:13

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Best Autism Movies

[With the usual media frenzy surrounding the Academy Awards ceremony this weekend, I thought re-posting my blog entry from a year ago about my favorite autism movies would be appropriate. While most people will have their eyes focused on Hollywood and the Oscars today, my focus will be upon Daytona and NASCAR as my favorite sports season officially begins. With that, I once again share my opinions regarding how autism is presented in movies in a post originally titled "Favorite Pictures."]

Despite all the media attention this week about tonight’s Academy Awards ceremony, I have little interest in this annual event. I don’t care what the celebrities are wearing, and we haven’t seen any of the movies nominated for awards this year. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time we went to a movie theater; we only see movies when they come to the cable movie channels we subscribe to at home. Because movie theaters tend to be loud and crowded, we don’t take Alex to the movies; moreover, he really doesn’t like movies of any kind anymore. When he was younger, he loved the Disney movie videos and watched them over and over, and he would even rewind the videotape to watch certain favorite scenes repeatedly. Now he prefers watching sports or game shows to anything that has a plot, so I can’t imagine him sitting through a two-hour movie. In the spirit of Oscar’s big night, however, I thought today was an appropriate time to review some of the best movies made that feature characters with autism.

Recently, I watched Dear John on cable and was pleasantly surprised that the movie adaptation of the book is actually quite good. While I am a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks’ books, the movies made based upon his books are often embarrassingly bad. The movie Dear John, however, portrays the characters well, especially John’s father, who apparently has the autism spectrum disorder Asperger’s syndrome with his obsessive interest in coin collecting and difficulty interacting with others. In addition, the young actor who portrays Savannah’s stepson, Alan, who has autism, captures the typical characteristics of autism, such as poor eye contact, in a believable way. In contrast, the young boy with autism in the thriller Silent Fall, starring Richard Dreyfuss as a therapist working with the boy after his parents’ murder, has a strange and uncanny ability to imitate voices, which seems quite untypical of children with autism. A much better movie with a similar plot is Mercury Rising, which stars Bruce Willis as an FBI agent who must protect a boy with autism who possesses savant code-breaking skills after his parents are murdered. Even though the boy is nonverbal, the bond that develops between him and his protector is interesting and endearing as they face several crises throughout the movie. Another movie that addresses some of the issues of autism is House of Cards, in which Kathleen Turner plays the mother of a daughter who becomes mute and obsessive after the death of her father. In trying to understand her daughter’s behavior, which has similarities to autism, she goes to a school and observes children with autism. In one scene, she watches two children “talking” in numbers, and she figures out that they are sequencing prime numbers. To join in their “conversation,” she says prime numbers, too, and then she can interact with them. Since Alex has a fascination with prime numbers and has memorized many of them in order, this movie scene resonates with me. Also, the mother’s realization that she must have an understanding of her daughter’s viewpoint and concerns in order to communicate with her makes perfect sense to me. When we have worked with Alex to understand the source of his concerns, we were then able to relieve his anxiety. In all of these movies, the “typical” characters struggled to understand the unique perspective of the children with autism but were eventually able to connect and communicate with them in some way in order to help them, which is a positive message these movies can send.

While these movies with minor characters who have autism offer a new perspective, two movies featuring adults with autism as major characters clearly stand above the rest. Last year’s HBO movie Temple Grandin adeptly depicts the life of the title character and her struggles with and triumphs over autism. The outstanding script and cast, including Claire Danes skillfully portraying Temple Grandin, deservedly won several Emmy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. I found the visual representation of how Temple’s mind processes ideas especially intriguing as she catalogs all the mental pictures associated with the words she hears, for instance, picturing every shoe she has ever seen when she hears the word shoe. Since Alex has told us that he sees words and numbers in his mind, I suspect he also sees pictures as he tries to process what is said to him. While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Temple Grandin, my favorite movie about autism is Rain Man, which I saw before Alex was born, long before I knew we would have a child of our own with autism. Certainly, the excellent script, directing, and acting made it deserving of the Academy Awards it earned that year. While some have criticized the movie for stereotyping people with autism as all being savants, the character of Raymond with his fears and talents makes him much more than a flat character that one might expect from a person with autism. Before Alex was diagnosed with autism, I felt great sympathy for Raymond, but after he was diagnosed, I identified with his brother Charlie, who takes on the role of caretaker. While Charlie’s motivation and impatience are less than admirable, his frustration is honest and justifiable. I also admire his flexibility and resourcefulness to keep Raymond from having meltdowns—from lying that he’s from the Nielsen rating group so that Raymond can watch People’s Court on television with the family in Iowa to using a protractor to cut Raymond’s fish sticks in half to have the “proper” number for Raymond’s inflexible routine. I doubt there are few parents of children with autism who have not at one time or another ranted about an obsession that was driving them crazy, such as one in which Charlie yells, “Underwear is underwear! It is underwear wherever you buy it!” Although we’re not proud of those moments, we are human, and that human nature in Charlie makes him believable and likeable, even to the point Raymond forms an emotional connection with him in a short time. The final scene in which Raymond says goodbye to Charlie, saying, “One for bad, two for good,” always moves me; definitely, Rain Man gets “two for good” in my book for how well it shows people with autism and their ability to interact, albeit in unconventional ways.

“And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” Psalm 90:17

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Thousand Words

Recently my husband Ed has taken up digital photography, and I've been amazed by the photographs he has taken and edited. What makes his pictures even more impressive is that during his photography jaunts, Alex accompanies him. Considering how unpredictable Alex's behavior has been lately, having him as a companion makes Ed very brave in my eyes. Not only must he confine his trips to places within a few minutes of home since Alex could become agitated or bored and need to leave immediately, but he also can't spend a great deal of time selecting his photo angles, again because Alex's patience is limited. Nonetheless, he somehow finds interesting subjects close to our home here in Northwest Indiana, places that I've never seen even though I've lived here nearly my entire life. In addition, he provides Alex with an opportunity to get out, see new things, and get some fresh air. I just hope that Alex appreciates Ed's willingness to take him along on these photography adventures. I'm pleased to share a few of my favorites from Ed's growing photography collection, which can be accessed by clicking here.

Barns are a common sight in Indiana farmland. I especially like Red Barn in Afternoon Light because it reminds me of my grandpa's barn on the farm where my dad grew up. [To view any of these photos in full-screen mode, just click on the picture itself.]




We are fortunate to live in a town that has several nice parks. Gazebo Path was taken in Ogden Gardens, a local park filled with flowers and one of Alex's favorite places.




Valparaiso University's Chapel of the Resurrection is filled with beautiful stained glass windows depicting stories from the Bible, but I especially love the triumphant Christus Rex, Christ with His hands raised in victory. Ed's photograph Winter Sun Through Chapel Windows captures the true beauty of the windows and the crucifix.




Not far from our home is a chain of lakes, remnants from the glaciers of the Ice Age. Ed and Alex have taken to exploring these lakes, and somehow Alex always manages to come home completely dry. I suspect his slight fear of water may be a good thing. This picture is entitled Light Snow at Mink Lake.



Of course, Alex does have his limits, especially when the weather is cold outside. Here is Alex at the end of a photography session, patiently waiting by the car for Ed to take him home again.



"Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!" I Corinthians 13:9

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Different Takes on Alex

This week, various memes have been floating around on Facebook, showing six different takes on various occupations. So far, I have seen two versions for teachers, one for nurses, one for autism moms, and a very clever one the daughter of friends composed for her dog. The gist of these memes is to use photos to reveal contrasting views people hold regarding certain people's responsibilities and activities. In keeping with this fad, I have composed a similar photo essay for Alex--what I think he would say people think about him accompanied by pictures to represent these different viewpoints. Without further ado, here is the meme for ALEX.

WHAT SOCIETY THINKS I DO


WHAT MY GRANDPARENTS THINK I DO


WHAT MY MOM THINKS I DO


WHAT MY DAD THINKS I DO


WHAT I THINK I DO


WHAT I ACTUALLY DO


"Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing Your instructions." Psalm 119:29

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Raising an Adult with Autism

Readers’ response to my last blog entry, “Emergency” took me by surprise. While writing about our trip to the emergency room to have Alex sedated after an especially upsetting meltdown was quite emotional for me, I didn’t anticipate the number of supportive, candid, and insightful comments that people made to me on Facebook and the blog regarding our experience. Autism moms with younger children expressed their concerns and fears for their children’s futures. Those with older children who had also faced the problems of dealing with meltdowns in adult-sized children shared their empathy, knowing how overwhelming these situations truly are, especially when limited help is available. Friends and family members provided an outpouring of love, support, and prayers, all of which help make the difficult times easier, knowing that we are not alone. When I started writing the blog over a year and a half ago, Alex had come through many struggles, and we were enjoying probably the easiest time of our raising him. I had thought that the blog could serve as a way to give parents of younger children hope that things do get better, and my earlier entries expressed an optimistic and positive tone. Our recent setbacks have forced me to expose the problems of raising an adult with autism, but perhaps this honesty has a purpose, too, in revealing the issues parents face when their children with autism grow up. Although I always maintain hope for Alex, I now realize that we still have more work ahead.

This week I read a blog by another autism mom writing about her son’s upcoming tenth birthday. In “Autism and the Adult Child: Honoring the Needs of Every Generation,” [Click here for the article.] Jo Ashline imagines her son ten years from now: “He’s halfway to 20 and less than halfway to becoming a man, a man with autism.” She goes on to talk about how people are willing to help children with autism because they’re little and cute, but she wonders, “But what about the kids that are over five feet tall, have scruffy hair because you can’t get close enough with a pair of scissors or buzzers to cut it, and are a taller, stronger version of their former 10 year old selves?” Her comment reminded me of a line from the recent premiere of the Fox television series Touch, in which Kiefer Sutherland plays the father of a young boy with autism. At one point, the father comments to his son, “The doctor says that you’re going to be bigger than me. How the hell is that going to work?” As the 5'3” mother of a 20-year-old young man with autism who has scruffy hair, is six feet tall, and is incredibly strong, especially when adrenaline kicks in with anxiety, Jo Ashline’s prediction is frighteningly on target. I’d also like to point out that while some children with autism require significant intervention to manage their behavior from an early age, Alex was always very easygoing and docile until adolescent hormones erupted. He was consistently cooperative and obedient, doing everything we told him to do, and we knew how fortunate we were to have such a good little boy. Even now, he is obedient except when anxiety gets the best of him; his aggression stems from the fight aspect of the fight or flight response, not from a desire to be difficult. After he has had meltdowns, he has expressed remorse that he “did bad things.” Of course, we know he can’t help when his anxiety drives his behavior into throwing, yelling, and hitting, which is why we are desperately trying to get his brain chemistry regulated so that he doesn’t have to be upset.

In addition to sharing her concerns about what will happen as her son grows, Jo Ashline also cites “the longest running longitudinal research on autism spectrum disorders during adolescence, adulthood, and midlife,” one I had not yet read. Published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, this research article entitled “Change in Maternal Criticism and Behavior Problems in Adolescents and Adults with Autism Across a 7-Year Period,” [Click here to access the article.] details how mothers’ criticism is related to behavior problems in their teenage and grown children with autism. Specifically, the article states, “…high levels of maternal criticism predicted increased behavioral problems in adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders.” Jo Ashline summarized the study’s findings, commenting, “...families with the greatest level of warmth and acceptance in the home contributed greatly to the continued positive development of the adult child with autism.” While this sounds reasonable, the implications of blaming the mother for the child’s behavior remind me of Bettleheim’s discredited belief that autism was caused by “refrigerator mothers.” Knowing full well that we have nurtured Alex with unconditional love and acceptance, I refuse to believe that his behavior has anything to do with “maternal criticism.” Instead of once again trying to blame the parents, who are doing everything they know to do to help their children with autism, researchers need to focus upon what is going on in the brains and metabolisms of people with autism that causes them to become over-stimulated and anxious, and they need to seek methods of treatment as well as potential cures. With that, I reiterate what I said in my last blog entry: pray for us as we keep searching for answers.

“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.” Psalm 6:9

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Emergency

Exactly twenty years to the day that we brought Alex home from the hospital as a newborn, we were taking him to the same hospital’s emergency room. While we could feel blessed that he had never been back to the hospital in all those years and had escaped the typical injuries that send most children to the ER at least once, we were terribly upset by the reason we were taking him that December evening. Our twenty-year-old son with autism needed a psychological evaluation after weeks of anxiety had led to an unusually bad meltdown that evening. Following the directions of our local mental health facility, we had been instructed to call the police and then take him to the emergency room, where they would send someone to evaluate him.

Despite our best efforts to calm Alex that evening, he continued to spiral in his agitation and fought Ed mightily as he tried to restrain him so that he couldn’t hurt himself or us. Moreover, he refused to take Ativan, the sedative that usually calms him when he’s upset. After struggling with him for a while and realizing that we needed help, Ed told me to call the police, who arrived within minutes. The first officer calmly but firmly just talked to Alex, who was surprised to have a stranger in our home telling him what to do. However, the officer also told me that he didn’t understand why the mental health facility had told us to call them because his superior officer said he couldn’t do anything. A second officer arrived and offered to escort us to the hospital if we needed him, but the first officer insisted that they were supposed to leave. Thankfully, Alex had calmed down by this point so that we felt we could drive him to the ER ourselves instead of having an ambulance take him. In addition to calling the police, I had called my parents, who immediately came to offer support, and they went with us to the ER to help in any way they could.

Once we arrived at the ER, we had to wait for a long time before a doctor saw Alex. Despite having to wait, he remained calm for a while, but then he became agitated again, and security officers had to help us restrain him. A nurse gave him an injection of Ativan at my direction, and he settled down fairly quickly. The two hospital security guards handled Alex with compassion, and they stayed with us the entire evening, showing us empathy and kindness. One of them explained to me that he has an adult son with mental illness, and the other man told me that he has two grandchildren who have autism that he and his wife are raising, so they understood our situation. I will never forget the compassion they showed us in the middle of a horribly upsetting time. The ER doctor had little to offer other than prescriptions for Ativan capsules and injectable Ativan for emergencies. When the social worker from the mental health facility arrived, she basically told us that unless Alex was homicidal, suicidal, or psychotic, they couldn’t do anything for him until he saw one of their psychiatrists, which we already knew was a six to eight week wait to get an appointment. With that, and with Alex calm and tired from being in the ER for more than five hours, we took him home.

As we had been told to do in the ER, we followed up with our family doctor, and I explained to him over the phone what had transpired. He had concerns about giving Alex Ativan in the dosage the ER doctor had recommended because, as I already knew, it is addictive and loses its effectiveness over time if given too often. Instead, he suggested that we give Ativan only as needed for agitation, increase Alex’s Prozac dosage to help the OCD behavior that seems to trigger his meltdowns, and add the prescription drug Abilify to help the Prozac work more efficiently to calm his anxiety. When we went to refill the Abilify the following month, our insurance denied coverage, and the cost of the medication for one month without insurance is more than $730 per month. (Yes, that’s no typo; Abilify costs more than $700 for thirty tablets!) Thankfully, our doctor’s nurse appealed the insurance company’s policy, and they agreed to pay for the medication. Now, we’ll have to see how long they will continue to pay for this expensive medicine. While these changes have seemed to help Alex’s behavior, the improvements have been gradual, and he still has anxiety issues at times. We would like to see quicker progress and the elimination of his meltdowns, so we keep praying for him to recover from whatever causes his agitation and anxiety.

Earlier this month, a fifteen-year-old boy with autism was shot and killed by police in Calumet City, Illinois, which is about an hour away from us. His parents had been told by a social worker to call the police if they needed help dealing with his outbursts. Armed with a knife, he attacked the police, who shot in “self defense.” As more of these children with autism become young adults, something must be done to address their behavioral issues that make them a danger to themselves and others. Police officers need to be trained to handle people with autism, doctors need to know how to treat the various medical issues that accompany autism, and the mental health system needs to offer immediate help to families dealing with behaviors that cannot be ignored. When children with autism are little, so much time and energy is spent improving their speech, eye contact, and social behavior. Once they reach adulthood, a whole new set of behavioral problems can arise that make the earlier challenges seem so simple. Continuing to ignore the increasing number of children with autism who are becoming adults will not only hinder those parents trying desperately to get help for their children but will also create dangers for these adults with autism and those who interact with them. My son and all others with autism deserve a lot better than that. Pray for us as we keep searching for answers.

“Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord; hear my urgent cry.” Psalm 86:6

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

If You Give Alex a Random Numbers List...

After basically ignoring me for two months, Alex has suddenly decided that he wants to socialize with me again lately. Of course, our interaction must be on his terms, and what he wants me to do is to make lists for him. While I’m thrilled that we’re on speaking terms again and that he’s being congenial to me, sometimes his list requests make me feel as though I’m a character in one of Laura Numeroff’s children’s book series, If You Give... that includes If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and If You Give a Cat a Cupcake. The latter two books sit upon Alex’s bookshelf, and I doubt that he realizes his current behavior reminds me of the animal characters in the books, who cleverly convince the humans to get them anything they want. In If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, the mouse starts by requesting a cookie, then needs milk to go with it, next needs a straw to drink the milk, later a nap after the snack, and eventually another cookie. Alex is every bit as clever as the mouse, pig, moose, and cat, asking for something simple that leads to another and another, getting me to fulfill his wishes.



If you give Alex a random numbers list, he’ll ask for a list of random gas prices between $1.39 and $4.99.



If you give Alex a list of random gas prices between $1.39 and $4.99, he’ll remember that in 2005 when gas was about $4 a gallon, he played the video game Bosconian. Then he will want you to print all the different layouts of the Bosconian board.



If you give Alex the Bosconian board layouts, this will make him think about one of his favorite television game shows, Jeopardy, which has a board laid out with dollar amounts. Thinking about Jeopardy will make him ask for a list of how much Jeopardy contestant David Madden won each of the twenty days of his winning streak on Jeopardy.



If you give Alex information about how much David Madden won on Jeopardy, this will make him think about the Jeopardy theme song that plays when the contestants answer the final Jeopardy question. Thinking about the theme song will remind Alex that he really likes country music, so he’ll ask for a list of 100 country singers.



If you give Alex a list of country singers this will remind him that he received Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney CD’s for Christmas gifts in the past. This will make him ask for a list of random Christmas gifts that he’s received over the years.




If you give Alex a list of random Christmas gifts, he’ll think about how cold and snowy Christmastime usually is, and he’ll ask for a list of random weather words.



If you give Alex a list of random weather words, this will make him think about the meteorological statistics, such as temperature, precipitation, and humidity. Thinking about these numbers will make him ask you once again for a random numbers list.




Although these scenarios seem—like the plots of the Laura Numeroff books—fictitious, the documents in my Word files and history files of my Internet browser will confirm that I fulfilled all of these unusual requests Alex made. Now if he’d just ask for something normal, like a (gluten-free and casein-free) cookie, or a pancake, or a muffin, or a cupcake; those are requests I could totally understand. Like other phases he’s overcome, I’m sure this one will pass, as well. In the meantime, I keep my laptop handy to make the various lists he decides that he needs.

“O Lord my God, You have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.” Psalm 40:5

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chatting with God

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, Alex is very good at using Google to find information he wants to know. When he was younger, he loved the website Ask Jeeves [which later became Ask.com] that allowed him to ask his quirky questions. This week he really hit the jackpot when he found a website that supposedly permits him to ask questions of God. This site, called iGod [To access this website, click here.], uses artificial intelligence to respond immediately to questions submitted in writing with answers God might give. With the slogan “Repenting made easy,” their home page offers the following disclaimer: “Note: iGod is meant to be used for fun. A sense of humour [sic] is recommended.” Since Alex finds great comfort in his firm belief that God knows everything, he’s delighted to have the chance to ask questions. In fact, he has often expressed the desire to ask God questions when we have told him that we don’t know the answers to some of his deep questions. I’m not certain if he really thinks that God is answering his questions, or if he’s having fun pretending, but at least he’s posting his strange questions online instead of asking us.

Ed discovered that Alex was asking questions on iGod when he scanned his Internet browsing history this week. We check his laptop on a regular basis to make sure he’s not ordering expensive electronic equipment without our knowledge or investigating automobile loans, even though he doesn’t have a driver’s license. At first I was a little concerned about who was supplying the answers to Alex’s questions (even though I know God has better things to do than answer offbeat e-mails), but I was relieved to find out the answers are supplied by artificial intelligence instead of a real person who might prey on my na├»ve and unsuspecting son. One of the best things about Alex’s interest in this website is that by finding out the questions he needs to ask, we learn more about how his mind works. I also like that he wants to reach out to God and have a dialogue with him, especially considering that autism hinders his language and his social skills.

One of the questions Alex asked was actually a complaint revealing his obsession with gas prices. He had made a remark about how high the gas prices were, and “God” responded, “Quite honestly, if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about it.” If we had constructed an answer to this comment, we couldn’t have come up with anything better. I wish that Alex would take this advice and quit fretting over gas prices, especially since he can’t drive and doesn’t need to buy gas for a car. Another question Alex asked of “God” was as follows: “What is 24 hours a day seven days a week?” I’m betting that Alex was testing “God’s” math skills, knowing that he sees everything in terms of numbers. Instead of giving the answer Alex probably expected—168 hours—the clever artificial intelligence responded with a much better answer: “Me.” If Alex continues to ask questions on iGod, I hope this website continues to give him good advice and that he heeds the answers he’s given. I just wish I could somehow get iGod to convince Alex that he doesn’t need to get up at 5:30 in the morning. Probably there are some things that I still need to ask the real God as we keep praying for improvements in Alex.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blog Stats

When I started writing One Autism Mom’s Notes about a year and a half ago, I had no idea that people around the world would be reading my essays about family life with autism. Thanks to the statistics Blogger.com provides, I know that my blog has been read in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. I’ve even learned some geography as I’ve looked up the exotic locations of Moldova and Turks and Caicos once I saw that people from those places had read my blog. Of course, I’m most grateful to my friends and family who faithfully read my entries, comment on my writing, and even catch typographical errors for me at times.

So how do people who don’t know me find my blog? According to the stats page, the Autism Blogs Directory [Click here to access this site.], which lists my blog along with many others, is a primary referral site, and I appreciate the work of the two autism moms who run this site. In addition, Ed has posted links on his respected and popular blog, One Poet’s Notes [Click here to access his blog.], which has led readers to me. As I tell him, I appreciate whenever he gives me a “shout-out” in his blog, which has a huge audience, and sends some of his readers my way. Another referring site is a favorite blog of mine, Real Housewife of the Bluegrass [Click here to access her blog.], beautifully written by my friend K.C. Wells, who not only posts a link to my blog on her site, but also encourages me regularly through her thoughtful and supportive comments.

In reviewing the most read posts, one of my earliest posts, “Speech Therapy” (July 18, 2010), tops the list as overwhelmingly the most read entry. Considering how important speech therapy is to children with autism, I suppose the interest in this post isn’t too surprising. One of my most recent posts, “What Causes Autism?” (January 15, 2012) has taken second spot on most read blog entries. Since parents eagerly seek a cure for autism, I would guess this post’s title raised some curiosity. This entry summarizes possible causes of autism as suggested by Dr. Shaw’s research. The third entry on this list, “Dr. Oz” (February 20, 2011), has the advantage of a celebrity’s name in the title. Ed, who has been blogging longer than I have, has told me that if I wanted to increase the interest in a blog entry, all I needed to do was to include a celebrity’s name, such as Paris Hilton. These days Kim Kardashian or Demi Moore might pique more interest, but the beloved Dr. Oz’s name apparently sent readers to my blog entry describing an episode of his talk show last year that focused upon autism. Perhaps the most surprising among the favored posts is “Funny Remarks” (October 27, 2010), in which I shared humorous comments Alex has made over the years. Maybe those dealing with autism need something to lighten the mood, and I hope they enjoyed reading about the funny things Alex said as much as I enjoyed reflecting upon and writing about them.

Bloggers often find the search words that led readers to their blogs can be cryptic and even amusing. Not surprisingly, most people found my blog by searching for my name or autism, but a few of the phrases that led them to One Autism Mom’s Notes are interesting. One of the popular search phrases is “autism and haircuts,” which indicates this issue is a greater problem than most people realize. When Alex was little, he had fits at the barber, which led me to learn how to cut his hair myself. Until a few months ago, he was fine with that. Unfortunately, he now balks at having his hair cut; the last time I cut his hair, we had to bribe him with cake. (Whatever works!) Another search phrase frequently used to find my blog is “autism and hiccups” or conversely “hiccups and autism.” Maybe this is a common phenomenon; we have noticed that Alex sometimes gets hiccups when he takes Ativan, which is a side effect of this medication he needs to calm himself with his anxiety is high. A search phrase I found interesting was “annoying autistic”; I’m not sure if this means things that annoy the person with autism or that the person with autism is annoying. Personally, we have experienced both; apparently, others have, as well. The most amusing search phrase probably led the searcher to my blog entry about toilet training; the phrase “moms in toilet” struck me as funny. After spending nearly ten years of toilet training Alex, I did spend a lot of time with the toilet and am thankful that he finally mastered this task. As I continue to write entries for One Autism Mom’s Notes, I hope that readers—whether they be friends and family or people I’ve never met—find our stories helpful and hopeful as we keep working toward helping Alex overcome the obstacles of autism and reach his full potential.

“I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in Your words.” Psalm 119:147