When I find things that are helpful, I like to share this information with others, hoping that they, like me, can benefit. Whether these tips are good recipes, clever ways to do tasks, or useful gadgets, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make life easier and better. As the new year begins, I would like to share three good tips I’ve recently discovered that may be of use to others, as well.
First, I’ve adapted a recipe for a dessert that has become Alex’s favorite. Because he is on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, typically I have to make desserts from scratch for him. Also, his current preference for foods that are cool and smooth means that I must consider the texture of the dessert carefully. When he requested some type of pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving, I started looking online for recipes that might satisfy his restrictive dietary and sensory concerns. After some searching and making a few changes, I hit upon a light and fluffy dessert on the Taste of Home website Alex absolutely loves, rewarding my efforts.
To make pumpkin pudding whip, add ¾ cup of non-dairy milk (I use So Delicious vanilla coconut milk.) to a 3.4 oz. package of Jello instant vanilla pudding and use an electric mixer to combine for one minute on medium speed. Next, add one half of a 15 oz. can of pure pumpkin and ½ teaspoon McCormick pumpkin pie spice and mix together. Then add one half of a 9 oz. container of frozen nondairy whipped topping that has thawed in the refrigerator (I use So Delicious dairy-free Coco Whip coconut whipped topping.) and combine with the other ingredients and refrigerate. This recipe can easily be doubled, too. If dairy is not a dietary issue, use 1½ cups regular milk and 1½ cups of Cool Whip topping instead. (Nondairy milk is more watery, so less is required to make the proper texture.) I appreciate how quick and easy this dessert is to make, and the taste and texture are perfect for Alex, who has eaten pumpkin pudding whip every evening for dessert since Thanksgiving.
Another tip I’d like to share is how to address cards to families who have adult children with autism living at home with them. (For that matter, this would be true if the adult children living at home did not have autism.) When we received Christmas cards this year, I was a bit surprised and a little hurt when some cards were addressed only to Ed and me, even though I feel certain that the senders knew Alex still lives at home with us. If someone were not sure whether an adult child were still living in the family home, cards could be simply addressed to the last name (e.g. "The Byrnes") or to the family (e.g. "The Byrne Family"). This would be appropriate even if adult children were no longer living at home.
Two relatives came up with quite clever ways to include Alex in a special way. My cousin sent Alex his own Christmas card separately, which made him feel especially grown-up. In addition, knowing that he is interested in weather, she added a note about the current temperature in her town. We liked the special touch she gave in acknowledging Alex and remembering his fondness for numbers and meteorology. Our nephew’s wife was also very clever in addressing our family Christmas card to “Alex Byrne and Family.” By making him the center of the family, which he is, he felt quite special to have the card specifically addressed to him. Again, we appreciated such thoughtfulness in remembering him at Christmastime.
Finally, I recently found a useful gadget that could prove very helpful in an emergency situation. Since Alex and I enjoy watching television shows about fire stations and hospitals, I began thinking about what might happen if we were ever in an automobile accident. I remembered seeing a label that could be attached to the seat belt as a way of identifying the passenger as having autism. This way, first responders would know why the passenger may be behaving in an untypical way. A Google search took me to the spot where I had seen these seat belt labels, the National Autism Association's Little Shop of Hope. [To access this online store, please click here.]
Known as a Help Belt-Safety Alert Seat Belt Cover, this bright red fabric label wraps around any seatbelt and snaps in the back. On the front is written the following information: “PERSON WITH AUTISM/May Not Respond to Verbal Commands/Open for Info.” Inside the label is a plastic pouch containing a pre-printed form that can be filled out to detail information regarding the person’s name, address, phone number, emergency contact information, and medical information, such as medications. This would be extremely helpful in an emergency situation to have this information readily available.
In addition, these useful safety devices are quite reasonably priced at $8.00 each plus $1.50 for shipping and handling. For less than twenty dollars, I ordered one for each of our cars and was pleased that they arrived in less than a week. After filling out the information sheets and placing them in the secure plastic pouches, I attached one to the front passenger seat of my car and the other to the back seat of Ed’s car, where Alex rides. If Alex were going someplace with my parents or his caregiver, we could easily detach the label from one of our cars and temporarily transfer it to another car. While I hope no one ever needs to use this safety alert device, I feel better knowing that this information is handy in the event of an emergency.
Although desserts and addressing cards and seat belt labels may seem trivial on the surface, discovering potential ways to make Alex’s life better always makes my life better, too. Perhaps passing along the things we’ve learned through our journey with autism may improve other families' lives, as well. The teacher in me certainly hopes so.
“Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. May Your gracious spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.” Psalm 143:10