Summer Is Hard.

Summer Sunglasses

It’s that time of the year again… Summer! I have a love/hate relationship with summer. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the warm weather. In fact, I love the warm weather! I love being outdoors. Before I had my children, I loved to soak up the sun as much as I could. There’s nothing better than having a little tan, watching baseball, cooking out, picnics, going to the lake, taking vacations, enjoying the summer holidays, etc.

It’s amazing how quickly your life can change. Seven years ago I was enjoying all those summer activities. Now, six years after the birth of my first son who has severe autism, I no longer have any idea what it is like to enjoy the slightest ounce of summer fun.

My oldest son is an eloper and is attracted to water. Therefore, having him around any water in the summertime can be dangerous. With that said, we spend a lot of our time locked in our house so he doesn’t elope and get into a dangerous situation.

Taking him to a baseball game is totally out of the question. He has severe ADHD, severe autism, and sensory processing disorder. Those three things do not allow for a child to sit still or handle the smallest of crowds, let alone a baseball game or a short weekend getaway somewhere.

I haven’t been able to attend any summer holiday activities either. Taking my boys to a family gathering that entails a cookout, fireworks, or whatever your family might enjoy doing is totally out of our league. Between the high anxiety, rigidness of routine, and all the traits that autism brings into their lives, anything out of the ordinary, such as holiday fun activities, cannot be done. If I try to attend, I find myself back in our van and on our way home within 20 minutes of arriving.

Summer is very hard. It is just as hard as any other season of the year. Severe autism is the same today as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow. Sometimes it is easy to forget how trapped we are in an autism house. If you are like me, I am so used to our routine and strict schedule that I simply forget what life can be like in the “typical” world. But, as soon as the nice, warm weather arrives, I hear the neighbors outside enjoying their pools. I hear their friends gathering for cookouts and I am reminded of what life is like for my family.

However, I won’t let it get me down. Even though I would love to enjoy just one of the things that I used to love to do, it’s OK that I don’t. Do I get jealous at times? Sure I do! Does it make me feel lonely and isolated? Of course, but it is our life. Therefore, I will continue my love/hate relationship with summer and make sure we do the best that we can to enjoy it our way.


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11 Things We Can’t Do Without Over a Three-Day Weekend

11 Things

With the three-day weekend upon those of us in the U.S. and the U.K., we thought it would be fun to reach out to some of our contributors and ask them what is the one thing they absolutely couldn’t do without over an extra-long weekend. There seemed to be some common themes among the answers, including java and electronics. Here are the 10 items chosen, plus 1 bonus. What would you have picked?

  1. WiFi/Internet Access

As Kate from Awenesty of Autism perfectly stated, “If the WiFi goes out, then I’m going out too (for wine, margarita, etc.)… If the WiFi stops working, then so do I. Here is my resignation letter.”

Seriously. It doesn’t make us bad parents. It just helps us stay good ones.

Furthermore, as Angela from Two Brothers One Journey says, the Internet lets her “communicate with other autism parents and know that I am not alone.” After all, that’s the whole reason we started

  1. Fully Charged iPads

This goes for all electronic devices, including television in the house and MP3 players, with working Bluetooth if needed and headphones if preferred. If you go out and forget to charge the iPad first? Let’s just say: You’re on your own. That’s a whole lot of trouble about to go down.

  1. Well-Stocked Food and Drink Supply

As explained by Michelle from A Slice of Autism, “Long weekends for us means I can’t just nip out to the shops as my little man doesn’t cope with shopping.” Because her husband usually has to work on bank holidays, “if I don’t have the essentials it can be tricky in the house for three days with no food or coffee!”

Which leads into…

  1. Coffee

While Ger at It’s Me Ethan admits that coffee may be the reason for many of the daily vicious cycles, including both feeling tired AND not being able to sleep well, she still believes that coffee is a habit that “many of us parents are unwilling to break!”

Personally, we agree (taking large sip of our twice-heated third cup of coffee of the day).

  1. Headache Medicine

Paracetemol/Tylenol, Advil, whatever. This needs no explanation, especially when the coffee stops working.

  1. Other Adults

Parents of both neurotypical kids and those with autism know how important it is to have the company of adult friends once in a while. Once in a short while. Because sometimes it helps to have confirmation that you’re NOT going crazy. Even when you feel like you are. Trust us, you’re not. Well, maybe just a little…

  1. Good Weather

Having the ability to venture outside will give you a sense of freedom. Even if you never open the door and actually enjoy it. But at least it gives you choices. You know, in case that well-stocked food supply runs dry and you have to make a break for it.

  1. Sense of Humor

Amanda from the Little Puddins blog told us, “For whatever the reason, my children usually decide on long weekends to throw tantrums and give out and do the most inexplicable things. A healthy dose of humor will always see you through.”

This is an impressive and necessary trait for most of us. But especially for you, on a three-day weekend. When you haven’t had a chance to make a cup of coffee and somebody’s already decided that their favorite snacks that you’ve smartly stocked up on are no longer foods that they eat.

  1. Comfortable Pants

We don’t dress up on three-day weekends. Even if adult friends drop by. Yoga pants or sweats are the new power suit—haven’t you heard?

  1. Wine

Amanda from Little Puddins points out that, “if your sense of humour is lacking, a nice LARGE glass of wine when your children are asleep (hopefully) will always make your day not seem so bad.” Or whisky. Or other drink of choice.

  1. Wet Wipes

This one’s a bonus, by way of Ger from It’s Me Ethan who writes, “I cannot even explain how valuable they are when you have three boys; it’s all fine until no one knows what that brown stain is.” Truer words have never been spoken.

(Try to) Enjoy your weekend!

Special thanks to:

Florida Special Needs Teacher Goes Viral

My children had a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Lotano, who paraphrased Maya Angelou to us parents at every annual school Open House. She reminded us that, “Children will forget what you said, children will forget what you did, but children will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s a thought that has stuck with me for years.

It’s obviously a lesson that Chris Ulmer, a special education teacher at Mainspring Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, also takes to heart. Mr. Chris (as he prefers his students call him) starts every school day for his class of eight students by making them feel loved. He spends ten minutes complimenting them, taking time to directly address each child individually. He posted a video of this morning session on his Facebook page, Special Books by Special Kids, and it’s been viewed nearly 36 million times (on his page and in an ABC News story about it) in two days.

His students are all in his class for different reasons – autism, speech apraxia, brain injury, and more – but the respect and compliments he gives them focuses solely on their positive attributes and abilities. His is a model of positive, affirmative behavior and, in the video, Mr. Chris shares that the students now “praise each other”, “never insult one another” and “actively work towards helping each other.” They have learned from his example, and grown from it. “I have seen their confidence and self-worth skyrocket,” he writes in the video.

Shortly after his video went viral, Mr. Chris posted a letter to the class Facebook page, which partly reads:

“I am the teacher praising his students in the recent viral video. This letter is incredibly hard for me to write as I like to keep the spotlight on my students, but I believe this is an extraordinary opportunity that I cannot pass up.

I write this letter early in the morning with a heavy heart and little sleep the past few days so please excuse any errors.

Seven months ago I reached a boiling point. As a special education teacher I have students with a variety of conditions but they all share one common element; they are pure. They represent love and everything that is right in this world. But yet, it seemed as if 99% of society could not see this. One parent even told me that their greatest fear was passing away and leaving their child homeless, wondering the streets and being ignored as if they were a “lightpost”.

I knew I had to do something. I called together the parents of my students and proposed the idea of starting a class blog that openly discussed each diagnosis with access to the children. I fully was aware that this was unheard of and could cause complications for my career. I did not care. These children deserve to be heard, loved and appreciated. The world needs to understand that in many ways, the children have it right. We need to learn from them.

We are all different but we are all in this together.

I love you all,

Mr. Chris”

Whether they remember what exactly he said or what exactly he did, there’s no doubt that these kids will never forget how Mr. Chris made them feel.

You, sir, are 100% Ausome™.

Arts and Autism: An Increasingly Easy-to-Find Combination

The recent disturbance by a child with autism at a play on Broadway has brought something to the public’s attention that many of us have known for years. It is difficult to take our children to cultural places and performances.

Engagement with art and theater is important, however, as research shows. The ongoing addition of the Arts to the much-touted STEM curriculum in schools—to form the new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) initiatives—shows just how important a role Art plays in life, as well as intellectual development. Furthermore, as this article on PBS Kids points out, “Learning to create and appreciate visual aesthetics may be more important than ever to the development of…children as they grow up.”

So what are parents, grandparents and other caretakers of kids with autism to do? Take heart, that’s what, because there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of plays, concerts, exhibits and other artistic events geared specifically to children with autism and sensory processing disorders.

The Blue Men Tone It Down

Anybody who’s been to a Blue Man Group show knows that engagement in the arts can be a sensory explosion. Noise, lights, crowds—it’s like giving your child a cocktail of liver, pickles and orange juice and expecting him to keep it down. You’re just setting your child up to fail. And, while we’d all love for our children to experience the joy and exuberance of a live music show, it’s much more likely to end in tears, and possibly terror, than happiness.

But take heart: The Blue Men have recently introduced a version of their show that’s geared towards fans with autism, with their goal to provide a safe environment for those with sensory issues. Changes to their typical presentation include: reduction of their sound and light levels; available sound-reducing headphones; a subdued approach to their audience, including limiting their typical “chair walking” where they interact with the audience; and the utilization of the theater’s lobby as a calming place for families that need a break from the excitement.

Creating Musical Autists

An organization called The Musical Autist has introduced Sensory Friendly Concerts® to bring jazz and classical music to audiences who might not get to experience them otherwise, as well as a venue for musical “autists” to perform their works. The group is striving to prove the validity of community music therapy as important to the health and well-being of individuals with autism, and the community as a whole. They also want society to realize that “autistic culture” can be included and accommodated alongside neurotypical performers. The concerts are currently available in seven locales across the U.S.

Interactive, Imaginative Theater

Lincoln Center in New York City recently wrapped up a month-long run of Up and Away, an original production commissioned by Lincoln Center Education specifically for children on the autism spectrum. The production took two years to make, with the intent of creating “an environment where there’s no right way to experience the show.” As Jonathan Shmidt Chapman, the director of Up and Away explains in this video, the Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, which created and produced the play, worked with children with autism to create this wondrous spectacle: “Theater that’s made for them. Theater that can engage and enchant them. Theater that can unlock their imaginations.”

The Rose Theater in Fremont, California also just finished multiple showings of an interactive production called “A Palette of Possibility” that allows children to get up and mingle with the actors if they desire, or stay seated in one of many bean bags, stools, carpet squares, or other diverse seating offerings. Audience members are encouraged to use props, move around or even make sound effects as part of the show, which utilizes four of five senses (no taste), but nothing unexpected, jarring or loud.

Museums Go Hands-On

Museums throughout the U.S. and U.K. have begun offering special hours or exhibits specifically for individuals with autism. As an example, the Museum of London has its Morning Explorer program, open to children on the spectrum who are 13 or younger. The program opens some of the museum’s galleries one hour early on certain predetermined dates so that these children and their families can explore at their own pace.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a special monthly program titled “Artful Healing” that’s designed for 8 to 12 year-olds on the autism spectrum. The children are grouped by age and/or needs and the 90-minute class includes both exploration of the art galleries and an art activity. One adult can accompany each child for free; the fee is currently $9 for the child.

This is by no means intended as a complete and comprehensive list of arts and music programs that are autism-friendly, but instead meant to showcase the rise of autism-friendly shows, exhibits and concerts. Many movie theaters have also started hosting autism-friendly showings of kid’s movies geared specifically for children who can’t stay seated or still or even quiet for the entire time.

In order to find a program in your neighborhood, ask around or search the Web. Many programs are one-offs or have short runs. However, we can all help change that by supporting and attending them when they’re available—as the saying goes, ‘vote with your feet.’ While it can be troublesome to get your child out the door and to a show or museum exhibit, there’s a very good chance it will be more than worth it: That an introduction to the Arts will open your child’s eyes and world in ways you never imagined.

Art is that powerful.

My Autistic Sons Are MY Teachers

I always thought that when I became a parent I would spend my days loving my children, helping them to thrive and to progress–helping them to become the best version of themselves they can be. I thought I would have a dual role, as mother and as teacher.

What I have come to realize in the years since Conor was diagnosed with Autism, and more recently again when his younger brother Jack was diagnosed, is that in fact my Autistic sons are MY teachers. I have learned, or should I say re-learned, a lot about life since they were born. They have taught me so much with how they view the world, how they live their lives, how they show love to us and their big sister. They have taught me:

Love Has No Words – Both my boys are non-verbal, yet with a heartfelt look from either I instinctively know how they feel, that they are happy, that they feel love, that they love. You can scream your love from the top of your lungs but that real look of love needs no words: It transcends all barriers.

To Be Kind – neither Conor nor Jack show any malice at all towards anyone or anything. They are always kind. If I drop something, Conor will almost always be the first to pick it up. If I bang into something, Jack will waddle over and rest his tiny head against me as if to say, “It will be okay, mammy.” Conor always shares his toys and sweets with his sister Hailey; he never stops her or baby Jack when they want to have some too. He just smiles and lets them.

Different Is Not Less – They have taught me the real meaning of “different not less.” They are different but no less amazing, lovable, sweet or kind to any other boy their ages. They are different and that is what makes them beautiful.

The Value of Real Friends – Neither of my lovely boys have many friends of their own. It hurts my heart from time to time when I think of them this way. But then they help me realise that the few friends they do have are very “real” friends who adore them just as they are. They remind me that you don’t have to have a million friends to be happy; just a few real friends and I know I am lucky and loved.

Opinions Don’t Matter – Conor and Jack are completely oblivious to anyone’s opinions of them. You can catch Conor busting a move in our local shop when his song comes on the radio; he is just happy to dance and it doesn’t bother him that people stop and stare. He makes me so proud with how brave he is. Jack has no filter for opinions either. He is happy to carry a shoe around with him in his right hand for most of the day, or wear a little cloth on top of his head because it makes him feel happy. He is oblivious to what is considered “normal”–he is his own version of normal. I am so proud of both of my boys and they remind me to always be myself because those that matter won’t mind and those that do mind don’t matter.

Celebrate the Small – In the past I would wait for “big” events in my life to celebrate achievements. The boys have taught me to celebrate the everyday small steps of progress. What many people take for granted in their lives will usually be a massive struggle for my boys to overcome. I always celebrate the achievements, no matter how small, because I know the heartache and persistence it took for my boys to achieve a new goal.

Live a Happy Life – Conor and Jack are their innate selves. They do not know any other way of existing and they are happy just as they are right now. I see them smiling to themselves from time to time; a walk outside in the fresh air can bring them such joy. They make me realise that we should all be happy to be alive! You only get one life; you only get once chance to live your life. Why not make it a happy, positive experience? I have faced a great many challenges since having my lovely boys; I have seen them overcome so much since their births, yet they do not look back. They look forward and are happy to be alive, living a life full of fun, full of hope and, most importantly, full of love.

I am and will always be thankful for my three beautiful children and my very special teachers: They have taught me the real meaning of what Life and Love are all about.x

Baby Jack Conor and Hailey


Amanda gave up her law career after her first son Conor was born with special needs, later retraining as a Special Needs Assistant so she could help him and her youngest son Jack. Amanda and her family live in Co. Mayo in Ireland. She spends her days now carrying out therapies, preparing visuals for her boys to communicate and doing her best to be a good mom to all of them, including her oldest child Hailey.

Through her writing she helps to provide an insight to what living, loving and raising children in a Special Needs Family can be like for so many people today. To learn more please visit her website or follow her on Facebook at

Ausome™ Teachers Make a Difference.

High Five


The most underpaid professionals on earth.

With all respect to other professions, a good teacher is worth 10x any salary approved by the school board. Why, because let’s be real.

  • Teachers teach your child how to write.
  • Teachers teach your child how to read.
  • Teachers teach your child how to socialize.
  • Teachers teach your child when to ask to go the bathroom.
  • Teachers teach your child how to draw.
  • Teachers teach your child how to practically do everything from Kindergarten onwards.

Yes, I know some parents are rolling their eyes and saying no way but again, let’s be real. Teachers have your children typically 30+ hours a week. By the time your child comes home its an hour of fun, some food time, a nap and a bath.

Of course, there are many things teachers can’t do but think about it? Who really has that many responsibilities for your child other than you?

Teachers do. That’s who.

The problem is there are not enough great teachers.

Lots of good ones, and sadly lots of bad ones, but when you find an Ausome™ teacher its like winning the lottery. They are amazing, they change worlds, they create dreams, they inspire and they provide hope.

As a parent you must do everything you can to find awesome teachers.

When we found the perfect teacher — found is a strong word, we got lucky — everything became easier and our son became happier.

For those awesome teachers out there I just wanted to say thank you.

The world needs you more than you can ever imagine.