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Category Archives: disabilities

Why I’m Lucky To Have A Special Needs Family

Last night I was sitting outside on the porch, enjoying the fresh air and only slightly cool breeze that is a Texas winter, and had a rare, contented moment of thinking, “I love my family. I am SO lucky.”



For the ordinary person, that wouldn’t be an unusual feeling to have, but having a child with special needs means that sentiment doesn’t fit into society’s narrative of what it’s like to be a special needs family. I should love and be devoted to my family, but I shouldn’t necessarily consider myself lucky.


“That’s not true,” you say. “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear someone say they felt lucky in their special needs family.”


But way deep down, you know there’s that tiny, dark place where you think, “I feel so lucky to have “healthy” children. I am so grateful they don’t have a disability.” Because to many people, someone with a disability is an “other.” Her child is different from my child.


But I tell you, I am lucky. To an extent, most of us special needs families are. This isn’t the part where I say, “We’re not lucky because of the disability, we’re lucky in spite of it.”


And I’m not going to run through all the valid attributions of “being lucky to have my child alive” or “being lucky to have a child at all, when many can’t”.


What I’m referring to is the unavoidable and essential ability to view things through someone else’s eyes (to the extent that you can). With autism, you must learn very early on how to ferret out the antecedent to a meltdown, or you won’t know how to avoid future meltdowns. Was it a sensory response? Was he overstimulated? Is he coming down with something? Are his clothes uncomfortable? Did the change of routine cause an anxiety overload? You think of little else for days or weeks on end, not because you want to, but because you become obsessed with trying to understand your child.


When you’ve finally uncovered that the sound of your hairdryer is causing your child major anxiety, you set about changing the environment so your child won’t be caused distress. Most of us will close doors and get our child noise-canceling earphones. We know that avoiding hairdryers for the rest of their lives isn’t reasonable, but making small, doable changes is reasonable, and you are able relieved to ease your child’s pain by just that small accommodation.


In short (lie; this is terribly verbose), you learn how to critically examine cause and effect, and analyze the interactions of different experiences on mood and behavior. Because you have to.


This brings me to my hypothesis: most “typical” people don’t have to think in those terms on a constant basis. I would venture that the “average” person goes about their day, giving little thought to whether the sound their shoes make on the tile floor is bothersome to someone, or whether they’ve properly prepared to use their hairdryer.


The reason this acquired necessity makes us lucky is because it gives us an enhanced way of viewing the world. You many not understand why that enhancement is as valuable as it is, so I’ll try to illustrate it.


Imagine if you worked at a convenience store, and one evening a young ethnic man comes in and holds a gun to your head, demanding all the money you have in the cash register.


Now, some of you would try to calmly do as he asks, hoping and praying that he just doesn’t kill you. Some of you might actually try to fight him, or grab for a weapon behind the counter. Either way, no matter which way you responded, you would probably feel angry and want him put in prison for a long time. He’s a criminal. He’s a scumbag who steals from hardworking people instead of getting a job.


And maybe he is those things. But how many people would take the step beyond to wonder what conditions came together to make up this man’s life, leading him to commit those crimes? And to have the wherewithal to know that asking those questions, caring about those possible conditions enough to give them careful thought, doesn’t mean you’re excusing the behavior, or the need for a consequence. On the contrary, having those thoughts leads to discussions. And discussions lead to careful inquiry about important circumstances that shape people’s lives, like poverty, racism, classism, disability, gender identification, sexuality, family dynamics, community, and health resources.


The next step in this process is to consider: if we know that human beings growing up in certain environments are more likely to have some kind of negative outcome, which ultimately affects society as a whole, then how do we begin making changes right now that will create positive long-term effects in our country? With the knowledge of how conditions shape human behavior, do we reconsider how we approach the big topics we wrestle with as a nation, like wage equality, access to women’s health services, investing in impoverished communities, mental health services, and access to higher education? Do we look at the utter failure of our prison systems to “rehabilitate” criminals, as evidenced by the high rate of recidivism? Do we think about whether spending federal dollars upfront to avoid future criminal behavior by investing in people and their environments, rather than spending it to house them endlessly in prisons that are perpetually bursting at the seams? Do we then apply this advanced level of critical thinking to the choices we make politically?



As exhausting as it may be to analyze things to this extent, it’s the very reason I feel lucky to have a special needs family. The training I got from my son has given me a lot more anxiety, that’s true. But it’s also given me the ability to think far ahead about the cause and effect of conditions on human beings. And it’s given me the invaluable knowledge that it’s essential to our long-term survival to see the kinds of changes needed to elevate us as a species, rather than remaining unconcerned for those “other” people until they come to us to commit a crime.


I am lucky. My life and my thoughts are infinitely more challenging and complex, and it’s worth it. If it wasn’t for my son, maybe I would be someone who thinks we need more guns, more prisons, more walls, more police, more us vs. them.


Instead, I’m someone who wants more access to healthcare, more education about diversity, more community centers, more access to housing for the homeless, more benefits for veterans, more mental health resources, more kindness, more love — because I know that these are the kinds of supports that shape positive outcomes that ultimately affect all of us.


In this season of holidays and politics, I hope you all find yourself with loved ones that make you feel lucky, while you also consider (perhaps a little differently) what each of the politicians want us to have more of in our country and communities.


* It’s possible I only followed the first part of these instructions. 

The Reason I Broke Up With Hillary Clinton

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You don’t have to agree completely with someone’s politics to admire them and the valuable work they’ve done. Hillary Clinton has had a major impact on women’s rights and social issues. I’ve considered myself a fan, supporter, even a friend (I cannot confirm that she is aware of my existence).

Hillary (Hillsy, I call her) sends me a lot of emails. I just got this one a couple of days ago:

Flannery — 

The seventeen Republican candidates for president have attacked me and this team every single day, all summer long.
You’ve seen it on TV and read it in the papers — they’re trying to make a little news by smearing my name.

The closer we get to the primary, the worse it’s going to get. I need you with me in this fight.

There are serious issues at stake in this election. Working families need a raise, women deserve equal pay, students need more access to affordable, higher education.

We’re on the right side of this, and our opponents know it. So while the other side tries to muddy the conversation and drag us down, we’ll keep growing an organization that can withstand attacks and advocate for everyday Americans.

But I can’t fight back without you. We’ve set a goal of 20,000 grassroots donations by the end of the month. Chip in $1 or more before then if you’re with me:

Thank you,


I decided it was time to be honest with my old pal. I replied honestly to her email but, fearing an incompetent staff member may misplace it, I thought it prudent to publish my response someplace where she might see it.

I’m sorry, Hillary. I was with you…I was with you at your book signing here in Austin. I was with you when you announced you were running.

But then…


He came along and said the things I’ve been hoping you would say. He came along and chose not to play the politics game. He chose to take a stand about the big issues, no matter what the Republicans might say.

And even many of them are inspired by him.

I’m sorry, Hillary. I love the work you’ve done for women’s rights, not just here, but globally. I love the idea of you as our first woman President. 

But I’m sick of the backdoor deals. The corporate interests. I need someone that speaks for my family, and the millions like us who are fighting tooth and nail to hold onto a lower middle class existence. We want a society that’s more equitable and progressive. We want a society where millions of us aren’t one paycheck away from poverty. We want a society where ALL people are valued equally, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion (or non religion), age, sexual orientation, or disability.

And this time, that’s not you.

But I would still love to have lunch, if the offer is still on the table, per your last email.

Best wishes,

Flannery Sullivan

I hope she calls me about lunch. I’d love to talk to her about overhauling our education system, our prison  system, our political system. The “systems” seem to be breaking down, and Bernie will need all the help he can get to replace them with newer ones that will serve us as we continue to evolve as a global community.

Hillsy, call me. I’ll meet you at the Cheesecake Factory any day you’re free. 

Did the System Fail Both Kelli and Issy Stapleton?

The autism community is reeling from the news of the attempted murder/suicide by Kelli Stapleton, toward her daughter, Issy. I know I was reeling. I was literally sick over it, because I know her. At least I thought I did. And I was so angry with her, angry that she stopped fighting, and angry she didn’t reach out for help. Initially I didn’t want to contribute to the slew of posts and articles swirling around. I’ve spent the last few days thinking about the situation, mulling it over until the headaches forced me to sleep.

But for all that’s been written, either condemning her as a monster or empathizing with their situation, I felt like there was something missing. Between the two, there’s a story of a support system in disarray. And at times, a support system that just isn’t there. There are broader ramifications than this one family, because this isn’t a new story. It’s not a new occurrence. It’s become frighteningly common to hear about an autistic person being abused or murdered by a parent or family member. There has to be more to it than just a “bad parent” making a bad choice. So I decided to write and explore the questions and circumstances.

I’m not going to defend her actions. I’m not. There’s no defense for harming a child, we all know that. What I’m most interested in are the events that brought her from here to there, because if we can’t figure out how a 45-year-old woman with no criminal history, no history of aggression, and a pillar of her community got to a place where she would harm her child and herself, then we have very little chance of preventing this kind of thing from happening again.

Now I’m well aware that many advocates will say that no one should even be discussing the circumstances leading up to this because all we should care about is the crime perpetrated against Issy. Well I, for one, do care about that crime. I care a lot. But there is much more at stake than just justice and punishment. I don’t ever want there to be another story of an autistic person being murdered or abused. But it is not just remiss, but negligent, to equate Kelli Stapleton to any other run-of-the-mill person that attempts, or actually does, commit murder.

Some people commit murder our of revenge or a jealous rage, or in the midst of something as common as a robbery. Some commit murder because they’ve endured years of being abused and battered by a spouse. Whatever the particular case, we learn these factors because the cases are investigated to understand the motivating circumstances.

While none of us was there in their home or privy to their personal lives, we have a lot of information available that was posted on Facebook or Kelli’s blog.

We know that Issy just completed treatment to address behavioral concerns, particularly, severe aggression. There is a post on Kelli’s blog, the Status Woe, that includes a picture of the data tracking report from the center. The data clearly shows that during the first week, there were about 650 instances of aggression. Kelli asserts that this mirrors the behavior exhibited in the home. That’s roughly about 93 instances of aggression PER DAY. Now if we accept this as legitimate, then we must ask ourselves what effect this kind of environment has on an individual who lives with it for YEARS. Every single day, hitting, kicking, biting, scratching, punching, over and over again.

It’s easy to dismiss the report as being exaggerated, or to say that Kelli exaggerated the behavior. But there is also video proof of the aggression. The following video is from the facility’s camera, taken during a session where Kelli was asked to sit down with Issy and reward her for quiet hands and feet, and for coloring with her. There is no audio, but it’s clear that the aggression was as intense and sustained as reported.

And before you say it, NO. No, it isn’t a reason or excuse to do what Kelli did. But this post isn’t about just repeating the mantra of how wrong it was. It’s about dissecting the circumstances and dynamics so that we can find a way to prevent this from happening to someone else.

So I have to ask again, what does it do to a person’s mental health to endure years of physical attacks by their beloved child, attacks that have hospitalized Kelli twice for head injuries?

Kelli’s blog chronicles their journey to secure the necessary funding for Issy’s treatment. You see, she battled insurance companies and government agencies that would not fund the full treatment. The family engaged in fundraising, letter-writing, and media pleas to get their daughter help. This does not present a picture of someone that was contemplating harming her daughter. And remember, Issy is 14-years-old. The aggression has been taking place for a very long time, as have the battles with schools and support agencies. All of this information does not paint a picture of an unloving mother, but demonstrates a desperate, yet determined, parent with great love and compassion for her child.

How did a mother of three, wife to a high school principal, former molecular biologist with a long history of community involvement and leadership, who advocated tirelessly for her daughter despite years of physical abuse and trauma, suddenly become someone that could attempt a murder/suicide?

If we don’t seek to answer that question, our community will continue to bleed.

If this woman was suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, or any combination of those, it would not be surprising. Not surprising and also NOT a reason to do what she did. But it does tell us that parents of special needs children (particularly those with intense needs) are in danger of compromised mental health. If we don’t start looking at a whole-family approach to supporting and treating disabilities, this danger will always be lurking in the shadows.

As it stands, disability support services don’t just vary from state-to-state, but are different from one county to another. Without a continuity in the delivery of services to individuals and families, we will forever have some that are getting excellent services, and some that get almost no services.

As I see it, those are two of the biggest flaws in service delivery today. And if we don’t ask that question, if we don’t demand a family approach and a continuity in service delivery, we will stay the present course and things aren’t likely to change.

You may not agree with me, and that’s okay. But know this: I’ve personally heard at least 20 mothers, in the past two days, say that they could “understand how someone could get so desperate, and so defeated, that they could lose their grip on sanity.”

And that should scare the hell out of you.

Are You Weird?

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One of the most common things we worry about as parents of spectrum kids, besides getting them the hell out of our house someday, is whether they will be able to fit in with typical peers.  While we may not ever try to make them stop flapping or spinning because we respect them deeply, we still have that nagging feeling deep down that others will notice their unusual behavior and use that as a reason to tease or devalue our children.

Most people are familiar with the stim of flapping.  But I know that there are many other stims, as well as soothing/relaxing behaviors out there.  I decided to ask several other parent bloggers I know to describe some of the stims/behaviors in their homes, and the purpose they serve.

“Chronically picking at the insides/cuticles of thumbs, peeling anything where the surface is coming off, like bark off of sticks or paint and wallpaper.” Kristin, Running to Be Still

“Unable to concentrate unless hands are clean/obsessive hand washing.”  Jill “that nutjob with curly hair”, Yeah. Good Times

“Trichotillomania; preferences for numbers to add up to multiples of 12.” Adrienne, No Points for Style

“Twiddling fingers like they’re playing an invisible keyboard – it’s calming and feels like they’re shaking out stress.” Carmen, Stay at Home Crazy

“Typing words on the palm of the hand like it’s a keyboard; playing mental math games by assigning a number to each letter and trying to make a word add up to a multiple of 5.” Jessica, Don’t Mind the Mess

“Vocal stims/noises when falling asleep.” Amanda,Confessions from Household Six

“Twitching toes, both inside shoes and at bedtime to relax.”Jean, Stimeyland

“Chronic picking of scabs, cuticles, dry skin; scalp massages for the soothing effect; multiple blankets for weight.” Eileen, Autism With a Side of Fries

“Obsessed with using peppermint oil or Tiger Balm on the body as a sensory input; hot beverages when upset/anxious; pacing when stressed; removing and redoing ponytail when ready to meltdown.” Jo, Jo Ashline; A Sweet Dose of Truth

“Interlocking hands and moving fingers in a rapid pattern when excited or nervous.  Will also reach arms up and put fingers in hair in an attempt to hide it.” Maya, Maya’s Eye Photography

“Doodling with pen and paper.” Jen, Anybody Want a Peanut

“Vacuuming – the hum, movement and lines are soothing.” Lizbeth, Four Sea Stars

“Tapping thumbs and fingers together. Karla, Beyond the Dryer Vent

“Rubs feet together when going to sleep; cuticle picking; wall of pillows when sleeping; heavy blankets.” Anonymous, My Winter Butterflies

“Prefers crisp fabric, like denim or khaki, and fingers the fabric repeatedly.”  Patty, Pancakes Gone Awry

“Picking eyebrows and cuticles; chewing on hair or necklace; heavy blankets.”  Stephanie, On the Beans

“Rubbing fingers together; pushing hair behind ears; obsessed with word games.”  Marj, The Domestic Goddess

“Thumb-sucking; running fingers over eyelashes.”  Anonymous

“Thumb-picking; pulling at eyebrows.” Tim, Both Hands and a Flashlight

“Rubbing feet together at bedtime; face-picking.” Lexi, Mostly True Stuff

“Constant humming or singing; picking at cuticles.” Anne, Glass Half Full

“Oral fixation – chewing on straws, pencil erasers, pencils, gum; picking cuticles.” Niksmom, Maternal Instincts

“Typing on the keyboard very loudly.” Gabrielle, My Whac-A-Mole Life

After reading that list, you must be thinking, “Wow, how will those kids ever be functional adults with all those odd, quirky stims and coping mechanisms?”  And you’re right, there are some pretty unusual things there.  But the good news is that they are already functional adults, because the behaviors that each person described are their behaviors.  They are the quirks and routines of the parents, not the autistic child.

The people on this list are lawyers, accountants, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, computer professionals, housewives and writers.  They have families and jobs and therapy appointments and household responsibilities.  They’re your friends and neighbors.  In short, they’re YOU.  See, we all have habits and odd, quirky ways that we cope with life’s stressors.  Some developed in childhood, while others came later, when adult responsibilities took shape.

Our children are not so different from us.  It’s just that they haven’t developed the ability to “hide” their quirks as well as we have.  Flapping, spinning, repeating movie lines, jumping – none of those seems so “unique” to autism when you read the above list.  It seems that we all find ways to interact with our environment and process the sensory input in our own “special” way.

The bottom line is this:  stop CARING what other people think.  Our kiddos will make their way, in THEIR way, and at the end of the day all that matters is that they’re healthy, happy, and loved.  Anyone that would look oddly at our children is the same person that’s going home to drink too much, pick their scabs, or rock themselves to sleep.

We’re all pretty weird.  Some of us know how to hide it, and others are more organic.  It’s kind of refreshing, that honesty and purity.  Celebrate it.

30 Minutes of Solitude

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One thing I know for certain from reading blogs, Facebook comments, and Twitter tweets is that moms, especially moms of kiddos with special needs, don’t get much time to themselves.

Can I get a witness??

The smart and sassy Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, from Autism Wonderland, wrote an awesome guest post about her quest for some quality alone time.  I think we can all relate to the need to eek out a few moments in the day to get our thoughts straight.

Don’t forget to leave her some comment love, and visit her site, where she writes about her beautiful son, Norrin.  She’s a very active autism advocate, especially within the Latina/Latino community (I hope I phrased that right).


30 Minutes of Solitude

I knew when I became a mom that I would never be alone.  And as much as I love my husband and child.  I miss having moments of solitude.

My alone time consists of my subway commute to and from work.  But I guess that doesn’t really count. I may be alone, but I’m in a crowd.  And it usually smells.

There are days when I go into the ladies room and go into a stall and just sit.  And its quiet and no one can find me or bother me.


Unless a coworker follows me in the ladies room and decides stall to stall conversation is okay.

It’s never okay.

But I need something more than a few fleeting moments of ladies room sanctuary.

That’s why I’ve been waking up at the crack ass of dawn, lacing up my running and heading out to run in circles. (There is a circular walkway in front of my building.  Seven times around equals a mile – or so I’ve been told.)

Well…I’m not really running.  I’m walking at a very brisk pace.  I’ll start running next week.  It’s part of getting my sanity back.

It’s just me and the squirrels and maybe a few other people running.   And people leaving to work.   But they do not get in my way.  I can think.  Or not think. I can clear my head.  Gather my thoughts.  I can just be alone.  And I think I deserve that time.

Someone else thought otherwise.

On my second morning as I was walking back into my building I saw my neighbor, in her cute pink short running shorts.  A mom of 3 NT kids under the age of 7.  She knows everything.  And she’s quick to tell that “all kids do that”. She is her pre-baby weight.  She likes to give me advice about my kid.  Even though she has no experience with special needs children.  I avoid her like the plague. But at 5:45 am there is no avoiding her.

“Oh are you running now?” She asks.

“Uh..yeah trying to.”

“What time are you out here?”

I know where she is going with this.  She wants us to be run buddies.   She has tried this before.  Wanting us to be work out pals.

I tell her I am out at 5 am and say goodbye before she can say anything else.

I don’t want her interfering in my alone time.  I don’t want to have a conversation before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.  I don’t want to run in circles and feel as if I’m jumping through hoops trying to make polite conversation with a woman I have absolutely nothing in common with.

On my third day she came out earlier and I’m still running. I wave hello and pick up my pace. I think she wanted me to stop.  I walk a few more laps around the circle and went into the building.

On the fourth morning I see her again around the same time.  I am relieved to see she found a friend to keep her company.  We said hello and I had no choice but to run behind her and her friend.  (I could have passed them but that would mean I’d have to exhaust myself running.)  And the two of them talked the whole time.

I may need to start heading out at 4 in the morning.

What would you do for 30 minutes of solitude?

Safety and Special Needs, A Series

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Back when Connor was not yet one-year-old, and still crawling, we lived in a house with a fireplace in the living room.  At some point each day, he busied himself with crawling to the fireplace, in an attempt to get into that big hole and play around.

There were several well-read parenting books on my shelf, so I knew that my job was to move him and distract him with his toys.  This didn’t seem to be working, but I dug in my heels and decided I would stick with this plan.  Connor, of course, had not read the parenting books, and as soon as I plopped him down with his toys, he abruptly turned and crawled right back to the fireplace.  I stuck with it, mentally counting each time I moved him away, and when I got to 100, I knew something wasn’t right.  I hadn’t been around that many babies, but I knew that it usually wasn’t that hard to interest them in an alternate object.

Since my main goal was his safety, I got online to look for gates.  Most seemed to be in the $100 range, which was just not in the budget, so we had to be creative.

I found a large cardboard box in the garage, and cut out one side in the shape of the fireplace.  Then I duct-taped the flat cardboard to the front of the fireplace.  Hubs laughed at me, asking “do you really think that’s going to stop him?”

But it did.  As soon as the opening of the fireplace was covered up, it was like it no longer existed.  Connor crawled that way once, looked at it, and turned around and went back to his toys.  He never bothered with the fireplace again, as though it had disappeared.

Now I realize that compared to some, we don’t have it so tough.  There are many parents that have to go to extreme measures to ensure their kids’ safety, often in creative and innovative ways. And there are too many horrible stories out there about kids that have wandered and gone missing.

When I was looking for someone to guest post for me, I had several kind offers.  They wanted to know what topic I’d like, and my mind kept coming back to safety.  And instead of just having a single guest post, I thought this might be a great topic to run as a series.

Every Monday I’ll host a guest post from someone with their story of safety issues for their kids, and what has worked for them.  There are so many great ideas out there, and I know this will be helpful to others.

There aren’t too many rules, just a few:

1.  Contact me, via email ( or Facebook, letting me know you’d like to submit a post on safety.  I’ll run them on consecutive Mondays, in the order they’re received.

2.  Submit your finished post, along with any pics or links to be included, to me at least 48 hours ahead of time.

3.  I will not edit your post.  If I spot a spelling error, I may correct it, but that’s it.  The usual disclaimer applies:  if there is any material that is offensive, abusive, or defamatory, I reserve the right to withhold posting the piece.

4.  As is customary, post a link on your blog on your Monday, linking back to The Connor Chronicles.

I made this handy-dandy picture, meme-y thing that you can use if you want.

(When I added text it blurs just a tiny bit when I save it.  Why?  Why does it do this?  This is the crap that makes me crazy in life, this stuff right here.  If you know how to do this so the text doesn’t blur, tell me and I’ll send you the pic.  Otherwise, this one isn’t too bad.)

Respect-Mongering On The Interwebs

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You may have noticed this strange phenomena happening in the online social world. It’s permeating blogs, Facebook posts, tweets, and honest-to-goodness legitimate news sites (like HuffPo, because that’s totally legit.) I call it Respect Mongering. More and more people are clamoring about feeling disrespected, marginalized, victimized, and bashed.

Respect mongering isn’t the same as being justifiably upset about a real affront. When 50 Cent made injudicious and derogatory statements about a derelict fan “looking autistic”, it was justifiable to be insulted by the tone and intent of the remark.

When that teacher in New Jersey was caught by a recording device calling Stuart Chaifetz’s kid a “bastard”, outrage was an acceptable reaction because there is never, ever a circumstance where a teacher should EVER call a student a name, especially an autistic student. That is just flat-out abuse.

But these aren’t the kind of occurrences I’m referring to here. I’m talking about when people leave nasty comments about a blog post where someone talks about their own experience with something, and they express their own opinions about that experience. Similarly, I’ve seen this when someone expresses an opinion on Facebook that meets with venomous attacks.

It’s one thing to say something completely horrible, like “conservatives are evil, face-eating zombies.” Ok, see that there? That is a statement that frames a whole group of people in a negative light, and makes a false assertion about said group. That is a bad thing. That is something that invites vitriolic opposition.

But what’s been happening is more like this: someone says on their blog, or in a Facebook Comment that “my conservative next-door neighbors remind me of evil, face-eating zombies.” Now this is different. See, the person has expressed their own opinion, not about a large group, but about someone specific to their social sphere, and is probably referring to some kind of negative interaction they have had with this specific neighbor. Maybe they even know for a fact that their neighbor engages in the abuse of bath salts. Who knows? But this is the kind of statement that will bring a barrage of nasty, hate-filled comments by people that are OUTRAGED that someone could be so prejudiced against the face-eating zombie people that are out there in the world doing good deeds and contributing to society.

Similarly, it will also spur negative responses from people that believe the statement implies that ALL conservatives are face-eating zombies. And OHMYSWEETBABYJESUS, Sarah Palin could never be a face-eating zombie, because she lives right there by Russia, and they would not allow the threat of face-eating zombies to be that close to the Mother Land. And Sarah cares to much about America and she knows lots of things about stuff to ever be a face-eating zombie, so WHERE DO YOU GET OFF SLANDERING SARAH PALIN??

Official White House Photo.
Not really.

Do you see how this might be a tad…nit-picky? Perhaps a bit over-the-top?

But this happens almost every day to someone who has innocently put forth their own opinion based on their own experience. You know, it’s like when someone writes about their personal parenting experience of their autistic child, in their own home, and maybe they decide to write about how difficult or challenging they are finding it, and someone goes all unhinged and starts a campaign to shut them down.

Yeah, maybe like that.

Or, like when someone *cough* makes up a cutesy picture with a snappy saying about parenting a child on the spectrum, and someone completely loses it and accuses the person of being “defamatory and ruthlessly harsh”. Especially when the person, who is usually inclined toward a biting sarcasm (cough), went out of their way to make something happy and positive.

Defamatory and Ruthlessly Harsh, or the truth as I see it?

Here’s the thing. We live in a free country where expressing our thoughts and opinions is a right and freedom that is protected. It’s protected even if you don’t agree. So, while I may have personally thought that 50 Cent’s comment was insulting and hurtful, and perhaps I did or did not partake in a Twitter campaign of sending out dozens of pre-scheduled tweets educating him about autism and requesting an apology, I still would not deny him the right to say such stupid and ignorant things publicly.


And if someone on their blog, or their Facebook feed makes a statement about their own personal experience with something, as long as it doesn’t degrade and insult a whole group of people, then why not let it be?

I’ll leave you with one more example:

If someone on, say, Facebook, compares liberals to “people that wear helmets and lick the Windex off of bus windows”, then this is pretty unkind and an obvious attack on people with special needs. It may be a crude attempt at humor, but it is still bad and wrong and ugly. This thing invites unhappy comments.

But if someone says that liberals are “a silly bunch of clowns”, then that statement is okay. It’s not okay because it’s a true statement, because obviously that is just WRONG. It’s okay because clowns aren’t offended at being compared to liberals, and people in general just don’t like clowns. And frankly, clowns are silly sometimes.

Do you see?

Restraint and humor, that’s what we all need to exercise when trolling around the alternate universe of the interwebs. Maybe instead of all this respect mongering, we can learn to laugh and learn to accept that we may be reading one person’s personal account, not an across-the-board depiction of someone or something.

But hey, if you wanna bash…gimme a sec to get these earrings off, and let’s have a go, shall we?


Not Just Another Post About Bullying

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How would you feel if your child was being bullied at school?  When I ask that, I mean your child with autism, who is minimally verbal.  How do you feel now?  Now imagine your child suddenly starts acting out aggressively at school, with no prior history of that kind of behavior.

It would be pretty upsetting, I imagine.

What if you found out your child was being called a “bastard” and told to “shut his mouth”?

Me?  I’d feel a burning rage hotter than a thousand suns.

But wait.  It’s not another child saying those things to your kid.

It’s his teacher.  And his teacher’s aide.

Feel sick yet?

We would never, ever stop until those people were held accountable, would we?  The very people entrusted with the care and nurturing of children that are already vulnerable, children with special needs, are the ones to violate that sacred trust and cause HARM to those children.

This really did happen.  It happened in Cherry Hill School District in New Jersey, to a little boy named Akian.  You see, the reason we know these things happened is because his dad sent him to school with a wire.  He was so desperate to get to the bottom of things, he had to resort to wiring his child to get answers.  What he got was hours of recorded evidence of the teachers having inappropriate conversations and bullying his son.

The teacher DID NOT GET FIRED.  The aide was dismissed, but the teacher was moved to another school.  Case closed.

Not for Akian’s dad.  He has put together a video that includes the actual recordings taken that day at school.  He has also put together a website.

He is not suing for money.  He is asking for a public apology from those teachers, to his son.  He is asking for the teacher’s resignation.

He is asking for his son’s dignity.

Please watch the video.  It’s about 15 minutes long.

Here is the website where you can sign a petition:

The video has made it’s way around, and caught the attention of Jillsmo, who is not looking for any recognition from this.  She put up a post and link to the video on Facebook.  I happened to click the link and watched the video.

Now, we are asking that fellow bloggers from the autism community put up a post about this horrible case of teacher bullying.  We want this to get noticed.  I want to see media attention.

Personally, I want every teacher and administrator throughout this country to know that parents of special needs kids are watching, and we will rally together to call for accountability of all school personnel involved in bullying, or covering up bullying. 

As you read this, I ask you to put up a post on your blog.

For Akian.

For your children.  And mine.


Editors note:  This post may be copied in its entirety and reprinted elsewhere, without credit to the author.  It must, however, contain links to Stuart Chaifetz’s website and video.


Autism Awareness: Inclusion Begins In Our Own Communities

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When Connor was younger, a trip to the park required a high-protein breakfast and a good, solid pair of running shoes.  It was common for him, without any notice, to take off running as fast as his little legs would carry him.  Whether for the feeling of the breeze blowing through his hair, or the sweet, sweet taste of freedom tantalizingly close, we will never know exactly what drove this desire to bolt like an unbroken stallion.

As soon as he could walk he was running.

Venturing to the park with Connor was never a solo mission for either my husband or myself.  Not because we were lazy, but because it was dangerous.  Chatting idly with another parent or sitting peacefully on a bench and reading a book were not options.  We had to be alert at all times, and stay close to the boy, lest he disappear quicker than a winning lottery ticket.

A simple outing to the park is a stressful situation for many parents of children with special needs.  I remember wishing for a place I could take him, where he would have a certain degree of freedom, but would still be safe.

Recently, an inclusive park opened less than 5 miles from our home, and this past weekend I had the chance to team up with a friend and her daughter, and take Connor.

“The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to ensure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become different, to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses.”  That right there, that is inclusion.

The first thing I noticed about the park was that it’s completely enclosed by a fence, with a double gate at the entrance.  While a fence may be reminiscent of a prison for some, for me  it represents a safe, confined freedom.

The park is divided into different sensory play areas. Each area is big enough to accommodate a large number of children, and each area is wheelchair accessible.  We spent 20 minutes in the sandbox.

There was an area with instruments for those  that appreciate auditory sensory input.








.For the child that craves movement, via rocking or swinging, there is a sway cart (I don’t know what else to call it) that rocks back and forth, based on your body moving forward and back to cause movement. Unless you have a willing mom, who will stand and make the thing rock like a carnival ride for you.

Apparently my friend, Sabra, doesn't get vertigo, so she was the designated sway-er.

Of course, there was an extra-large playscape:

And it's shaded...

Oh, and more stuff for kids that like movement:

I was all about merry-go-rounds when I was younger, but now it would make me puke my guts out. But see that laughing boy, yeah, he's mine.

Easily the most unique and fantastic thing about this park is the mini-city.  Yes, I said MINI-CITY!!  They have mock buildings for the grocery store, hospital, library, and fire station.  And they have a mock street, complete with crosswalks and a street light.  For any parent that is nervous about teaching their young child about street safety and learning to cross a street, it is the perfect place to begin practicing that skill.

There's my friend, setting a bad example by not staying on the sidewalk!

About the only thing missing from the park was a water play area, which would be a popular  feature here in Texas, due to the high summer temps.  And I know my son would spend most of his time in the water.

I absolutely loved the design of the park.  More than that, I loved seeing NT kids playing right alongside kids with special needs.  When we talk about wanting inclusion for our children, it starts right here on the local level, with a park like this one.   It’s autism awareness month, and this is the kind of thing we should be advocating for in every community, because integration begins with our children learning to play together and accept one another’s differences.

Big kudos to the city of Round Rock, Texas, for making this park a reality.  You can read more about it here:

We had such a fabulous time at the park, we stopped on the way home to take pictures of wildflowers.  And what did that little shit do?

You gotta be kidding me, little boy.

I don’t think I’ll be packing away my running shoes just yet.


World Autism Awareness Day 2012

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Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Our President issued a proclamation concerning the growing need for awareness, and the barriers that still exist. It is not enough. Our children need greater access to early intervention services. Today, 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. My son is my face of autism.



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