“The Final Day”

Both my big kids attended separate schools this year.

Carter was fortunate enough, to be accepted into a fabulous program for children on the spectrum. It was his therapy and school combined, which meant we had to stop home therapy and move him to a different school. We knew going into this, that it was only temporary, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re nearing the end.

Today is the last day of the school year, for Carter.1

In September, he will return to his home school where he attended, the two previous years.

Let me just say, that I ADORE his home school ! It is not in our catchment area, but I would drive twice the distance if I had to, so that Carter and his sister could attend. We have a wonderful SERT at our home school, and Carter has been blessed with amazing teachers and EA’s. Even the principal is lovely ! I am excited for him to see his classmates again, rekindle some old friendships and attend a school where he may even get to see his sister in the hallway, from time to time.

With Carter returning to his home school, things will be a little easier on me. I’ll have one drop off and pick up location, and both kids starting and ending school at the same time. That alone will allot me an extra hour per day! (Hey, maybe that will be my “writing time?!”)

It’s just the change. The change can be hard. Taking the next step, knowing there is no going back.

Always, always wondering if we are making the right decision, every step of the way.

Of course, I know that being a parent of any child, you question every decision you make for you kid. But when you are the parent of a special needs child, all your decisions become that much harder. Every single choice you make, or don’t make, can impact them in such a significant way.

And not necessarily for the best!

I do believe though, that he is ready to take the next step. I think he has gone as far as he can, in the program he has attended this year. Lord, I hope I am right!

Carter and I spent a lot of time together in the mornings, during the 40 minutes (and only a few blocks) between the two schools. 7

At the beginning of the school year, and in the last couple of months, we played at the playground and kicked a soccer ball around. (He’s getting really good at dribbling.) During the colder months we sat in the truck and practiced his IBI goals5 together. We made up word games, watched movies on my IPhone and made silly faces at each other.

92

A lot of selfies were taken. Carter really likes the selfies! Though I guess in actuality they are not considered a “selfie”, if the picture is of him and me together, but let’s just forget that technicality.

Today, I chased him down the slide and across the field, back and forth (“tag” is his new favourite game.) I pushed him on the “blue swing,” counting 5 pushes and one11 “crazy push” at his request. I tickled his legs as he swung on the swing and emptied the sand from his shoes, before it was time to head in.

We spent our last morning together, at this school, doing the things we loved to do.     8

So it only seemed fitting, that we took our last pre-school selfie together, before Carter went in to attend his final day.

Sara Park

Advertisements

“Our Compassionate Leader”

There is something extraordinary about our eldest daughter, Caris.

Okay, there is something extraordinary about all three of my children, but our middle child exhibits two of my most favourite qualities. Compassion and Leadership.

Shortly after our son Carter was diagnosed with autism, our daughter Caris was born. It was as though, the joy of her birth was relevantly timed, to soften the blow that the autism diagnosis had carved in our chests.

I’m not going to lie. Maneuvering through autism while caring for a newborn was no piece of cake! She was a challenging baby, but I know now that her tenacious personality was the cause. The stubbornness she possessed, was her way, of trying to be in charge of everything. Even as an infant, she was a doer, which became completely apparent, the first time she shouted “I do-ed it myself” at me.

Some people may describe her demeanor as a little bit bossy, but I say, she is fiercely independent and a born leader!

Don’t ask me where the dominance comes from, because neither I, nor my husband possess it, but this little firecracker fit our family in such a way, that it felt as though she was chosen for us, on purpose.

She has always known how to relate to her older brother, Carter. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, other than to say, she just “gets” him. Even when he was unable to communicate verbally with her, she understood what he needed. No words were required from him. She knew exactly how to accommodate “play” so that it could include him, and she’d find a way to manipulate toys or the game rules, so that he could understand them.

It’s because of these inherent skills that she is often referred to as Carter’s “mini therapist.”

The other night, Caris was playing with her new Lego set, at the kitchen table. She asked Carter to join her, and he politely declined, but she was upset with his refusal. I explained to her that Carter has a hard time with Lego, because he has to use his imagination when building things, and that it’s really difficult for him. I said to her, that he’s not able to see creations, just by visualizing them, the way that she does. As much as he likes to play with the “finished product”, he gets frustrated when he has to build something without specific instructions.

I walked away to tend to our toddler, who was calling me from the playroom. When I returned, Carter was sitting at the kitchen table with Caris, building something out of Lego. I walked towards them, to see what it was, and Caris said to me “Mommy, I took apart my Lego ramp and sleigh, so that Carter could put it back together.”legoblog

This particular set was a day old, and highly admired by Caris. She had placed the box aside in the other room, complete with instructions, the day prior. She could have accepted his rejection to her invitation and continued on playing independently, but she didn’t allow for his limitations to prevent him from having fun.

Sure, as the parent, I might have come up with that idea myself, had I been given some more time to think about it, but I didn’t have to.

She had thought it up on her own, just as always.

Sara Park

Sensory Overload

I stand in a crowded grocery store, waiting for the cashier to scan my items.
Carter is here.

Waiting is hard for him.blogpostpic

He does his best, but the bright lights, the sound of the scanner, the buttons on the cash register, a squeaky cart, the chatter, automatic doors, now a baby is crying….it is sensory overload for him, and it’s too much !

Sometimes I can see he’s struggling, and I praise his efforts before an outburst occurs.

But not today.

He vocalizes a loud stim and hand flaps to counteract the noise that surrounds him.

It doesn’t go unnoticed.
It never does.

I’ve found it’s best that I don’t make eye contact with anyone when *it* happens.

I focus my eyes on Carter, and with no words exchanged, I can tell by looking at him that he already feels bad.

He did try.

I know he did….but it is so hard for him !

I remind Carter to have a quiet voice and calm hands.
I ask him if he wants a hug. Sometimes the pressure of a tight hug, helps to release the build up he is feeling inside.

I imagine it would feel like you are standing at a rock concert.
The music is pounding, people are screaming, your ears are ringing.
It hurts, but you can’t leave.

It’s that noise that makes your skin crawl, like nails on a chalkboard, only there is no chalkboard, it’s just your life, and you are surrounded by it all.the.time.

My heart sinks heavily as I try to contain the resentment I feel, towards the people around me.

Autism is an “invisible” disability.
The kids on the spectrum look the same as everyone else.
So naturally, people will stare.
They’re trying to analyze the situation, the child, I get it.
But it doesn’t make me any less angry.

It’s the “Mama bear” instinct times one hundred.

This is our day-to-day.

At the grocery store.
The playground.
The Doctor’s office.
Library.
Church.
School.

Everywhere.

Autism is a life long disorder.
Like most kids with ASD, this will always be a struggle for him.

Sensory processing and Autism go hand in hand, so even with years of therapy, he may never be able to adapt to his surroundings.

We put forth so much effort trying to change these kids on the spectrum, to make them adapt, when in fact, they may never be capable of change. And it’s not their fault, they are doing the best that they can, it’s just that for many, it is an impossible feat.

But we can change !

How you ask ? Stop staring, for one.

Have compassion. Children on the spectrum are not misbehaving, they are truly struggling with their surroundings.

A struggle beyond anything us “neurotypicals” can understand.

Every day is hard for them.

So please remember that the next time you see a child in a grocery store, or a Doctor’s office, or a library, that is having a difficult time.

They are coping the best that they can, and so are their parents.

Sara Park

All or Nothing.

photoALL OR NOTHING

Autism.
You’ve heard the word before, but what do you actually know about it?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes social impairment, difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication, problems with sensory processing and repetitive behaviours.

Basically, it affects the way a person will think, learn and experience everything.

The latest statistics show that 1 in 68 children are on the Autism spectrum.
It is five times more common in boys, than girls, which makes the number 1 in 42 (boys).
As well, the numbers do not represent children under the age of 8, so as you can imagine, the numbers are much higher when you add those children into the equation.
My son turned 8 in August, and though he was diagnosed with Autism at age 3, he was not one of the 1 in 42 boys represented in the data.

With numbers this high, I would estimate that every second classroom has a student on the Autism spectrum.
If the number of children diagnosed with Autism, continues to rise, I would expect that every class will have a student with Autism, in just a few short years.

When I was growing up, the statistics were more like 1 in 10,000 children.
It was practically unheard of, which is why there are so many adults out there, that don’t know a thing about it. You may even be one of those adults!

A few years ago, my son (who has Autism), was in preschool.
His classmates were starting to notice that he was different than them.
They were asking questions about him, that no one really knew how to answer.
I wanted to help.
I wanted the kids to understand why he did the things he did, and I wanted to encourage them to be his friend.

So I wrote a poem.
It was essentially an “introduction to Autism” for preschoolers.
The poem was read to the children, and it was well received.
Questions were answered and the kids learned how to engage with my son.

That’s where the concept of “Clever Carter” began.

There is a growing number of children diagnosed with Autism every year.
How great would it be to have a resource for teachers and parents that could help to educate our children about Autism, starting as early as preschool?!
A kid friendly way to share some facts and commonalities.
A way to encourage inclusion and understanding of the disorder, from the very beginning.

The poem I wrote became a book, so that other teachers and parents outside of my son’s class, could use it as a teaching tool when educating about Autism.

We pre-sold 200 copies before they were even printed.

Resources for educating children about Autism are sparse, and the speed at which we sold the books, confirmed that.

That is my motivation.
That is why I’m doing this.

Today, we launch our Kickstarter fundraising campaign!

For those that don’t know, Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” fundraising site.
Meaning, if you don’t reach your goal in the designated time (36 days from today), you leave with nothing.
Nada. Zip. Zero dollars.

That’s a lot of pressure on a person!

Fortunately for me, I am well versed in “all or nothing”, because I have a kid on the Spectrum.
It is pretty much our way of life!

(And I like to ignite a little fire within me, from time to time.) 😉

Back to the campaign.
Our goal: to raise what we need to fund our second, much larger print.

That is where I need some help.

I like a little fire, but I am only ONE person.

Please share the campaign.
Everywhere. Often.

Donate what you can to help us reach our goal!

Thank you! 😀

vwp_parkfam05-ZF-1220-55032-1-001-005

Xo
Clever Carter’s Mom
Sara

Our Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1067812886/clever-carter-a-story-about-autism?ref=nav_search

Resources:
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/autism/

http://www.autism-community.com/autism-and-learning-2/

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0327-autism-spectrum-disorder.html