Category Archives: autism

How to Keep Halloween Safe and Happy


by Lillian Csernica on October 3, 2017

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Holidays at my house are always a bit out of the ordinary. We don’t do ordinary, or normal, or any of those just-like-everybody-else words.

My boys are too old to trick-or-treat these days, but they do love dressing up in costume, and they will never say no to treats.

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My older son does not eat by mouth. He has a g-tube which feeds a liquid diet directly into his stomach. He loves toys, games, arts and crafts, so non-food treats are fine with him.

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My younger son is allergic to peanuts. They are EVERYWHERE, especially when it comes to candy. There are a lot of safe candy options, as well as healthy alternatives and non-food items.

For the past four years I have been careful to have two bowls for trick-or-treaters. One has a mix of chocolate and non-chocolate candy. The other has a variety of non-food treats such as Halloween-themed bubbles, stickers, baby Slinkies, and glow sticks. I also keep a supply of prizes I give out to individuals and/or families who have created costumes that I think are really special.

Two years ago, I discovered the Teal Pumpkin Project.

Families like mine all over the country (and quite possibly the world) face the dilemma of wanting their children to participate in Halloween and enjoy all the fun the other kids are having. When you put a teal pumpkin on the porch, you send a very bright and welcome signal. You tell families like mine that you get it. You are aware of food allergies and related health problems and you are prepared. Come one, come all! You have goodies to suit everybody’s wants and needs.

This Halloween I look forward to putting my teal pumpkin in a prominent place on my porch so everybody will know when they yell “Trick or Treat!” at my house, they won’t go away empty-handed. On the contrary. We usually have so much that by the end of the night I encourage the older trick or treaters to take a handful.

Please support the Teal Pumpkin Project. Let’s make this a safe, happy Halloween for everyone!

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Filed under autism, charity, chocolate, classics, cosplay, creativity, doctors, Family, family tradition, Food, frustration, Halloween, Horror, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, Special needs, therapy

5 Things You May Not Know About Having Multiple Children with Special Needs


I have just discovered Jenn and her amazing family. As a mother with more than one child who has special needs, I know how complicated it can be to just get through the day. To me, Jenn is a superhero. Read on and you’ll see why.

Special Needs Essentials Blog

We’re happy to introduce a new gust blogger to the Special Needs Essentials community,  Jenn from Positive Parenting Specialized. We are glad to have her unique perspective on our blog!

Hi there, I’m Jenn, a single mom to a seventeen year old with Global Depression, a fifteen year old with Asperger’s Syndrome (and a hand full of co-morbid diagnosis), a 10 year old with autism, Type 1 Diabetes, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and a 7 year old fireball with Disruptive Behavior Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Learning Challenges, and Anxiety Disorder. I am in my forties and have started blogging to try to support the kids and myself. I love being a work from home mom, praying often that it stays this way.

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Life with four children who all have unique challenges might be surprising. Maybe some of these points are “No Brainers.” See for yourself!

Here are Five Things…

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Filed under autism, Depression, doctors, Family, Food, frustration, Goals, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, Special needs, worry

The Comfort Zone: Are You In or Out?


by Lillian Csernica on September 5, 2017

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I’ve been reading a lot lately about how writers need to get out of their comfort zones. Apparently better writing is achieved once we leave our comfort zones and venture out into the wild terrain of ideas that scare the daylights out of us.

I’m not talking about horror per se. There are subjects that we all find distressing. The kind of material that people these days label with trigger warnings. Facts and stories and ideas which will hit us where we live, push on old bruises, maybe bring fresh pain to old scars. Such subjects are intensely painful and could be trauma triggers.

A trauma trigger is an experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic and can be indirectly or superficially reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident.

(Relevant tangent: If you’re interested in the debate about trigger warnings, I recommend reading The Trigger Warning Myth.)

While I can appreciate the need to test one’s boundaries and stretch one’s literary muscles, I do have two problems with all of these articles urging writers to get out of their comfort zones.

  1. The people giving this advice have no idea what’s outside my comfort zone. I might have some very good reasons for staying in it.
  2. There’s a crucial piece of information missing. Maybe it’s just the debate team in me, but I don’t see anybody defining the term “comfort zone.” (That’s why I keep linking to the definition every single time I use that phrase.) To me the proper starting point is figuring out precisely where our comfort zones begin and end. Once that’s mapped out, we know where to find terra incognita. We can point to the spot that says “Here there be dragons!”

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Time for painful honesty. For years now people have told me I should write about my experiences with my older son Michael. Bed rest in the hospital. The terror of the day he had to be delivered via emergency C-section. Every day and night of the three and a half months he remained in the hospital, coming close to dying time and time again.

Why don’t I write about that? Simple. I’ve been too busy living it. For most of Michael’s twenty-one years on this planet, my husband and I have considered it a good week if no medical emergency forced us to call 911.

Same with John. Sure, I could write about the day he got out the front door while I was changing Michael’s diaper. I had to dash out after him before he made it to the busy street. I tore my right calf muscle doing so. Then I still had to get up and run after him. I wound up in the ER that night, and came home on crutches. That added a whole new layer of difficulty to being primary caregiver for two special needs children.

What’s outside my comfort zone?

Miscarriage. Babies dying. Whether or not to turn off the life support.

Wondering if I’ll ever know the joys of being a grandmother.

Who will look after my boys once I’m dead.

And a few other matters that I’m not ready to talk about to anybody, even myself.

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Yes, I agree that “growing our comfort zones” is a worthwhile goal. I also think people who dish out such advice should be mindful of the dangers of doing so. These are hard times. Telling people to go rummaging around in the darker corners of their psyches for really juicy writing material is not a smart or a responsible thing to do.

For me, getting my own car again was a big step outside my comfort zone. I didn’t drive for years because of a Gordian knot of anxieties surrounding the subject of driving. Now I have a car. Now I drive all the time. Oh look, here I am writing about it!

For once I don’t mean to sound sarcastic. You decide when and if you want to step outside of your comfort zone. You decide just how far, and how often. It’s good to tell the stories that only you can tell. It’s more important to respect your own pain and your own right to privacy. You’ll know when the time is right.

For some excellent thoughts on why there’s nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone, go see what Darius Foroux has to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Universal Studios: Screaming and Laughing


by Lillian Csernica on July 2, 2017

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Next up: Shrek 4-D. This adventure was so amazing and funny we saw it both days.

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You start out in Lord Farquad’s Dungeon, where the Three Little Pigs and Pinocchio are being held prisoner. The Magic Mirror and the Ghost of Lord Farquad get the story started as a prelude to what happens during the 4D movie in Ogre-Vision!

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No spoilers here, but I will say this is more than just a visual experience. Four out of the five senses get some stimulation. One of them hit me right where I live, bringing a whole new dimension to this thrill ride!

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Minion Mayhem — Another wild ride! When the Minions all get thrown into prison, Gru starts a recruiting campaign. This is the basis of the ride’s storyline. Gru’s henchman Dr. Nefario has created another evil death ray gizmo that will turns even humans into Minions. (I got to be a purple Minion!) John and I can’t wait to see Despicable Me 3.  What we saw during the ride convinced us we had to see the whole movie. John bought a Minion key ring with his name on it. I bought a charm that shows Kevin and Bob back to back, both of them holding serious ray guns! The perfect keepsake to remind me of the time John and I joined the ranks of the Minions!

The Simpsons Experience — Ever wanted to be inside an episode of The Simpsons? This will do it for you. It’s an insane 3D ride through Itchy & Scratchy Land, facing the homicidal robot cats and mice. There’s an ominous undercurrent to the ride’s lead-in, which explodes into some genuine terror (at least for me) when you experience the very realistic sense of being trapped on a shattered roller coaster.

Yes, that’s right. If you weren’t already in enough of a panic, the ride starts going backwards!

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Back when I was ten years old, just the prospect of going behind the scenes at a real working movie studio was a huge thrill. In today’s modern digital world, visitors expect a whole lot more given the endless competition for their attention spans. Now the Studio Tour includes a 3D adventure between King Kong and some vicious dinosaurs. The grand finale is the hyper-realistic, HD adventure Fast and Furious: Supercharged.

I confess a certain nostalgia for the Jaws portion of the tour. There I was, sitting in the tour shuttle with John just as my mother had sat with me. John has a pretty good grip on what’s real and what isn’t, but that didn’t stop him from yelping when the shark reared up out of the water. Another fine family tradition, watching the next generation get freaked out by Bruce the animatronic shark.

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Universal Fun!


by Lillian Csernica on June 24, 2017

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Tomorrow John and I will fly down to Los Angeles and spend a few days enjoying the wonders of Universal Studios Hollywood.

John has been talking about seeing Universal Studios ever since he first heard about it many years ago. Chris and I decided that a trip to this previously unexplored land of movie magic makes the perfect graduation gift for our boy.

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John and I have studied the map. We’ve discussed what we each want to see the most. Today we’ve been packing our bags. Tomorrow we take our first plane trip together. I’m pretty sure what John is looking forward to the most is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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Me, I’m looking forward to the air conditioning on the plane, at the hotel, and on many of the rides. I’m not a big fan of heat, preferring autumn and winter to summer. I suppose this is an indicator of my advancing years. Insane roller coasters are great, but they lost their appeal for me after I reached my late twenties.

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Even so, I can’t wait to watch the Special Effects Show with John, to get silly in the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem area, and probably scream at least once on the Jurassic Park ride. Best of all, I finally get to drink butter beer and hang out at Ollivander’s where Harry Potter’s wand chose him!

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My grandfather worked in the movies. My mother has appeared as an extra in several. I did some writing for the movies, once upon a time. And now my son loves movies just as much as the previous generations in our family have.

Watch for my trip report once we’re home again!

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Supreme Court Supports Special Needs Education


by Lillian Csernica on March 22, 2017

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Today the Supreme Court ruled to improve educational benefits for special needs students!

This is wonderful news. With Trump in office, I’ve been very worried about what programs will remain in place to support my sons as they “age out” of the county educational system. This sets a precedent that will prompt positive decision-making!

Get the details here!

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Filed under autism, creativity, doctors, Family, Goals, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, Special needs, therapy, Writing

Can It Get Any Sillier Than This?


By Lillian Csernica on August 26, 2016

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Have you ever had one of those days where the raw, undiluted silliness of people was simply beyond belief?

For me, today was that day.

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Finding two hard-boiled eggs.

I had an early doctor appointment this morning, so early I was out of the house and in my car by 7:15 a.m. I stopped at the grocery store for an iced coffee. In the deli I can usually find ready-to-eat hard-boiled eggs. Not today.

At that hour I was one of maybe three customers in the entire store.  I asked one of the folks behind the deli counter if they had any more hard-boiled eggs. She came out and looked around in the deli cases, finding none.

Then another clerk hailed me. She wore the tool belt that had sheaths for her box cutters.  That meant she worked on the loading dock in the back opening deliveries.  (I have no idea what she was doing hanging out by the deli counter.)  She told me there was one other place to look for the eggs. This was way across the store. She led me over there, found nothing, and expressed her deep regret.

All I can figure is I was a customer and these people were going to make sure their manager saw them providing good customer service. Two hard-boiled eggs were not that big a deal to me. Seeing these clerks turn my breakfast into The Quest for The Eggs was really funny.

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Sittin’ at the car wash

In my front yard we have an oak tree so big and so old several of its limbs are supported by a network of thin cables. The oak tree drips what I assume is sap, leaving sticky trails down the windshields and sides of our vehicles. Living out in nature means a fine dusting of pollen all over everything. Then there are the power lines, which provide wonderful perches for the blue jays, sparrows, robins, and crows. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? The Bird Brigade sits on the power lines and poops all over our vehicles.

I picked up John after school today and ran some errands, which included going to the car wash. You pay your money, get a receipt with a code on it, then drive around to the entrance of the car wash. The average wash takes about ten minutes start to finish. There were four cars ahead of us. Matters were moving along at the usual rate when the next car into the wash unit suddenly backed up. I watched this person pull forward and back up three separate times. What madness was this?

Then I understood. This person had never been through this car wash before. What he or she thought was an alarm was merely the signal to stop the car so the wash could begin.

At this point there were two other cars ahead of me and three more behind me. Why were we all just sitting there watching this poor fool pulling forward and back, risking damage to the car and the wash unit, to say nothing of the next car in line?

I sent John to tell the attendant at the cash register what was going on.

That got sorted out with no injuries to people or machinery, thank God. John and I took our turn. My car now looks all shiny and pretty.  I bought John an ice cream sundae as a reward for his patience.  The poor guy had been stuck in the car over an hour thanks to a bunch of adults who couldn’t get out of their own way!

 

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A Personal Glimpse Inside Autism and ADHD


This weekend Withteeth and I went to a writing conference. I haven’t talked about my writing in a while, but it is still something I’m pursuing. However, conferences are incredibly difficult for me. As such, I wanted to write a bit about the struggles with anxiety and how to deal with it both for people […]

via How to Deal With Anxiety — hessianwithteeth

I’d like to express my gratitude to hessianwithteeth for giving us all these insights into such complex and demanding experiences.

It’s so wonderful that people with visible disabilities are gaining recognition and inclusiveness. Life can be even more difficult for people with conditions that can’t be seen from the outside. My own Major Depressive Disorder has been gaining the upper hand these past two weeks, making this issue all the more immediate and important to me.

Remember. You are not alone!

Lillian

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How We Survived a Three Convention Weekend


by Lillian Csernica on June 4, 2016

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Hi, gang. I made it through all four days of Clockwork Alchemy, BayCon, and Fanime.I would have written this post sooner, but the sudden discovery of John being WAY behind on preparing his Final presentation/exam in one of his classes caused me to devote what energies I had to making sure he met today’s deadline. I love that boy dearly, but some days he makes me crazy.

The weekend was packed with memorable moments.  This was John’s first time really participating in conventions.  (He did make a brief appearance at the Meet the Guest Reception of one BayCon about ten or twelve years ago. We had to keep him away from the buffet and out from under everybody else’s tables.) It was a spectacular weekend!  John even won a Hall Costume Award for his steampunk attire.

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Technolo-John meets Mega Man!

John had quite a few adventures, including playing the communications officer aboard the Starship Artemis. He made a light saber in one of the DIY workshops, and he discovered the joys of hanging out in the Hospitality Suite having munchies and watching “Wheel of Fortune” on a big plasma screen.  That might sound silly, but I was pleased to see John guessing the solutions with everybody else.

At Fanime, all the people in costume blew John’s mind. He’d been hoping to meet some of his favorite superheroes. Sure enough, one man was dressed as Nightwing, and one young lady wore a Raven costume. Raven told John how much she liked his steampunk outfit. That had him walking on air!

Business was good. I sold all but one of the anthology copies I brought with me.  Gave away all the beaded space-theme bookmarks and the Japanese art print bookmarks, all of which had this here blog’s URL on the back.  Shameless Self-Promotion! John got to see people asking me for my autograph as I signed their copies.  This is my idea of Take Your Kid To Work Day. Now John knows that I really am (kinda) famous.

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Courtesy of Leigh Flynn

At Clockwork Alchemy on Sunday morning I had a good time teaching the Victorian Yarn Doll DIY.  Yarn colors included forest green, wine red, and navy blue, as well as what I like to call the “steampunk rainbow.” This is a yarn made up of several jewel tone colors suitable for the steampunk era. Traditional Victorian yarn dolls are either boys or girls.  Out of respect for the gender fluid community, I wanted to provide materials that were both inclusive and diverse. If you’re interested in making yarn dolls, Pinterest is a gold mine of methods, styles, and materials.

Mixy Award

This is the Mixy Award, created by Steve Mix in honor of those people who he feels deserve recognition for their ongoing contributions to fandom and the convention community.  At this year’s BayCon, Steve granted me the honor of presenting the Mixy to none other than my best friend and co-conspirator, Pat MacEwen.  Convincing her to bring the spiffy clothes and dress up on Saturday night was a bit of a challenge, because of course I couldn’t tell her why.

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Steve Mix was also responsible for the D20 challenge.  Several of us who are gamers past or present brought our best D20s to the con.  Whenever some of us would cross paths, we’d roll against each other. Best of five was the general rule.  Whoever won got to keep all the dice involved in that particular round.  I brought five D20s with me, and I left with five D20s, so I broke even.

In the bar of the San Mateo Marriott, the tables are glass.  That meant that in the evening when we had anywhere from three to seven people rolling at once, we made a glorious racket!  (I have to give the staff of the hotel credit.  They embraced the weirdness that is fandom like good sports.  The valets were having a great time collecting badge ribbons.) Steve has the best D20.  It’s made of some kind of metal, and it rolls high and hard.  I told him he should name it the “Deathstar D20”!

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The Snow Jedi

I’m going to break one of my own rules here and post a photo of myself in my jammies. That is indeed the very light saber John made.  This goes to show how much fun I was having. I actually asked Pat to take a photo of me looking like this. This had to be my best Clockwork/Fanime/BayCon ever!

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So, How Was Your Day?


by Lillian Csernica on May 16, 2016

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My day began at 4:15 a.m. when Michael had a serious coughing fit.  Fortunately, I’d fallen asleep on the couch again, so I could dash through the kitchen to his room.  I spent the rest of the night on the couch in his room, getting up every time he had another coughing fit or I didn’t like the way his breathing sounded.

He had no fever and his blood oxygen level was OK, so I sent him to school

Took a nap.  Did my laundry.  Tried to get more writing done.  Failed miserably.

It's not the destination, but the journey that counts. Unless you're stuck in traffic. Then it's the destination.

Picked John up from school.  The usual traffic chaos ensued.  I’m not sure which I want more, an air horn or a laser cannon.

Drove to the tire repair center so I could get the new right rear tire put on in place of the spare.  Yesterday I got my first flat tire.  That was not a pleasant experience.  Had to call Chris for help.  It being Sunday, no garages were open.

The tire hadn’t come it yet.  It would arrive within the hour.

So John and I sat in the Burger King across the parking lot.  He did his homework and I cut more text out of the synopsis for Sword Master, Flower Maiden.

The Tire People called me, put my tire on, and I took John home.

Michael was not doing well.  The coughing situation continued at school.  My sister was on duty with Michael this afternoon.

I happened to go next door to talk to my neighbors, the ones on the left side, not the ones on the right who have the child I refer to as the Cute Little Hellspawn.  The man makes guitars and has forgotten more than I’ll ever learn about all the different parts and the amplifiers and speakers and all the other equipment that goes with playing guitar.  I spent most of an hour there listening to him talk about his guitars and play a few for me.

So of course, when I went back home, all hell was breaking loose because nobody knew I was next door.  My fault.  I should have said something before I left.

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We were out of Benadryl.  I had to drive to the store and buy some.  So I did.

I get home, and my sister had called one of our R.N.s, who said Michael would do better to take Tussin than Benadryl.  Did we have Tussin?  Sure, two doses worth.

So I drove back to the store.  Mind you, it was after seven p.m. and I hadn’t even managed to eat dinner yet.  I was tired, grumpy, and my vision seemed a bit blurred.

That’s when I realized I’d left the house wearing my computer glasses.

At the drugstore, there was a Perfect Storm of a new, inexperienced checker at the register, the customer ahead of me had a ton of items, and the debit card reader was acting up again.

I am home now.  I have a pile of manuscripts to read.  I have a synopsis to edit.  I have laundry to fold and put away.  And then there is the list of things I still have to do to get ready for BayCon and Clockwork Alchemy.

So tell me, how was your day?

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