March 21, 2014

Sevenly and Autism Speaks

Posted in Fun Stuff, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:49 am by autismmommytherapist

Summer Fun 2007 007

When my eldest, severely autistic son was little our daily interactions were punctuated by frequent tantrums, an outcome I eventually learned was due mostly to his inability to articulate even his most basic needs.  Halfway into his second year his father and I realized Justin was more than just a “late talker,” and after his autism diagnosis we dedicated ourselves to finding a method of communication for our boy.


We tried sign language, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), and ProloquotoGo for his iPad, and never gave up hope for the mecca of the spoken word.  There were still tantrums of course (he’s a child, and strong-willed at that,) but they lessoned in frequency and severity with each system of communication we tried.  To date, he is usually able to articulate his desires thanks to his iPad and to the limited vocabulary we’re so thrilled he continues to build upon.  


We are so fortunate that through Justin’s school system and our insurance company we’ve been able to provide him with the training and devices he needs, as well as the training his non-techie mother required as well.  There are autism families not as fortunate as ours.  I cannot even imagine not being able to facilitate my son’s burgeoning independence as he shares his wants and needs with the world.


Apparently, the Sevenly Corporation, a company who on a weekly basis donates a portion of every product sold to a chosen charity, feels exactly the same way.


Sevenly contributes to a variety of different charities through marketing their unique one-of-a-kind products.  For every t-shirt sold, that week’s non-profit organization receives $7.  The company also uses social media to raise awareness for its partner non-profits.


Since 2012, when Sevenly began its partnership with Autism Speaks, the company has donated over $300,000 to the non-profit’s speech and communication programs.  Sevenly’s goal is to raise $20,000 per month through their product, a t-shirt collection whose logos are inspired by the courage, determination, and talent of autistic individuals.   Sevenly’s dream is to continue to use this forum to act as a positive impact on both families and individuals living with autism.


That’s a dream I can respect.


As many of you reading this piece already know, April is Autism Awareness month.  I prefer to view this thirty day period each year as autism acceptance month, and autism celebration month as well.  I had the chance to read some of their t-shirt’s inspiring slogans, including my favorite, “different not less,” and will be ordering that particular sentiment myself as we finally (!) march into spring.  If any of you are so inclined as to acquire “autism merch” I recommend checking out the site, and I’ve included a link below.  I know many families will directly benefit from your purchase.


And on behalf of my son, who continues to inspire and amaze us daily, I thank you as well.


April 28, 2013

The Nod

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:11 am by autismmommytherapist

Easter 2013 025

It’s Thursday morning, just a regular day before school starts, and I am trying for what seems the hundredth time this week to figure out something my eldest child will possibly consume for breakfast. Over the course of the past seven days I’ve hawked three different cereals, pancakes, waffles, even French toast, all to no avail.

I hate sending him to school on an empty stomach, but I seem to have run out of options as I whip eggs and milk into the frothy concoction which will soon fill up my stomach. I’ve offered Justin eggs before, which he has regarded with all the enthusiasm of a patient approaching an overdue root canal. Today, just for the heck of it, I turn to look at my tall son who is immersed in his DVD player and ask “Justin, do you want eggs?”, fully expecting no response whatsoever.

And in mid egg-flip, my son looks me in the eyes and nods an emphatic yes.

I fling the spatula down on the unsuspecting stove, and run over to my boy, afraid I’ve misinterpreted the first time Justin has answered a “yes or no” question in our home. I turn off the DVD player and angle him toward me, and pepper him with queries I’m certain he’ll soon find tiresome.

“Is your name Justin?” (nod yes). “Is your name Zachary?” (nod no). “Do you think your mom’s gone crazy?” (okay, I didn’t really ask that one, but contemplated it for a moment there). Truth is, I asked about a half dozen more close-ended questions, and he responded appropriately every time. I did what I lovingly call the “happy language dance”, rescued my almost-doomed eggs, and served my son a generous portion of my take.

First a few spontaneous exclamations of “Mama”; then requesting me unprompted on the iPad; now this. As I drink my orange juice, I admit, I’m a bit verklempt at these new developments.

I recently read a study informing me that while researchers previously thought that the language window swung firmly shut on most autistic children by age four, newer studies have shown that most children on the spectrum do acquire some language. In fact, the study says that almost half go on to be fluent. While we’ve kept Justin in private speech therapy and continue to work with him at home, by the time he turned nine and had shown no real progress, I began to let my dream of him having some semblance of functional speech go by the wayside.

My disappointment was somewhat mollified by the fact he is able to use his iPad quite functionally, particularly in school where he employs the device for requests and academics. In those dark, desperate days of toddlerhood when his primary method of communication was digging his fingernails into my tender flesh, I used to pray for any methodology whatsoever which would facilitate communication, be it technology or a Ouji board (again, those were desperate days).

As he’s grown and has shown great aptitude for various media my fears we’d never share even the most rudimentary standards of language disappeared, and I’ve grown quite fond of ProloquotoGo, the program through which he is able to make his needs known. Still, I admit deep in my soul I longed for a word or two, or even for him to have the capability to answer those simple yes and no queries without running to his device.

Now, he can.

There’s a great article on the Autism Speaks blog by Geri Dawson, outlining new findings about speech in autistic children, and nine other things we know about autism that we didn’t know a year ago. Among those findings, researchers are developing medicines to address the core symptoms of autism, namely communication deficits, social withdrawal, and repetitive behaviors.

Symptoms of autism are now being detected in children as young as six months of age. Prenatal folic acid, taken in the weeks before and after a woman conceives, may reduce a child’s autism risk. We are slowly making progress in deciphering autism’s many mysteries. My son, after a long, sometimes agonizing wait, is making progress too.

His mother couldn’t be more proud.