Search Engine Saga Continues…

10 Jul

You may recall my post about Googling autism and the horrific things that popped up. I then did a follow up, sharing Google’s response as well as my findings on other popular search engines.

I decided to re-examine search engine suggestions and here is what I found today… (click to enlarge)


On the whole… the results look pretty similar to the way they did 3 months ago. Some things have changed…slightly…like some of the #1 suggestions being positive rather than negative. But there is certainly still work to be done, as at least half of the searches still propose murder. I get that some people will always think those with autism are “annoying” or “rude”. And as much as I wish that wasn’t the case…I know that ignorance and entitlement to opions are going to exist. But, death wishes are unacceptable. This kind of hatred needs to end. Any response, Google??


10 Jul

I compiled a list of odd things I’ve ACTUALLY used as reinforcers with kids I’ve worked with:

  • Nutri-Grain bars
  • Sips of my Starbucks coffee (with the parent’s permission, of course)
  • Taking pictures together
  • Pinching a kid’s cheeks (yes, he liked it!)
  • Access to the window to watch gardeners
  • Painting fingernails

And probably the oddest thing I’ve used…

  • Sitting in my trunk (I drive an SUV so it’s spacious!)

Hollywood, here he comes!

15 Jun

Dylan had a “Film Festival” at school last week. Each kid in his class made a movie about a favorite topic. Up there with the “Happy Birthday” song, Dylan’s favorite thing is marine life. He LOVES all different kinds of whales, dolphins and seals. He visits Sea World about 3-4 times per month, and the cast of their shows even recognize him when he comes because he’s such a regular.

Anyways… Dylan’s movie was a slideshow of pictures with a voice over of him reading facts he’d written about dolphins. I wasn’t there to see it in person, but my guess is that he was pretty excited to share his movie with his classmates.

First he gives an introduction, “My name is Dylan […] I like swimming and doing crafts. I enjoy swimming and running.” Then he tells the audience all about dolphins: “Dolphins have 2 flippers. They have 1 tail. They have 1 dorsal fin. Dolphins have very smooth skin.” He goes on to share how to care for dolphins, where dolphins live, and shows they perform in at Sea World.


Here he is in the directors chair at his very own movie premiere…



Can I just say….this little guy amazes me LITERALLY every time I see him.


13 Jun



Well, well, well…it’s been a while!


I’ve been drowning in work responsibilities and haven’t had a spare moment to even think about blogging. But today’s the day I dust off my keyboard and spill my guts. If you’re hoping for a helpful or hopeful or educational post, you might try finding one on Google; ‘cuz this is not that. Not today anyways.


Days like today chip away at my love and passion for my job.  Or should I say… WEEKS like this.


I’ve had a series of frustrating events happen at work that have burst my bubble on this whole career. Parents who distort reality and make ridiculous accusations. Parents who refuse to implement strategies. Endless reports and corrections and revisions and deadlines. Unbearable number of mandatory meetings (that I’m not paid to attend).


At the end of the day…. I chose a job in ABA for one reason, and one reason only…. to learn everything I can in order to help my brother. Along the way I’ve been able to help dozens of children and families. And that’s amazing! But that’s really a fringe benefit and a huge bonus in my quest to help Dylan. The real prize is having years of training, and experience, and education about how to best serve my brother.


And with the exhausting, punishing, maddening past couple of weeks that I’ve suffered through… I’m just deflated. I feel disenchanted and disillusioned with my job.


I’ve worked reeeeeeally hard to get where I am in my career. And, I don’t honestly plan to forsake it all. But, it’s awfully tempting to throw my hands up and say “Alright, it’s been nice knowin’ ya! I’m out!!!”


Hoping next month is better…. Hoping to get back my zeal for my job. I know it’s still in there somewhere. I know what I do for a living has the power to change lives…. and I’m incredibly blessed to have my job…. I guess that’s what I need to focus on…

My anniversary…

15 May

Today marks my 2 year wedding anniversary, and I thought I’d share a post on how my brother made my special day extra special.

After I got engaged I wondered what role Dylan would play in my wedding. I didn’t know if he would be able to be part of it. But, I’m extremely attached to all 4 of my siblings so it was important to me that he be there to share in my life-changing event. Naturally, I made him my ring-bearer.

Leading up to my wedding I created a social story and made sure he read through it each day, in preparation. The more you prepare a child for what is going to happen, and what is expected of them, the less anxiety they have surrounding the event, and the higher the chances are for success. Then, my family had him practice wearing his tuxedo, which he hated at first.  We systematically shaped his tuxedo wearing behavior by having him wear parts of it at a time to earn trips to his favorite theme park. I even bought him reinforcers for the day of the wedding: cotton candy, gumballs, and his favorite hand-soaps (<—- I have no idea why he loved soaps, but he did).  And, I insisted that he be a part of the rehearsal, so that he could get in-vivo practice, and experience reinforcement for his good behavior to make him more likely to repeat that good behavior the day of the wedding.

I brought a copy of the social story on the night of the rehearsal, and he was absolutely obsessed. He loved it! I made sure to give him tons of verbal praise (and some edible reinforcers too) for his behavior that night. He did so great! He waited his turn. He walked perfectly. He stood nicely. He was compliant. PERFECT!


Dylan reading his social story.

The day of my wedding was finally here…Dyl wore his tux without protest. He stood nicely and smiled for pictures. He waited for his turn to walk. And, (unbeknownst to me at the time) as he made his way down the aisle he stopped to try and blow out a few candles. (You may recall from my previous post, he LOVES anything birthday related, and I guess candles remind him of birthdays 🙂 ).  It made for a very cute memory for those who saw it. Then after the ceremony was over, I made sure to give him tons of praise for how great he did.

As planned, Dylan left before the reception began. As he was walking out with my step dad I yelled across the chapel to him, “Dylan”. He turned around and I told him, “You did a good job today, buddy. I love you.” Then I blew him a kiss… he blew me one back, and he skipped away.

Ah, to reminisce… Brings back such special memories. I am so grateful my little D could be part of my wedding day. There is nothing more wonderful than having all the people I love there with me on my wedding day.

One final pep-talk.

One final pep-talk.


Me with my ring-bearer.

Prom Night

30 Apr

This story has been going around Facebook and I wanted to share it… (click to enlarge)


This picture has gone viral with thousands of “likes” and hundreds of thousands of “shares”. I think what people love about it is that it serves as a reminder that there are kind, loving people out there. There are people who want to bridge the social gaps between typical kids and their special needs peers. There are people who see beyond diagnoses and disabilities. There are people who love, unconditionally.

Good for that school for having a club to bring peers together. It’s clearly making an impact.

I only wish this dad would post a follow up letting us know how Jon felt about going to Prom 🙂

Happy Birthday Dyl!

14 Apr

Dylan’s birthday party was this weekend. He gets really excited about his birthday every year. He loves parties and piñatas and cakes and candles. This year he chose to have a bowling party, and he got to celebrate with friends and family. But the best part (as it is every year), was singing to him during cake time.

You see, what my brother loves most about his birthday is the Happy Birthday Song. I mean, he LOVES it. He squeals with delight, smiles from ear to ear, and the joy he gets from people singing it to him is unparalleled and extremely contagious. His excitement is ridiculously adorable, and it’s the highlight of all his parties. Here are some pictures from, which captured his priceless expressions. I dare you not to smile…


10 years ago

9 Apr


 On this very day, 10 years ago, my littlest brother Dylan was born. I remember spending the day at the hospital with my siblings waiting for him to come. I was so excited when I finally got to hold him. I think I even skipped school the next day to be able to hang out at the hospital again. I was a Junior in high school at the time. And, I remember bringing his chocolate bar birth announcements to school with me and sharing with my friends.  I was so excited to have another baby brother!

My family and I had no idea the impact his little life would have on so many. But here we are, 10 years later, doing our part to share our experiences with those finding themselves on similar journeys. I know he will continue to inspire others, make them laugh, and maybe even change people’s perceptions. The effect he’s had on the world, unknowingly, in just one decade…incredible. I’m excited to see what the next 10 years bring us. But then again… can he just stay little, please?

Happy Birthday Little D!

Autism Awareness Month

4 Apr

I wrote this 2 years ago, in honor of World Autism Awareness Day, and ended up not sharing it…Until now.

“April 2, 2011- I thought long and hard about what to write for today. I came up with this… an honest look at what autism means to me.

Autism means heartache. It means fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of vaccines, fear of the future, fear of stagnation, fear of stigmatization, fear of failure, fear for safety, fear for when I’m gone. It means a family changed forever. It means loss. It means sadness, and anger, and hopelessness. It means worry, and panic and anxiety. Autism means pain beyond words. It means planning, and hoping and wondering and wishing. It means praying in tears for a cure, or even just for progress. It means a broken relationship. It means behaviors, and stims, and prompting, and teaching. It means uncertainty. It means waiting. It means denial, and repression. It means powerlessness, and inability. It means guilt. It means inadequacy, and unbearable hurt that I can’t take autism away. It means tough love, and pushing for more, and not giving up. It means the life I wish for my brother may never happen for him. It means the relationship I wish to have with my brother may never happen for me. Autism means making the best out of what you have. It means looking for the silver lining in everything. It means quirkiness. It means screaming and crying and tantrums and aggression. It means repetition and routine. It means triumph in every small victory. It means pride in every accomplishment, because they were so much harder to achieve. It means being aware. It means devastation. It means despair. It means frustration and hatred and boiling blood. Autism means sorrow and longing. It means different. It means embarrassment. It means never being satiated. It means advocacy and fighting and educating. It means a life-long battle. It means silliness. It means being perplexed and stuck. It means dichotomy. It means ambivalence. It means being misunderstood. Autism means caring, and compassion, and sympathy and empathy. It means a sweet smile. It means hugs and kisses worth more than a million bucks. It means redefining. Redefining success, redefining hope, redefining progress, redefining values, and strategies, and priorities. Autism means struggle. Struggle for the afflicted, struggle for their families. Autism means strength. Autism means weakness. Autism means faith. It means a new direction. It means helping. Autism means broken hearts. Autism means passion. It means finding joy and elation in every feat. It means never giving up. Autism means unconditional love.”

It was interesting for me to go back and read where I was at in 2011. I remembered writing about the gut-wrenching pain of autism, and just how many emotions a person can have about it. I didn’t remember my piece being quite so… What’s the right word?….depressing?? I can see that I’m in a different place, emotionally, now than I was back then. Not that the deep pain of autism has disappeared! No, I don’t suspect that it ever will. But I have seen so much progress in my brother that it’s allowed even more hope and excitement and pride to come in. (Those have been there all along, by the way.) All of the hardship and turmoil remains. I don’t think I’ll ever NOT be sad that I can’t have the type of relationship with my brother that I would like to have. But, I am just so overwhelmed with happiness and gratefulness for the relationship I do have with him. And I don’t think I’ll ever NOT be heartbroken that he may not have the life I wish he could have. But I’m determined (like the rest of my family) to make sure he has the best life he can.

He makes me smile unendingly. He makes me laugh, and beam, and he motivates me to do what I do. Autism is a beast. But it will never take away how remarkable my little brother is. And, let me just say, he’s pretty darn remarkable!


So tall…

1 Apr

My brother turns 10 soon.


I visited him yesterday for the first time since Christmas. Even though my mom and his dad live within minutes of me, I find that I get so busy with work and church and friends and my husband and everything else going on. Life gets in the way, and I’m not able to visit him as often as I’d like to. But I got to see him yesterday to drop off an Easter basket, and when I walked in, I was shocked….


He was so tall!!!


Somewhere between December 25th and March 31st, my little baby brother grew what seems like a mile. Okay, so it was probably 3 inches or so… but oh my gosh! He was huge!!


It made me sad. I know that’s typically a parental response… sadness that their little baby is growing up. But I felt it! My little brother, my Little D, was not little! And, I realized I can no longer carry him (not easily, anyway). I know I picked him up to get my goodbye hug on Christmas. I had no idea that would be the last time I’d be able to lift him.


Where did the time go? How did he get so big?


It was a loud reminder of the fact that he’s getting older, and he’s maturing. And, while it’s sad on the one hand, it’s also extremely exciting on the other hand. He has come such a long way. He amazes me everytime I see him. Literally. Everytime.


The way he gains people’s attention by calling their names…

The way he asks questions…

The way he asks for help…

The way he writes and spells….

Even the way he cooperats with calming techniques when he’s frustrated….


He’s so awesome. And even though he’s up to my chest now… He’ll forver be my Little D.

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