Thursday, August 30, 2007


Is your child's backpack making the grade?

Thu Aug 30, 2:21 PM ET, Reuters

With a new school year underway, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is reminding parents that wearing backpacks improperly or ones that are too heavy put children at increased risk for back injuries and muscle strain.

A recent study of backpack-carrying pre-K through 9th graders showed that unhealthy changes in posture are magnified if the backpack weighs more than 10 to 15 percent of the student's body weight. The APTA recommends that backpack loads be kept to this limit.

Physical therapist and APTA member Dr. Mary Ann Wilmarth warns in an APTA-issued statement that injury can occur when a child bearing an overloaded backpack resorts to arching the back, bending forward, twisting, or leaning to one side.

These changes in posture can lead to improper alignment of the spine. A backpack load that is too heavy also causes muscles to work harder, leading to strain and fatigue, and rendering the neck, shoulders, and back more vulnerable to injury.

College students are not immune to backpack-related injury; they too risk injury to their back when carrying overloaded backpacks and wearing them inappropriately, Wilmarth found in a recent study.

The APTA offers these tips for safe backpack use:

Use both straps. Slinging the backpack over only one shoulder using a single strap causes one side of the body to bear the brunt of the weight. By wearing two shoulder straps, the weight of the backpack is better distributed, which promotes better posture.

Wear the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles. The backpack should rest evenly in the middle of the back near the child's center of gravity. Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the child to put on and take off the backpack with ease. Tighten the straps so that the backpack does not extend below the lower back.

In addition to lightening the load, the APTA suggests organizing the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back.

They also favor ergonomically designed backpacks to enhance safety and comfort. Hip and chest belts are useful, as they help transfer some of the backpack weight from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso.

Wilmarth's studies suggest that backpacks with wheels are a good option for younger students who don't change classes or need to go up and down stairs frequently. However, there are precautions to take with "rolling backpacks" as well.

For example, the extended handle needs to be long enough so that the child is not forced to twist and bend, and that the wheels need to be sufficiently large so that the backpack doesn't shake or topple. For more on backpack safety, visit

I hear some parents buy their kids two sets of books. I don't get it. Why do they have to carry so much? 10 to 15 % body weight. Did we have this problem when we were kids? I can't remember...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Summer Misc, 8 yrs 10 mos.

I refuse to say school has started, because it sure still feels like summer here. No homework, the kids are still running around late at night, no activities until after labor day and beyond. Flip-flops and shorts are still being worn. But indeed, school has started. My 1st and 3rd grader have the same schedule - they go to the same school and get home at the same time, around 3:50pm. Hurray!

I can't confirm the disorder/disability count for 3rd grade as of yet, but I have confirmation that Leo's former arch-nemesis from 1st grade turned friend in 2nd grade is in Leo's class. He also happens to have ADD. There's one other boy that's quite a legend/handful that has a behavior plan as well. He's my favorite, and now is friends with Leo. I predict this relationship will move forward - they've never had class together. His mother is pretty much a normal person, inclusive, and honest.

So far, 3 kids in a class of 21. Leo didn't get his BFF in class, which was a giant bummer because we won't be able to socialize with him much this year. His sister, Sydney's BFF, is the one with Leukemia, so his social schedule and activities are limited to church. PDD Boy is still a close friend, but not in the same class. They'll see each other at baseball which is great.

Leo's teacher seems TGTBT (too good to be true). She energetic, maternal, smart, firm, and engaging. I even told her that she's TGTBT. After last year's mediocre one (at least in the personality/cheer leading dept), I'm pretty damned excited.

Very cute, Leo is even more excited about Sydney's teacher. His former from 1st grade. She's terrific, and I have little worries there. He thinks he's super cool because he 'knows just about everything' in regards to her class. On the first day, he made sure his sister got to her class, as her sense of direction and memory isn't her strong suit (she's just like me).

Leo's hypoglycemia has made a significant improvement over this summer's detox. Huge, I no longer have to pack an extra snack for him to eat in the afternoon - he can basically make it combined with lunch schedule getting later as he's getting older. I am slowly feeling like I am less like a mom with a diabetic child.

The other good news is that Leo seems basically fine on dairy. I've been really worried about the soy consumption in this house, especially since it's in all the processed GF foods, so I boldly decided to give Leo dairy regularly (translation=3x week), and the rest of the choices go to soy. So almost 50/50, splitting the difference of evilness. We still stick to GF, as it does seem to build up, but do 'cheat' for special occasions like a birthday...

Leo had a sleepover at the same boy's house from last year. It was awesome just like last year! We talked a lot about two boys that he doesn't like much that would be at the sleepover. We told him life isn't perfect, and even though these boys aren't that nice sometimes and aren't your favorites, you just have to go with the flow. I also said people change, especially kids, and that you have to give them a chance, they may surprise you. I reminded him about our neighbor, how they get along now. The greatest was I only had to pack enzymes! The mom gave them for pizza, and he declined cake. Simple! He had a total blast - this year they all played baseball and relays before a movie, popcorn, and other boy stuff. I was so happy for him.

To change the subject (Hey I can do anything, it's my blog!), I seem to always have an issue at school at the beginning of the year, and this year was no different. I found out through a friend that the PTA wants us to fill out detailed health related questions on a waiver for PTA events/activities. I asked the nurse and the principal about the legality with privacy. Of course, this touched a nerve with me because of vaccinations, allergies, and hidden diagnosis. Like I'd say jack about any of it! Can we all say Secret List? I get the waiver thing. Insurance is insurance, but do you think I'll trust these other moms with that info, when there's already an undercurrent of animosity towards "allergy kids" and the politics that go with it?

So there ya go. Haven't heard anything BUT the form was sent home sans waiver. I'll keep you posted.

Note to Self: Remember to blog about The China Study, my summer environment/health book.

Asthma and 5 to 11 Year Olds

New guidelines look hard at childhood asthma By Will Dunham
Wed Aug 29, 12:04 PM ET

New guidelines unveiled by U.S. federal health experts on Wednesday for tackling asthma carve out a new age group, children 5 to 11, for unique treatment.

Drugs known as inhaled corticosteroids remain the best long-term treatment to control asthma in all age groups, according to experts convened by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The new guidelines -- the first thorough update in 10 years of U.S. recommendations on treating and diagnosing asthma -- gave special attention to the growing problem of childhood asthma. They also offered new advice on drugs and controlling environmental factors that may trigger symptoms.

Existing guidelines had called for children 5 to 11 to treated the same as adults.

The guidelines now specify three age groups to get different treatment for asthma: birth to 4 years, 5 to 11 and 12 and older.

The middle group was created due to new evidence on drugs for these children and emerging signs that they may respond differently to asthma medications than adults.

The recommendations point to newer drugs to help control the immune over-reaction seen in severe allergic asthma. Xolair, made by Genentech and Novartis, is a biotech drug that blocks the immune system compound immunoglobulin E, which is overproduced during an allergic asthma attack.

Known generically as omalizumab, Xolair is injected and approved only for people over the age of 12 with severe asthma.


Other drugs should be added only as needed and should be discontinued as soon as possible, the guidelines say.

"Although asthma is a common, chronic illness that can pose a serious burden for patients, their families and their communities, we firmly believe that asthma control can be achieved in nearly every patient with asthma," said Dr. William Busse, chairman of the University of Wisconsin Department of Medicine.

Busse, who headed the panel of 18 experts, said many studies supported the recommendations.

"For instance, inhaled corticosteroids are still the best long-term control treatment for asthma patients of all ages because we have even stronger evidence that they are generally safe and are the most effective medication at reducing inflammation, a key component of asthma," he told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Asthma is an inflammation of the airways. Symptoms can include wheezing, shortness or breath, coughing and chest tightness. More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma -- 22 million in the United States alone.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says asthma kills about 3,780 annually.

Inhaled corticosteroids include GlaxoSmithKline's Flovent and Advair, AstraZeneca's Pulmicort, Abbott's Azmacort, Teva Pharmaceuticals' Qvar and Schering-Plough's Asmanex.

Heck. I'm all for preventing deaths by using steroids and other medicine. Man, almost 3800 people die each year. My question always seems to be the same. Today or the future? What shall we invest in?

If it's special education in schools, we all know school districts have a difficult time with long term planning and investing, which over time costs less time and money. It's the same when it comes to wellness in this country.

Will there be a day when the government realizes that all of these ailments - childhood disorders/delays, allergies/asthma, neurological disorders like MS, and cancer are all related? That they all involve toxins and the effects of a centralized food supply for starters? We will soon be buying nuts that are pasteurized (those lucky enough to be able to still eat them).

Why don't we spend our tax money on causative factors rather than concentrating on blocking symptoms? At record profits I may add, to certain pharma cos. The payoff would be exponential, impacting so many aspects of health.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

To Do List for fall

Gearing up to fall...

1) WARNING: About to Overshare...

Manage my newfound facial hair (I'm 42). I'm "loving" my new hormone profile. I am a natural blonde, and this soft furry mustache has sort of snuck up on me. I wonder if people have noticed! I've begun plucking the obvious ones, and I have to figure out the pros and cons to waxing. At least it's blonde though. I have a few long hairs that pop up now and then on my chin, I call them my witch hairs. They freak me out! Advice needed!

2) Figure out how to make an income that will support the kids in the event that disaster strikes. I can't even type the scenarios I'm thinking of! A friend's husband, at 43, died suddenly, and I consider it a wake-up call. I need skills people! I had a career in marketing which was quite lucrative before kids, but I'm basically worthless in that field now. My teacher salary barely pays for food, so I'll have to think of something. I am studying homeopathy on my own, but that would be a long shot and years from now as something to support a family.

3) Continue my obsession with High Schools. For starters, I began perusing the Newsweek High School Ranker. The cool part of this, is that if you click on "state" or one of the other columns, one can see the info that way. I don't particularly agree with the criteria, but it's gotten me to start thinking about criteria that's important to US.

Do we move? If so, probably middle school. Will our current town be appropriate for Leo and Sydney as teenagers? Our town is quite conservative, religious (many Catholics live here and we aren't Catholic). I don't want them to feel left out - it's already hard enough to be that age. Perhaps a place exists where being an individual is easier. We need a bigger house anyway - we are growing out of it, and the kids will soon no longer be able to share a room....

Moving To Montana

Hi all. Our family has decided to "opt out" of society and move to Montana. We are purchasing a large piece of property, a hobby farm. Our goal is to eventually become subsistence farmers, living off the land while home schooling our children. I won't have to worry about grocery stores, school cliques, or job politics. We have some money saved up, and after we sell our valuables, we should have a healthy head start. JUST KIDDING! Did I get you or what?

But seriously, I do fantasize about doing something like that, especially when I have to make hard choices, social choices. My internal cost/benefit excel spreadsheet. I wonder if it's all worth it in order to live in society. What is your cost to living in society?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sunscreen Rules

FDA Proposes New Rules for Sunscreens By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
Thu Aug 23, 7:01 PM ET

THURSDAY, Aug. 23 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed Thursday a new rating system for sunscreens that would, for the first time, alert consumers as to how well they block dangerous ultraviolet A (UVA) rays.

Right now, most commercial sunscreens only screen out ultraviolet B (UVB), not UVA, which is associated with longer and more serious damage deep within the skin.

Labels would have up to four stars indicating their effectiveness against UVA rays, the FDA said. Both UVA and UVB increase skin cancer risks and skin aging.

The new changes are undergoing a 90-day period of public comment before being published in a final draft form. According to the agency, those rules would only go into effect 18 months later, pushing the appearance of any new labeling to 2009 at the earliest.

The agency has long been looking into making recommendations on UVA protection, Dr. Douglas C. Throckmorton, the deputy director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said during a mid-afternoon teleconference. Only now has the agency settled on which tests it will accept for rating UVA protection, he said.

"We believe this proposed regulation does, in fact, provide sunscreen labeling that clearly communicates information related to UV protection," Matthew R. Holman, from the FDA's Office of Nonprescription Products, said during the teleconference.

Called "extra UVA protection," the new rating would be in addition to the SPF, or sun protection factor, already on sunscreens. SPF measures the effectiveness of the product in preventing sunburn from UVB rays.

UVB radiation causes sunburn, but UVA can damage skin tissue below the surface. "Both UVA and UVB cause skin cancer and aging such as wrinkles and sunspots," Holman said.

"FDA considers both UVB and UVA radiation protection equally important at this time, because scientific data demonstrates that both have harmful effects on the skin," the agency said.

The proposed ratings system for UVA sunscreens would rate them on a scale of one to four stars. One star for low UVA protection, two stars medium protection, three stars high protection, and four stars the highest protection available in an over-the-counter sunscreen. If a sunscreen does not have at least one star of protection, the agency would require that the product have a "no UVA protection" marking on the label near the SPF value.

Ratings for UVA would be based on two tests. The first measures the sunscreen's ability to reduce the amount of UVA radiation that passes through it. The second measures a product's ability to prevent tanning. This test is similar to the SPF test used to determine the effectiveness of sunscreens to block UVB rays, according to the FDA.

Sunscreens would carry a "Warnings" statement in the "Drug Facts" box. The warning will say that "UV exposure from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, premature skin aging, and other skin damage. It is important to decrease UV exposure by limiting time in the sun, wearing protective clothing, and using a sunscreen."

In addition, the label would also warn that "UV exposure from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, premature skin aging and other skin damage. It is important to decrease UV exposure by limiting time in the sun, wearing protective clothing and using a sunscreen." Directions would tell people to reapply sunscreen "at least every 2 hours."

The intent of the warning is to alert consumers that sunscreen is only a part of protecting yourself from sun exposure, Holman said.

According to the FDA, the proposal has guidelines for testing that manufacturers need to do to support their claims. Under the rule, sunscreens could have a maximum SPF of 50+ unless test data shows that a higher number is warranted.

In addition, the definition of SPF would change from "sun protection factor" to "sunburn protection factor." This change will prevent "the impression of solar invincibility and a false sense of security," according to the agency's proposal.

One expert thinks it's about time the FDA set standards for UVA protection.

"This is an important step forward," said Dr. James Spencer, a professor of clinical dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, who also is in private practice in St. Petersburg, Fla. "UVA protection is important for the prevention of skin cancer and wrinkles," he said.

In fact, Spencer would like to see the same star rating system proposed for UVA to replace the SPF number used for UVB.

This label changes were partly spurred by a report from a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, the Environmental Working Group, in June. The EWG faulted the FDA for missing a deadline imposed by Congress to set sunscreen safety standards by last year.

In their report, the group found that of 386 sunscreens with SPF ratings higher than 30, 13 percent protected users from UVA radiation.

You know, I just totally give up on this topic. Too much sun is bad. So is not enough sun, a far worse situation when you look at Vitamin D than most people realize. The stuff that works and is truly waterproof contain carcinogens and endocrine disrupters like the parabens. The HFS stuff smells good, but it just doesn't work!

Our 2007 strategy: sun shirts and hats whenever possible, wearing as little sunscreen as possible. After all, our kids must somehow excrete it. And we know our kids are famous for being bad at that (some that is, for those care about symantics).

When Leo was little, he used to refer to sunscreen as Sun Scream. It was too cute to correct.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

As Autism Diagnoses Grow, So Do Number Of Fad Treatment

As Autism Diagnoses Grow, So Do Number Of Fad Treatments, Researchers Say
Science Daily — Ineffective or even dangerous fad treatments for autism, always a problem, seem to be growing more pervasive, according to researchers who studied the problem.

“Developmental disabilities like autism are a magnet for all kinds of unsupported or disproved therapies, and it has gotten worse as more children have been diagnosed with autism,” said James Mulick, professor of pediatrics and psychology at Ohio State University .”

“There's no cure for autism, and many parents are willing to believe anything if they come to think it could help their child.”

Mulick chaired a symposium on “Outrageous Developmental Disabilities Treatments” Aug. 20 in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. The symposium included presentations by several of Mulick's students at Ohio State who participated in a graduate seminar on fad treatments in autism.

Tracy Kettering, a doctoral student in special education at Ohio State , said a Google search for the phrase “autism treatment” yields more than 2.2 million matches.

“You get hundreds of different types of therapies that come up, and many have quotes from parents that claim a particular therapy ‘cured' their child,” Kettering said.

“It's no wonder that parents want to believe. But very few of these treatments have any evidence to support them.”

The number and range of fad treatments has seemed to grow in recent years as more children have been diagnosed with autism, said Mulick, who is also editor of a book on fad treatments called Controversial Therapies for Developmental Disabilities: Fad, Fashion, and Science in Professional Practice.

Mulick said when he began treating autism in the 1970s about 3 children in 10,000 were said to have autism. Now, reports are 1 in 166 children have the condition. The number of cases has mushroomed because of better diagnoses, and a changing definition of autism that includes a broader range of disorders.

Some of the newer, more popular fad treatments for autism involve special diets or nutritional supplements. Megadoses of Vitamins C and B6 are popular, as well as supplements with fatty acids like omega-3s.

A casein and/or gluten-free diet, which involves eliminating dairy and wheat products, has also gained favor with some parents.

While many of these treatments have never been adequately studied, that doesn't mean they aren't promoted.

“One of the characteristics of fad treatments is that they are discussed in the media and on the internet, where many parents can be exposed to them,” said Anne Snow, an Ohio State psychology graduate student.

And while some fads are simply ineffective, others can even be dangerous, Mulick said. Chelation therapy, which involves taking medicines to remove the heavy metal mercury from the body, has reportedly led to the death of at least one autistic boy receiving that treatment. Chelation therapy was also touted years ago as a new treatment against some forms of cancer but was eventually shown to have no helpful effect.

Many parents try multiple approaches, hoping at least one will help. Kettering said one survey she found suggests that the average parent of a child with autism has tried seven different therapies.

“We're not saying that all of these treatments don't work or that they are all dangerous,” Kettering said. “But the research hasn't been done to suggest that most of them are effective or even safe.”

Many of the treatments may have just enough basis in scientific fact to attract attention, even if the treatment itself is unproven.

For instance, most scientists believe that many cases of autism are caused by genetic mutations, and some mutations can be caused by various chemicals that we encounter in our everyday lives, Mulick said.

But still, there is no evidence that any particular chemical causes mutations that lead to autism, as some have claimed.

“There's a shred of truth in the rationale presented for some fad treatments, and that is enough for some people to go with,” he said.

Another reason that fad treatments persist has to do with the natural course of autism, Mulick said.

Autism, like many conditions, has cycles in which symptoms get worse and then get better. Parents tend to search for treatments when symptoms are getting worse, and when their children get better – as they do in the normal course of disease – parents credit the new therapy.

“It's natural to have this bias that the therapy you're trying has had some positive effect,” he said. “People want to believe.”

While other treatments are still being investigated, right now the only therapy that has been shown to have a long-term positive affect on autism is called Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention, Mulick said.

EIBI is a highly structured approach to learning, in which children with autism are taught first to imitate their teachers. But this treatment is very time-consuming and labor intensive. It involves one-on-one behavioral treatment with the child for up to 40 hours a week for several years.

“It's expensive and difficult for many parents to use,” Mulick said. “That's got to be one reason other treatments look attractive to them.”

Mulick said other treatments and therapies are being studied. However, it takes years to test treatments for autism because of the nature of the disease and problems with proving effectiveness.

“Autism studies are a long, time-consuming, and expensive process,” Mulick said. “And some of the fad treatments being used today would never be approved for testing – they are just too dangerous.”

In addition to Mulick, Kettering and Snow, other presenters at the symposium included Ohio State graduate students Cristan Farmer, Megan Norris, Andrea Witwer and Jill Hollway.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Ohio State University.

This article really pissed me off. I mean really! I mean, drop everything to sit and vent about it. All this "research" demonstrates is simply one thing, human nature. Why do people assume this would be different in the world of autism? A crazy and dangerous way to spend research money. I shudder to think about how much something like this cost, and how many programs deemed worthy by this team(ABA)could have paid for. A STATE school for crying out loud! (I'd like to point out that I'm not an ABA hater. ABA was a cornerstone to my son's recovery).

It's only natural for people to make a buck by taking advantage of a person that's vulnerable. Advertising 101 teaches marketers how to sell basic emotions; hope, inspiration, coolness, and many other false truths. Take a look at ANY advertising to see the same thing. Who doesn't know the saying "buyer beware"? Weight loss, home products, cars, hair loss, kitchen gadgets, detergent, and all kinds of gimmicks have infiltrated our lives, everywhere we turn. As a society, we've quietly accepted them, each person filtering out what they choose to filter out. Determining what's valid from what isn't.

Does this mean that all people serving the autism community are evil and only have profit margins on their minds? I don't think so. Many people end up in the world of Autism due to autism happening in their personal life. Many well-meaning doctors and therapists that are "on to something" cannot contain their excitement, and their passion gets the best of them when promoting their success. Everyone starts out with just a handful of successes. After all, who HASN'T gotten out-of-control when excited about something potentially big, really big.

This "research" shows us only one thing, that the topic of Autism is no different. There is only one internet that serves us all on ALL topics! Ohio State needs to spend their time on other topics, or really getting down to business with understanding the complex world of Autism. The GFCF diet has "gained favor"? Are you kidding me?

True, buyer beware is a reality in the world of Autism. Articles like this only does damage by confusing parents that are trying to help their children. Many parents read something like this, a lazy black and white article, and decide to not try all other treatments other than ABA. Where has Ohio State been? I mean really? Human being are shysters. Whatever!

What is crystal clear is that science has failed our children in numerous ways. Ohio State could do better than an effort such as this, a lame one-sided study that makes portrays parents like stupid sheep throwing their money left and right. This is an old, beaten path - the medical community versus parents and cutting edge alternative treatment providers.

I think most parents would agree it would be easier to defer to the medical community, but that's no longer possible. Most parents have no choice but to be at the helm of their child's health and therapy treatments. But look where that's gotten us? Has science figured out what causes Autism? At least one cause? Where would we be without treatments in their infancy? At one time ABA was, as well as any other scientifically backed treatment for a disorder or a disability.

The saddest part of all of this, is our future educators coming out of the Ohio State program. Hopefully they are learning about viable treatment options. I hope they learn that Autism is very complex with little rhyme or reason to "what works". Simply, there are numerous opportunities for success. They are in a very powerful position, and my hope is that parents are fully supported.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Those Handy Non-Stick Pans

Non-stick chemical exposure tied to small babies
Fri Aug 17, 2:27 PM ET

Exposure of the developing fetus to certain polyfluoroalkyl compounds, which are used in non-stick cookware and for other applications, may reduce birth weight and size, according to a report in the July 31st online issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Still, the authors note that the risk conferred by such exposure appears to be small and they advise caution in interpreting the findings until they can be replicated in other groups.

Research in rodents has suggested that exposure to the chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) harms development, senior author Dr. Lynn R. Goldman, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues note. Whether this holds true in humans, however, was unclear.

To investigate, the researchers tested cord blood samples from 293 pregnant women for PFOA and PFOS and then examined the levels in relation to pregnancy outcomes.

In adjusted analyses, cord blood levels of both chemicals were inversely related to birth weight and head circumference.

Previous reports have shown that these chemicals can alter blood lipid levels, which could adversely affect fetal development, the authors note. However, in the present study, the association between PFOA and PFOS exposure and birth weight or size was independent of cord blood lipid levels.

Further research is needed to verify the findings and better understand if the relationship is causal, the authors conclude.

SOURCE: Environmental Health Perspectives 2007.

Ten years ago I got a lot of flack from my then fiance when I wanted to register for "regular" pots and pans, not the non-stick kind. I didn't think they were safe, and had read what they were made out of. It's no use to mention it to Hubbie. He'll just nod his head.

Today, I have one child with an ASD, but regular pans.

Today I have two friends that are pregnant. What should I share, if anything? Now that science has deemed this information worthy? When asked, what should I say about the toxin-free sunscreen I've been using all year? What should I say when my friend is considering vaccinating her infant, when her preschooler had a reaction to the MMR? (he lost some speech and had little eye contact for a few weeks, then spontaneously recovered to previous functioning level)

What will make me gain a friend or lose one?

One of many environmental exposures to duck and weave away from. Lead in toys, mercury in vaccines. So much to think about.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anniversary From Services

We've had a fairly uneventful end of the school year - Leo was sad but not upset like he was last year. His teacher said he's ready for 3rd grade! As always, it takes me by surprise. We continue to monitor...

June 22 was the anniversary of ending therapies three years ago. Pretty incredible to me. As always, I reflect upon the last year.

I sit back in my lawn chair at the neighborhood pool watching my son jump with abandon into the deep end. He surfaces with a spongy ball and a big smile, and with determination throws it forcibly to one of three other boys that are playing catch. One is his closest friend since Kindergarten. The others are friends from his regular local elementary school. Kid sister is nearby in the shallow end playing mermaids with her friends. Dad will be joining us here after work with Mexican take-out for dinner.

I am dry, in regular clothes, by the pool, with an unread magazine in my lap. I could glance at it if I want to, my kids are strong swimmers now, but I enjoy watching. I find it peaceful to observe life as it occurs right now in this moment. I am mindful of this daily gift I have received. I am the mother of a happy child that has choices. Seven years ago my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. And let me tell you, ‘happy’ wasn’t a word we used to describe Leo.

Earlier, Leo was picked up at nature camp by a mom whom he briefly met before we started carpooling. Leo wasn’t concerned with what exact time she’d arrive or even the kind of car she drove. He’s been to this camp before, but he attended without knowing any of the children. By the second day, he already belonged to a little group of three boys. He enthusiastically tells me about these new friends during dinner. He’s also become friendly with the carpool boy, playing basketball games, X-Box, or Webkinz almost every day after camp. I listen in to their conversation on the drive home “Hey, did you see the baby rats? Did you see those animal tracks? I saw you canoeing today.” They talk on and on about school, speculating about what teacher they’ll get in the Fall.

I think about that intense year of aquatic OT when he was little. The one hour of driving each way, the expense, all while taking care of Leo’s little sister. Our goal: The ultimate, a swim-safe child. This seemed impossible since the initial goals were to address sensory defensiveness, vestibular and proprioceptive challenges, fear of dying, hyposensitivity in legs, hypotonia in his arms and upper back. I was raised in Southern California on the beach, so I always had envisioned sharing my love of the ocean with my children. I think about Leo’s anxiety the night before each swim “lesson”, how he’d worry himself sick, rarely sleeping.

Today Leo has choices. He chooses to swim with his friends. We can go to the beach. At nature camp, he learned to wade and canoe, not concerned that he can’t see what’s under the water. Pretty surreal.

I think about how any change in routine would cause anxiety. Being 1 minute late would bring him to tears. I think about Leo’s intense separation anxiety that made it impossible to place him in the care of others. Being around other children would cause anxiety.

We went to visit my family/friends in California for 3 nice long weeks. It just gets easier and more fun as the kids get older. Traveling alone with my kids, I'm on alert per usual. I hold a common fear that many parents have, that our children will somehow get taken advantage of because of their innocence, their naivety. While waiting for a flight at the airport for that family trip, Leo’s social abilities were put to the test. A questionable character in the waiting area began talking to Leo, asking him personal questions. He protected himself. When asked what town he lived in, he said “I forgot”. He avoided eye contact with the man while boarding the plane by gazing at a nearby billboard, pretending to read about the arriving flights. He told me later that right away the guy seemed “creepy”. And he was right.

Am I an Autism parent? Yes. Has my life changed in 3 years? Yes and No. I don't have an impossibly giant schedule to manage and implement. I have similar fears and concerns, but they exist at a lower volume in my mind. I occasionally experience PTSS symptoms, such as when it’s time for a parent/teacher conference, or when we have a very ‘off” spectrumy day. We are still in debt although we are much better off financially than we once were.

Rollercoaster days are few and far between. Those ‘off’ days are hard, as I’m not used to them like I once was. I’m grateful that I’m not living in crisis mode anymore, so these days no longer do me in.

I’m still angry though. Angry that I have more company, meaning more and more people I KNOW and more people I meet have Autism. I’m angry that the issues at hand years ago are still the same today.

Autism is part of who Leo is, and I love him and accept all of him as a whole. I can't separate the autism from non-autism parts. Sometimes it’s fun to attach certain aspects of his personality to autism. But mostly, I just don’t care. I use our experience and Leo’s unique wiring as a learning tool. I regularly remind both my children about what Leo’s deficits USED to be and now LOOK. He can do anything. There are no barriers to his potential, and our reward is his success.