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The Short List

As a special needs parent, we all have a "short list"... of the restaurants we can go to and enjoy a meal. This is not to say that I've ever seen a food establishment have a "No Special Needs Children Allowed" sign, but they might as well from the things we've endured. This story is not about those restaurants, it's about one more restaurant that every special needs parent should add to their short list.

Braeden is a 7 year old boy on the autism spectrum, Perry is a 14inch plush Platypus.Together they're best friends. Braeden, Perry, and myself were out to brunch in Media, Pa, to a familiar but new restaurant in town, Bittersweet Kitchen. Braeden ordered chocolate chip pancakes and bacon, and began to place Perry's order when I stopped him and laughed to the waitress. Shortly after the food came, the waitress came back with a special order for Perry too.

I sat there and watched the smile spread across Braeden's face, as I held back tears. I thanked her and the owner for their kindness and left. Sitting at home later that night after Braeden & Perry were fast asleep, I couldn't help but feel completely overwhelmed with emotions. I thought to myself, the waitress may never know what she did for Braeden, how what may have seemed like a small act of kindness to her, was everything to him.

As an autism/special needs parent, all we really want is acceptance. For us, for our family, for our child/adult with autism. When you find the days where you don't need to search for it, where acceptance greets you at the door and serves a stuffed platypus a meal.. Those are the moments worth sharing, a day you'll always remember, and a restaurant worth the short list.

Kathleen Tarzwell
Media, PA

Married 25yrs to an Aspergers woman

I married 25yrs ago to an interesting woman who at that time I didn't know or had even heard of aspergers syndrom. We met on strange terms and married quickly due to our specail circumstances that in hind sight was maybe meant to be for both of us. 25 yrs. wow, She was and is a very successful nurse. Her success drove me to achieve my own successes in education. Over the first few months I knew something wasn't right but I was determined to understand what the issues were all about. Affection was all wrong! At 1st I blamed myself, tried so hard to get things right. I just didn't understand. She was and is very. Good at the things she does such as house care, cooking (the same meals over and over). She watched the same refunds of the same movies over and over. While getting my education some of my studies began to relate to my at home situation. Then we confronted an issue that came up that would have destroyed the marriage. Our resolved was marriage counseling. There the counselor confirmed my suspicions. Aspergers that was such a thugs weight to be lifted off me at that time. Time frame" at about 8 yrs into the marriage. The longer I have stayed in this, the more I pay attention, the better I can not push buttons that she reacts poorly too. Re: loud noises (such as yelling during disagreements, or having her help in my shop when I am using power tools), abrupt changes in schedules, or interfering with her pet likes (sewing,reading, aforementioned tv shows) etc. I could go on and on, it's 25 yrs of learning how to live with aspegers (my fortunate gain). Most specialist gave me no chance of success but here I am still in this marriage. Compromise is my life. Without it this would have failed a long time ago. You have the shortes version of this story. We never had children together but we raised 3 teens together. She was a great attentive mother.

K john
Kenai, AK

My Struggles And Triumphs While Living With Autism

The doctors diagnosed me in June 1998. I was only two-and-a-half. They said I couldn't talk, walk, be potty-trained, and they gave my mother the recommendation of placing me in an institution. My mom stood up to that doctor and told them that she was keeping me, and her and my dad will continue to raise me no matter what. I began walking, and I was finally potty-trained and talking at four.

My childhood was filled with constant bullying, even grown adults would judge me. It was hard. Middle school was okay. I had a very small circle of friends who had my back. High school ended up being great. I had a lot of friends who loved me and would stand up for me no matter what. Then, I proved every doubter wrong by graduating high school. I'm now in college working for my Associate's Degree.

Around January 2015, I gave an oral presentation and wrote a research paper about Autism. When I saw I got 100% on both, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I want to use my Autism to help bring insight and help people understand me more. I've been writing a blog for a year and just now started making YouTube videos to help provide insight.

My Autism is in me for the rest of my life and I accept that. But I want to use it to help other people. Yeah, I have my meltdowns, picking eating habits, and I'm still VERY afraid of an open flame, but I wouldn't change it. To me, having Autism helps me help you understand me more. To me, doing that makes me feel so good and humble that an Autistic person like me can make an impact.

Taylor Orns
Toledo, OH

Happily Humming

Parenting is a tough, if not the toughest job there is. No doubt.

When my daughter began pre-kindergarten, all was normal – for a short time. And what seemed like over night, my daughter began crying hysterically from the moment she woke up terrified to go to school. I talked to her teachers and in the end I summed it up to social anxiety.

By her own choosing, she asked to take ballet classes. Within a week or two, school mornings of tears began to diminish on their own. However, another behavior was replaced – my daughter began humming.

It’s been a year and a half and my daughter still produces a constant, monotone humming when concentrating. And apparently, this stirs annoyances.

We were in the waiting room of a car dealership while my daughter was practicing her letters when we were approached by a lady in a passive-aggressive tone, ”Is that your daughter making that noise? If you can have her be quiet, that would be great!”

Defensively I said, “You are ignorant and uneducated! How do you know if a child has a disorder or anxiety that causes them to make such an innocent sound? How dare you say that about my daughter!” The lady looked up from her cell phone and apologized. Once outside tears relentlessly rolled down my face.

Little did she know that her words did sting as I was not only defending my daughter but I was also defending my son diagnosed on the autism spectrum - What would she have said about my son?

Her humming is far from bothersome to me but there are others who have no tolerance for the very reasons that make my heart smile as a parent. The beauties of children that give soul to a world that can many times feel less than compassionate. As a parent, we always have a voice - my child is a blessing and I relish every moment she has to be exactly who she is which includes her innocent humming.

Juliet Ellinger
Stockton, CA

Super Jayce

Jayce was diagnosed at the age of 2 with severe ASD and SPD. He WAS nonverbal. I say "was", because for the last year and a half he has been in ABA therapy and attends morning Preschool through a special education program in our community. His teacher and therapists just adore him and have made such a world of difference in his life. His echolalia skills he has mastered. If you ask him to repeat you, he will. He also knows to say please, and he can perform tasks when asked to. He is a completely different little guy now at the age of 4 than he was when diagnosed.

At 2 Jayce didn't speak at all, he wouldn't respond to his name and he couldn't care less if someone new walked into the room. When I came home from work, he wouldn't acknowledge me. What a heart break for a mama, but now he can't wait for me to get home. He grins and runs to me, squeezes, hugs, and kisses me. ABA has been our miracle and I just couldn't be more thankful for all of the amazing people we have met and that have taken such an interest in pulling Jayce out of his shell.

To new parents with a child on the spectrum, my only advice is that all babes on the spectrum are different. Don't ever compare yours to another. Be thankful for the little one God gave you and take pride in EVERY tiny little thing he/she does because all little steps are HUGE.

Jayce is our blessing, our inspiration.

Follow us on our journey https://www.facebook.com/SPACE4JAYCE

Please don't quit asking questions and learning. This is a journey you do not have to take alone.

Jessica Dowell
Terre Haute, IN

My Life With Autism

Hi! I'm Megan and I have Autism, Aspergers, ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and SPD - Sensory Processing Disorder. I was diagnosed with Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, and SPD on February 24th, 2004 when I was 7 years old. It can be hard at times having Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, and SPD but it doesn't stop me from doing what I like to do. Here's what I like to do: Zumba - I'm a licensed Zumba instructor and I want to teach Zumba to others with Special Needs like me. I also like to sing, as a matter of fact I like to sing to every song that comes on the radio. Another thing that I like to do is make Perler Beads that come with shapes and you iron them after, color, do arts and crafts, and play with my little people toys because it gives me my quiet time in my room. The future for me is: currently I am writing a book about my life with autism, I want to go around and talk about autism. I know that there will be hurdles, but lucky for me I have a really strong support team and I plan on getting over every single hurdle!

I even graduated from my homeschool Mountain Oaks in Sonora May 29, 2015! I even gave a speech.. AND!!! Received a standing ovation!!

I'm Zumba official!! Got my Zumba license!!! I'm a Zin!!!! I got licensed for Zumba on August 8, 2015! And I'm loving IT!! I'm so glad that I found Zumba! Zumba is my life!!! Zumba has also changed my life!!! I love love love Zumba!!

Megan Wolf
Knights Ferry, CA

My Life With Autism

Hi! I'm Megan and I have Autism, Aspergers, ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and SPD - Sensory Processing Disorder. I was diagnosed with Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, and SPD on February 24th, 2004 when I was 7 years old. It can be hard at times having Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, and SPD but it doesn't stop me from doing what I like to do. Here's what I like to do: Zumba - I'm a licensed Zumba instructor and I want to teach Zumba to others with Special Needs like me. I also like to sing, as a matter of fact I like to sing to every song that comes on the radio. Another thing that I like to do is make Perler Beads that come with shapes and you iron them after, color, do arts and crafts, and play with my little people toys because it gives me my quiet time in my room. The future for me is: currently I am writing a book about my life with autism, I want to go around and talk about autism. I know that there will be hurdles, but lucky for me I have a really strong support team and I plan on getting over every single hurdle!

I even graduated from my homeschool Mountain Oaks in Sonora May 29, 2015! I even gave a speech.. AND!!! Received a standing ovation!!

Megan Wolf
Knights Ferry, CA

Shaping my Life as an Aspie from Rock Bottom to the Stars

This is the story of how I went from condemned and directionless in my early life to accomplished and acclaimed. As a young child, I was diagnosed with PDD/NOS at the age of 3 and Asperger's at age 9. Though I had excellent early intervention, I also struggled with countless issues, such as bullying, academics, behavior, and relationships. This continued from preschool to 10th grade. I had moved 6 times in my life, so I not only had to make transitions, but do so more frequently than most people.

However, when I began my junior year of high school, I discovered my own ambitions and talents. From that point on, I achieved grades that put me in the top 8 of my class. I had earned rare honors, such as being the first Delaware high school student to receive a certificate of merit and national-level recognition from Teen Voices of Democracy Magazine. I achieved popularity and became prom king.

When I was in college, I suffered from depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide, but I refused to give up on myself. I earned awards in leadership, speaking, and fundraising. I demonstrated versatile skills in communication and my personal interests in advocacy, education, science, business, technology, and charity. contrary to the stereotypes against me, because I had purposes, passions, and goals for everything.

Aspies typically have focus within one particular arena, but I defied the odds with my personal strength and open-mindedness in order to succeed in a society that had little faith in me at all. At the moment, I am a 22-year-old graduate from the University of Delaware who holds a Bachelor of Arts in biological sciences. I am working in that field as a production technician after months of unemployment and networking.

For those who are reading this, I know for a fact that you can achieve if you advocate for yourself, move forward, and explore the world. Even if the world seems to be against you, you can still thrive and enjoy life. Have faith and enjoy your extraordinary journey!

Reese
Newark, DE

My daughter, my teacher.

My greatest teacher in my life has been my daughter. When i was a kid i helped people in wheel chairs, that was obvious, but if they had a different perspective in their brains, i went away. Nerds, jerks, people who talked funny were all shunned. My daughter has taught me that if i try to be patient and tolerant i can learn from them. Their different perspective is quite enlightening and their talents are worth my love and respect

Muse Watson
Berea, KY

Our precious Aiden

Diagnosed at 3 years old, we hope Aiden's journey can inspire others.

Aiden has gained so much confidence to do things, learn things and most importantly enjoy the things he had been missing out on. Ask him to spell out his name for you and he will gladly start like this “Capital A” then grins and continues proudly spelling it out for you, just to let you know he expects a high five or “good job Aiden” afterwards.

The days, the months, the ABC’s and his fave sounding out each alphabet letter; counting and identifying money…his accomplishments are just amazing, there is absolutely no time for us to reel about what skills he is lacking, we see him definitely getting there.

Aiden has established friendships not only in his classroom but also in his General Educational classroom, we can honestly say he seems comfortable enough to go out to the playground and find classmates to play with, somehow he knows which one’s are the kindest and most calm. Doctors visits are ones that we no longer dread, he is always much more prepared then we are.

Gone is the little boy who is no longer afraid of simple sounds such as those of a vacuum cleaner, a can opener, a cake mixer, the sounds of people laughing loudly, showers were absolutely out of the question, for a long time he only preferred baths now if we allow him he could take up to 3 showers in one day, sleepless nights are gone Aiden understands after his little talk with Jesus it's time to go to sleep.

There is just so much more to the strength and courage Aiden has, overreactions are sometimes still a stumbling block; however the issues that once seemed overwhelming and impossible to deal with are most manageable now. Our work is not finish, but we are very grateful that Aiden is able to take his up and downs as they come. God's Grace!

Mary
Devine, TX
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