Faribault Area Call for Entries!!! “Autism Art”

Faribault Area Call for Entries!!!  “Autism Art”

Dear parents, teachers, caregivers, and people on the spectrum,

As a parent of a second grade son on the autism spectrum, I’ve decided to plan an autism awareness event for Autism Awareness month this April.  I noticed the “Artist of the Month” signs hanging around in HyVee.  I approached them to see if they would allow an exhibition of “Autism Art”.  They liked the idea so I am looking for the following:

*Art (painting, drawing, photography, coloring, etc.) bychildren, teens, or adults on the spectrum.  The subject matter can be anything, as long as it’s family friendly  (no graphic images/words.)

*Poetry too! Or a short story!  I would love to hang them up for all to read!  Again, any subject matter that is family friendly.

*Parents, teachers, siblings, and caregivers are welcome to submit art or poetry too!  Tell others about your family’s autism journey.  If it’s inspired or connected to autism please share it!

Let’s celebrate the artistic accomplishments of those on the spectrum, no matter how big or how small and spread some autism awareness!  I would love to answer any questions you might have about the exhibit.  Please contact me if you are interested in submitting artwork/poetry for the HyVee display!!  DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES:  MARCH 15, 2012!

Thanks so much,

Teresa DeMars

Email:  teresa_demars@yahoo.com

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Learning About the Spectrum of Autism: One Mother’s Journey

In the spring of 2004, our lives changed forever with the birth of our first child, Donnie.  Like all first time parents, my husband, Jon, and I had eagerly anticipated our son’s arrival and hoped for a smooth delivery.  While my labor was relatively easy, the delivery was anything but smooth.  Complications arose when Donnie inhaled meconium during delivery and had to be transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit.  He spent five days in the hospital until his blood oxygen levels stabilized and nursing was established.

At home, Donnie quickly grew during his first year and our family of three settled into a new routine.  Caring for him was easy because he cried predictably when he was hungry, tired, or when he needed to be changed.  Donnie was a very happy baby and loved to play peek-a-boo and “so big”.  He loved to be sung and read to, and he easily entertained himself with his toys.

In September of 2006, we welcomed our second child, Anna, into our family.  Donnie transitioned well to big brother and really became attached to his daddy.  As he grew into his toddler years, Donnie met all his milestones.  For many parents of children with autism, they can point to a time where their child regressed and they knew clearly something was wrong.  For us this wasn’t the case.  Donnie never lost language.  In
fact, he excelled at it … he had always had an advanced vocabulary.  He definitely had quirky things that he did, but we dismissed them because he could talk.  Looking back, he had autistic symptoms even less than one year of age.  We just overlooked the signs
because of his intellect and ability to talk.

Late in the summer after he turned three years old, every once in a while, Donnie would roll his eyes to the back of his head for a few seconds…like he was “possessed”.  I
knew that this behavior could not be good, and I wished it would just go away.  I started to wonder if there was something seriously wrong.  I would debate the issue inside my head based on his behaviors and what he said.  Donnie could act so incredibly normal, like any other kid, one minute, and then do something completely bizarre the next
minute.  While I wondered why he did some of his “quirky” behaviors, I never imagined that it could be autism.  It wasn’t until Jenny McCarthy came out in public to tell about her son’s autism that I figured out that there was something different about Donnie.  In a
People Magazine article, Jenny described the way her son flapped his hands like a bird.  Donnie did this same type of behavior when he got excited about something.
This was my “awe-ha” moment (more like an “OH MY GOD!” moment).  It was then that I realized Donnie had autism.  After going on-line to research more about autism, it quickly became clear to me that our son fell somewhere on the high end of the spectrum.

Shortly before his 4th birthday our son received the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Since that day, Donnie has worked really hard at learning new skills to
help him fit in with the typical world.  He first spent six months in a special education classroom at our local public school.  In May of 2008, we sent him to a local autism therapy center to receive ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy.  Donnie received 40 hours of therapy per week up until August of 2009, when he “graduated” from the program.

Today, he is a second grade student at a local charter school that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math.  He is reading chapter books and is one of the top students in math in his class.  He is mainstreamed in a classroom with nineteen other second grade students and receives help from special education staff when he needs it.  Donnie participates in many activities just like other kids.  This past year, he played
organized baseball and hockey.

Donnie still has challenges caused by his autism.  He struggles with making eye contact when he talks with people.  Back and forth conversation with his peers is still difficult, but it is getting better.  He sometimes cries and throws a tantrum when he loses a game or if things don’t go his way.  Stimming is Donnie’s most noticeable behavior.  He still flaps or grabs his hands together and he jumps around occasionally.

Shortly after Donnie was diagnosed, I remember feeling like such a failure as a mother.
There are several distant cousins related to both my husband and me that have been diagnosed with ASD.  How could I have been so blind?  I was watching for the loss of language, but because he could talk and did not behave exactly like his cousins, or like the kids with ASD that I had seen on TV, I did not recognize his autism sooner.  I was
blinded by the stereotyped image of autism that I had in my mind.  That is why it is critical for people to learn the SPECTRUM of autism.  Each child with ASD is completely unique.  While there are some similarities, each child exhibits a unique combination of symptoms and functions at a different skill level.

As for our future, while it is unknown, it is also very bright.  Donnie is an AMAZING little
boy!  He has always been one of the greatest joys of my life and I can’t wait to see what he accomplishes someday.  My hope for the future is that getting an ASD diagnosis will not be an “end of the world” moment for families.  I hope people will realize these kids have tremendous abilities and gifts.  In thirty years from now I think we will be awed at the discoveries, inventions, and works of art people with ASD will have created.

I believe we have to change the way people perceive children with autism.  People need to be educated about the spectrum of autism.  It is not going away.

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Autism Letter to Hockey Coaches

(I recently wrote this letter to my son’s hockey coaches to let them know about his autism.  Sometimes I wonder whether or not I should tell people about his autism.  When he was younger, I didn’t tell people about it as much as I do now.  My son seemed to blend in more…because all little kids wiggle and make funny noises, etc.  As he has become older, his behaviors stand out more.  I think it’s better to have the coaches prepared, just in case he should have a meltdown on the ice.  I also think it will help them be better coaches to him.  And of course, it will just increase autism awareness in my community.)

Dear Mite Coaches,

I just wanted to share with you a little information about my son, Donnie.  He was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old.  He is very high functioning; in other words, he is mildly affected by it.

Here’s some insights to help you better communicate with him and to get to know him.

  1. This is Donnie’s second year of hockey.  He also took two years of ice skating lessons at Shattuck.
  2. Donnie can get distracted by things going on around him.  If it seems like he’s not listening to you, you may have to get down to his level (get in his face) so he realizes you are talking to him.
  3. Donnie needs lots of encouragement.  If you want him to do a skill, you may have to repeat the process to him several times and cheer him on.  Again getting down to his level will help get your instructions across.
  4. Donnie has trouble with fine motor skills and motor planning.  He needs help with properly gripping his stick while he skates and goes for the puck.
  5. Donnie is very competitive.  He will sometimes cry and fall to the floor if he loses or makes a mistake.
  6. Donnie loves sports, especially baseball and hockey.  He is academically very smart and has an incredible memory.  He loves numbers and statistics.  His autism mainly affects him socially and his ability to have complex conversations.
    He is an amazing little boy

Please share this with all mite coaches.  If you have any questions; feel free to call me.  You can also learn more about our story and about the spectrum of autism by visiting our facebook page.  Details are on the enclosed business card.

Thanks,

Teresa DeMars

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Jumping into the Blogosphere!

Hello Friends,

Welcome to my new blog!  I am a stay at home mom, a wife, and recently took the plunge into the world of indie (independent or self) publishing by becoming an author.
I wrote and illustrated a children’s picture book entitled “ASD and Me:  Learning About High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  My inspiration?…That’s easy!  It’s my
seven year old son Donnie, who was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old.  Since then we’ve all grown in so many ways.  We understand ourselves and each other better.  Our attitudes about autism have changed and we are hopeful for the future.  I look forward to sharing some more about this life changing journey with you.

I hope to learn from you too.  We are not immune from the challenges that autism can throw at a family.  Most of our days are great.  (I am definitely a “glass half-full” kind of
person!).  But every once in a while, autism sucker punches us in the gut and I am left hoping and praying that “this too shall pass”.

My family consists of my husband Jon, a hardworking man who takes care of his family’s every need, and our two awesome kids.  Our five year old daughter, Anna, is a super creative little girl, who is dramatic in every way, loves cats and playing with her vast collection of stuffed animals.  Our son, Donnie loves playing video games,
baseball, history, astronomy, geography and anything that deals with numbers.  Rounding out the family are two fat cats, Wilson and Little Joe.

Besides sharing my experiences of raising a son on the spectrum, I’ll be blogging a lot
about “mompreneurship”  and the process of indie publishing children’s picture books.
There is a ton of  information about indie publishing on the internet, especially writing novels.  Unfortunately there is very little information about self publishing books that have lots of images, like a children’s picture book.  It has been a long process, but
in the end I figured it out and am so proud of my book.  I look forward to sharing it all with you.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post.  May many blessings find you!

Teresa

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