Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Life is better when you surf

On Sunday, August 23rd Andy was invited to participate in a 1 day Surfing Camp with Aloha Toronto.  All four of us went down to the beach to cheer him on for the day.  

I'll be honest, we had no idea what to expect.  I thought that there would be a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the surfing and then if we were lucky he'd relax enough to enjoy it before his time was up.  Boy were we wrong!

We got to the beach approximately 45 minutes before Andy's slotted time and got settled down at the beach.  Took time to hang out on the beach, enjoy the sand and feel the water (freezing fyi).  Andy was immediately drawn to watching the other surfers already out on the water.  After watching 5-10 minutes of pensive watching, Andy seemed to make a small nod and turn towards the paddle boards on the sand nearby and walked over to grab a paddle!

Andy went out surfing Goodwyn and he liked her from the beginning.  She had a really calm and relaxed attitude.  Andy walked right over to the paddle board and hopped on before it was even completely in the water!  He insisted on having his own paddle while they went out.  He stayed out for over half an hour.  At one point, Goodwyn tried to come back in but Andy immediately pointed to go back out farther...and she complied.

Goodwyn actually told us after they came back that she wondered if he had fallen asleep at one point because he was so calm.  He loved every moment!  It was overwhelming to watch all of the campers have their own experiences with surfing.  My heart swelled watching how each of them participated in their own way at their own pace.  Every parent stood at the water's edge cheering each of them on, even though we didn't know each other, there was a kinship between all the families.

The experience of Aloha Toronto will stay with our family for years to come.  It was one of the most beautiful, kind events we've ever had the privilege to participate in.  From the bottom of my heart to all the volunteers and surfers "thank you" xoxo.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Power of Siblings

While watching this video I am so proud of this girl who I've never met.  I can honestly picture Emily being very much like this impressive young lady.  I look forward to watching their sibling relationship grow.  They already have a bond that is beyond what I ever imagined.

Wait until you hear her answer to Steve Paikin's last question.  Tears flowing...amazing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Defying Autism: What does it mean?

Whenever I'm posting about Andy and our family's story with Autism I often add the hashtag #DefyAutism to my posts.  I actually don't even think twice when I do this, as it makes sense to me.  Then after a few conversations I thought that maybe I should explain some of my thoughts behind our personal mantra.

What it doesn't mean...
  • Defy Autism does not mean deny Autism.  As much as I wish it weren't true, Autism is 100% present in Andy's daily life and ours.
So what does it mean?

When you are first faced with the changes and challenges you are seeing in your child and you're fighting for their diagnosis that is all you can focus on.  Getting the diagnosis so you can get the help that your child so desperately needs and deserves.

We fought for a year to get that diagnosis.  

When Andy was 2 years old out of fear and desperation we brought forward our concerns to our family doctor.  We had a family doctor who thought maybe something was up, sent on to a Pediatrician who thought maybe so sent us to a Speech Pathologist who thought maybe Autism.  However that original Pediatrician didn't want to diagnosis too early and convinced the rest of the team that Andy just had a communication delay.  I know all my Autism peeps are nodding their head as our story is likely similar to yours.

Finally after getting Andy into Speech therapy and doing as much research as possible we found an SLP who would listen to us and helped us get to the RIGHT PEDIATRICIAN.  And just before Andy's 3rd birthday we had our diagnosis.  You know the one we wanted?  The one that we fought for and it still destroyed us to hear????

So now you have this diagnosis.  The label of Autism and you start being told all the things that won't be possible or happen for your child.  You start to be told that you need to change your dreams and visions of your child's future.  You start to be told that MAYBE YOU SHOULD JUST FOCUS ON TEACHING HIM HOW TO GET DRESSED ON HIS OWN because that might be as far as he can get.

THAT is what DEFY AUTISM means to me.  It's the attitude of saying thanks for the label because I needed it to get the help that my child needs but now GET OUT OF MY WAY so we can DEFY your limited view of what Andy can and CANNOT do.  Because let me tell you folks, until I know otherwise Andy will be attending University or College and if he doesn't that's okay too.  But it will be because he will make that choice as an adult and NOT because someone decided that due to a diagnosis he received when he was 3 years old what the outcome of his life will look like.

My friends, whether you have someone in your life with AUTISM or not, stand up and DEFY any labels or diagnosis that you are given.  Hold on to your belief in that little voice inside of you that there is more out there for you and you are worth more.  BELIEVE in yourself.  LOVE yourself.  TRUST yourself.

and you will make the world a better place.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Autism Dog for Andy

In August 2014, Andy was approved and put on the waitlist for an Autism National Service Dog.  We feel like we've won the lottery.  As parents of a child with special needs you're always trying to maintain a balance of enjoying today and worrying about tomorrow.

A service dog will help Andy reach new freedoms and successes in the future.  The dog will increase his independence in the community.  Assist in his anxiety levels especially since he'll be at school full time for the first time next year.  And help him forge new friendships and connections with other people.

The wait is anywhere from 18-24months on average.  There is a great need for the Service Dogs but it takes time to produce a quality, properly trained dog.  This is why we chose NSD.

Each dog is provided to the family free of charge, however they do ask families to participate in fundraising if they're able to.  The NSD receives no government funding and are supported through donations by individuals and businesses.

In late March we were contacted by NSD asking if we would agree to let the Brantford Pet Value and the Brantford Paulmac  could fundraise for Andy the ENTIRE MONTH OF APRIL!  Let me tell you that after tears welled up in my eyes at the unexpected call, I said a big "YES PLEASE!".  It was overwhelming seeing Andy's pictures all over the two stores.  The idea that strangers valued and supported our son and his future Service Dog was humbling.

Today I had the honour of accepting a $2977 cheque that was raised in Andy's name and donated to National Service Dogs.  It is incredible to know that the community has embraced us.  That there are business owners like Marylea that truly show how to give back and make a difference.  Her staff light up every time we walk into the store.  We've already had to promise they will be invited to his Service Dog's graduation ceremony.  We are blessed and humbled.  Thank you xo 

Pet Value & Paulmac cheque presentation with NSD ED Danielle and Porter (dog)
If you would like to donate to Andy's future NSD Autism Dog please donate at Donate to Andy's dog

Thank you

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Life's hardest decisions

Earlier today a friend and I were discussing blogs and how to go about writing your posts.  I wisely gave the advice to not overthink your posts and to remember that they're a conversation between you and your reader.

Then I walked away and had an 'aha' moment as Oprah would say.  Pot calling the kettle black! 

I have been wanting to get back to blogging for quite a while and I just kept seeming to be getting in my own way.  So I'm moving over and going to start my conversation...

Hello old friends!  I hope you're all doing well.  We haven't spoken in a while so I thought it was about time to catch up.

It has been a busy year and a half since we moved from the country back to the city (I know most people usually do the opposite).  It was one of the craziest, hardest decisions we have ever made as a family and here are some of my highlights.

1) Andy's new school is INCREDIBLE.  The staff constantly go above and beyond for their students.  I truly feel that we are a part of a school that not only TALK about inclusion but BELIEVE IT.  Emily has thrived there are well.

2) Our neighbours are the reason we moved into the city.  We wanted the opportunity for Andy to constantly have easy, natural interactions with other kids.  We have been welcomed with open arms.  We have people that love him and look out for him in a way I remember my childhood neighbours looking out for my sister and I.

3) Last June we switched Andy's IBI provider.  That was also one of those hard decisions.  He has blossomed with his new team.  We feel like his programming has pushed him farther and harder for the better.  Actually this week we get to attend a music concert put on by him and his classmates!

4) Our family has found a happy balance and no longer operate in the 24 hour stress mode.  I know you other special needs parent understand what I'm talking about.  I'm here to tell you that there is a way to make it out to the other side and you to can learn to breath, relax and enjoy. 

So what has this crazy adventure taught me?

Life's HARDEST decisions
Lead to the BIGGEST rewards!

Talk to you soon my friend, Alisa

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Radio Silence

So it's pretty obvious I haven't posted in a long, long time and I can't say that I'm going to apologize for it.  Our house is finally starting to slow down after a constant buzz since that fateful day in September when we got the call that Andy's name had finally come to the top of the waitlist for IBI funding.  I'm not a cryer...but I freely admit I cried on the phone with a total stranger.

Andy's name has been on the list since August of 2010.  We were originally told 15 months..yet, as with most government things, it took nearly 2 1/2 years.  I had no idea when we got our funding just how much work would be needed to be completed on our end to make it happen.  The amount of meetings, assessments and paperwork felt like it was more then when we first applied and got accepted!

Assuming nobody is wanting to read a novel of our adventure I'll share a little picture diary to sum up our past several months to catch you up.

Andy's first day of SK

Andy started started Senior Kindergarten in September and we've been blessed with an incredible Educational Assistant (EA).  Her continued enthusiasm in working with Andy and learning as much as possible about what makes him tick has been invaluable.  We've gone through some rough spots with Andy at school but as parents we continue to have faith in Andy's team that are surrounding him at school.

Andy having some fun with spider hat
October was full of Halloween fun.  We were actually able to celebrate and get into the spirit with the kids in ways that we've never done before.  Our spider hats were a big hit with a close second to crafts.  Crafts are a new thing in our house.  Andy has suddenly decided that he loves all crafts and Emily cannot help but agree.  I cannot believe how many times we're having to change our kids masterpieces that are on display. 
Andy making some dough ornaments
November was a busy month for me at work, and unfortunately Andy suffered for it.  I was working more hours then I usually do and Andy was reacting to it.  He was up often in the night and it meant little sleep for the rest of us.  However that being said, there were some incredible gains as well with Andy. 
Discovered Andy LOVES bowling!
December started with celebrating with my hubby's family Christmas.  During that weekend I got to witness one of the most beautiful moments.  Andy and his cousin Teagan playing, chasing and laughing with each other for almost half an hour!  Unfortunately I didn't have a camera but I think it'll be a memory that I'll never forget.  It was the first time that I have ever seen Andy willingly engage in play with someone other then an adult or his sister completely unprompted.  It was such a privilege to witness and simply enjoy the moment.  Thank goodness for cousins!
Our Christmas season finished off with my side of the family's celebration.  Truly the best Christmas our family has experienced to date.  It was so neat to watch both kids enjoy the family and friends surrounding them as well as all the festivities. While enjoying this season...I cannot wait for the Chrstimas' to come!
Okay, seriously they had fun..not that you can tell from the forced posing!
 January has brought some new beginnings in many ways...I'll post about it later.  For now, just know that my "radio silence" has simply been due to just too many things going on in this household!

Happy new everyone!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Autism Project: The Toronto Star Article series

I appreciate so much as a parent when someone, especially a large newspaper, taking the time to raise awareness and share information on Autism with the greater public.

Here are some interesting articles about some current topics in the Autism community:

Students with Autism Fend for Themselves - the struggle some many kids have lost in the school system

Autistic children need action from Ontario now - the need for more support from the Ontario government for individuals and their families

In search of Autism - study involving gathering a gene databank

iPad 'speaks' for non-verbal autistic kids - Andy is currently using an iPad and is flourishing!

How Canada is starting to tackle the autism crisis - examining the idea of a national strategy regarding Autism

The Odyssey to get your child treated and diagnosed - unfortunately, this article is all too accurate in the waits and lack of willingness to diagnose young children

The Rain Man of Shenzhen - talented 29 year old piano player

Autism diagnosis change questioned by York study - discussion of the new medical definition of Autism

Study tests early intervention signs for toddlers - empowering parents to help their kids while on waitlists

Autism Research Chair will look at bullying - new study by a York professor regarding Autism and bullying