Routine changes (Autism, flexibility and routines)

Morning dear readers,

I hope you all are staying warm.

New routines and changes have been an obstacle to writing of late, but I am hoping to work it back in.

Change and stress, but no meltdowns

I like routine to our day for its predictability. It leaves me without the stress of the unknown, my greatest anxiety producing obstacle. 

The National Autism Society (UK) states that:

“Many people with autism have a strong preference for routines and sameness. Routines often serve an important function – they introduce order, structure and predictability and help to manage anxiety. Because of this, it can be very distressing if a person’s routine is disrupted.”

I find myself best capable of dealing with changes if I have time to react and adapt. I think through possible ways plans can go awry.

Unexpected variables can throw my entire day.

value of xJenni-in-a-Calmer-Moment

My children each deal with changes in routine differently. My child most upset by routine changes doesn’t have a diagnosis. She can feel distressed when she isn’t on schedule.

My child deemed most impaired  is generally not upset about changes. He has for example, a routine of getting a bath after lunch. He will remind and then insist on one, all the way to stripping to make a point. However, when we have something else to do I tell him and he copes.

Though there is stress, meltdowns  rarely occur I think mostly because:

  • our routine is set naturally to patterns that emerge rather than to trying to fit life into something preset
  • known changes are discussed ahead of time
  • unexpected things are explained
  • contingency plans are made and discussed
  • beyond a basic framework, our schedule is not rigid

What is our Daily Routine now?

Monday through Thursday we’ve settled into  a fairly predictable pattern.

I usually wake up without an alarm between 5 and 6am.

Then I spend time sitting and reading online articles.

I also drink vast quantities of tea in the morning.

While it seems wasteful, if it were raining this woman could open her mouth and let the tea run in.










Between 7 and 8:

  • shower
  • dress
  • walk the doggie
  • make sure the kids have breakfast

Between 8 and 9

  • make the littles dress/brush teeth
  • help Pete
  • make breakfast for Kevin and I
  • read more internet

Between 9 and 12

Aidan and Little Bee are for the most part independent, working from their own work schedules. For them I:

  • facilitate via discussion/questions/assisting with problems
  • provide resources, activities, labs
  • assign and check  reading/work

Chess is an approved school time activity. The stuffed doggie won btw.








For the littles and Pete I shift back and forth between

  • lessons with the littles
  • one on one with Pete
  • lessons with all three at once

Patrick works on math








We are generally done by noon.

Noon to about 1:30 – 2

  • make lunch
  • eat lunch
  • walk the doggie
  • help with afternoon baths

From then on to about 6

If there isn’t some place to be I then work on writing, paid work, paperwork, etc.

From 6 – 9

  • make dinner
  • walk the doggie
  • clean something
  • chill with Kevin and kids

Lately Kevin and I have been watching an hour of Classic Doctor Who with Aidan and Bee.


Instead of turned off, they’ve been rather fascinated by how low tech it is.

I get the littles to bed by nine, Pete and the rest by ten and I am not far behind.

Is routine helpful or harmful?

In the end I believe routine is a good stress reducing tool, but that it is necessary to learn other coping techniques for inevitable change and unexpected events.

Feel free to comment below about your need (or lack) of routine.  Do you find it helps or hinders?


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An apology to my autistic students…

reblogging from “Someone’s Mum”

Someone's Mum

I am sorry. I am a good human being – a good teacher, I think. I listen, I learn, I strive to be better. I know it is a great responsibility to shape young minds, young opinions. I thought I knew what it means to teach a pupil with autism. But experience has given me something knowledge never could and I am sorry; now I begin to understand.

Before I was the mother to my son – my son who I now know is autistic – I thought you might struggle to imagine as vividly as others. I see now that isn’t so; your minds can be quick and bright and colourful – like exotic birds, beautiful but unusual. Sometimes you just struggle to imagine things that are governed by the expectations, the minds, of others.

Before, I knew that some of you might find relationships difficult. I thought your emotions ran differently…

View original post 881 more words

Wonderfully informative video from Autism Ontario with Michael McCreary

from the video description:

This video, which features the incredible Michael McCreary, is a wonderful introduction to autism spectrum disorder. The video was created to support customer service professionals when they provide services or support to people with ASD; however the positive response from the general public has been overwhelming. This video is so accessible and entertaining, it offers something for everyone.

So please watch and share. We want everyone to understand autism and to see the potential!

ADHC: Attention Deficit Hyperactive Cognition

reblogging :-)

Mindless Focus

I have been told time and time again that if I could just pay attention, if I could just focus, if I could just put the effort in, I could be incredibly successful. I have been consistently informed of the fact that I have a much greater potential than my achievements would suggest. That if I could only conform to the wishes of my teachers, my parents, and authority figures, I could really do well. And quite frankly, I think they’re wrong. Because I’ve accomplished an awful lot. I’ve found a great deal of success; when placed in the right environment and given the right kind of support.

The last thing that I want to do is make this post about me. And yet, I’m going to have to rely on my own experiences to articulate what I’m trying to say. I hate having to put myself under the microscope as…

View original post 1,458 more words

Frozen eggs, nuclear forces, true love and the white food theory

Morning! I hope all of my U.S readers are staying warm and safe today.

This week we discovered that someone’s been messing with the fridge temp thingy again.


a frozen egg

Beyond that one should not mess with the thingy, the children learned that when you drop two items of differing mass, absent differences in wind resistance, they’ll still hit the ground at the same time. Yay Galileo!


We dropped many things, many times. We should have tried frozen eggs, but it didn’t occur to me.

Enough things were dropped enough times to get my fiance (working in the basement) to come upstairs to figure out what the hell was going on.

(Link to the pbslearning resource we used for our activities)



Just as with magnetism and electricity studies, we listed the four fundamental forces of nature. I’m not tackling strong and weak nuclear forces with lower elementary kids, but they aren’t too young to learn they are fundamental forces.  We’ll dive into atoms more next year.  We also read books and watched more programs about Galileo and gravity, as well as learned about ancient people’s beliefs/uses for the night sky.

There was also a rather long documentary on Stone Henge that lost everyone’s save little bee’s attention about 45 minutes in.

I love listening to that man talk, but not even Donald Sutherland narrating could make it interesting.


Aidan is learning about and making tessellations in his math curriculum, which uses his strong point, geometry and trigonometry to review middle school arithmetic, which has been a long struggle for him. He’s hoping that next year he can use geometry to learn algebra. I do think its possible, but am still looking for the best direction/resources .

A nice coincidental thing occurred.

Little bee got her latest lab kit and it is also about gravity.


She made this fun little game on Wednesday.

Its also been snowing a bit.

These two pictures are the difference twelve hours and blizzard conditions make.

We’re in for possibly another foot today.

fridayevening sat. morning

We had to go to the store on Thursday in order to prepare for this.


This was the store.

Not only were the milk, toilet paper, and bread loaves nearly gone, but customers had also almost cleaned out the whip topping, sour cream, and eggs.  Kevin (fiance person I keep mentioning)shared a theory he read that it wasn’t just milk, toilet paper, and what not that sold, but white things in general.

Perhaps when the milks gone, people start reaching for things that look similar.

“Darn it! No milk! Sour cream? close enough.”

We shopped, got all the way to the checkout still living and then,  THEN I realized, I left my card at home.


Kevin was left waiting in the magazine aisle for forty minutes while I went to retrieve it.

That, is love.

And that’s it.

Stay warm.




Moon Unit (No relation to Ms. Zappa)


In the winter time I cover topics that do not need a warm/dry day such as space, the forces of nature, Newton’s laws…etc.

This week the littles (6-9 classroom kids) and Pete (autistic teen with expressive language impairment) learned about the moon. The other older kids did not pass up the cookies and joined us for videos as well.


Making the moon cycle with GF  off brand “Oreo” Cookies




Books Read:


The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons


and “Papa Please Get the Moon for Me”

Visuals/Activity Added to Work Area:

DSCN9987  DSCN9990

Phases of the Moon Chart (purchased from Amazon) used as control chart for three part “Moon Phase Cards” arranged in the lunar cycle (downloaded, you can find versions of these both as free downloads and for purchase)

Videos Streamed:


Apollo 11: First Steps on the Moon (“free” on Amazon Prime)

the moon

Bill Nye the Science Guy : The Moon (available to stream free or purchase online)

Pete’s Spelling/Vocabulary Words:

rotate, orbit, gibbous, crescent, full, new, moon, satellite, astronomer, telescope, luna


Pete practices spelling words using “I speak Word Wizard” on the Ipad.

Concept’s covered:

  • Why the view of the moon changes
  • Moon’s gravity causing tides
  • Eclipses
  • Lunar month
  • Moonlight is from the sun
  • Moon myths
  • Theory of the moon creation via asteroid impact

History discussed:

Apollo 11 Moon landing, briefly touching on other Apollo Missions

Note to Commenters

Note: While we are all free to have our opinions, beliefs, and mindset about life, we are also free to make our spaces as we want them. i wont allow comments/posts that are antithetical to my beliefs to stay on my pages/blog/nor facebook because leaving them there can be taken as implied consent/approval of the opinion expressed. That means I sometimes delete or edit crap that finds its way to my space. (commenters are free to say whatever they like on their own stuff)
In short, yes I censor people sometimes, get used to it or find some other thing to look at.

A “Table ready” Tale of Two Autistics (How Montessori kicks ass)

Morning people.

As I was sitting last night researching what kind of hands on activities I could use while we learn about the moon next week, I thought about how the boys learn best, and the concept of being “table ready.”

I thought about ten years ago…

When my son with a classic autism diagnosis was in early intervention,  his therapists (skills, speech, and OT) worked with him on the floor. Or well, they tried to. Most of the sessions consisted of chasing him around the room trying to get him to attend. I suggested that if he were sitting they might have an easier time, but they insisted it wasn’t conducive to natural learning.

Pete would sit, rather happily, at meals strapped in to his booster seat. It looked like this:

Keekaroo Cafe Booster Seat_Chocolate_4322818_01

He insisted. If he wasn’t buckled, he stressed about it. One day after breakfast while he was still at the table I pulled out a puzzle and worked on it with him. I mimicked the language his therapists used. He not only did the puzzle, but he was engaged. I then added another two activities (like song games, shape sorter, story books) and then more. We got up to a half hour, then 45 minutes.  He loved it.

I learned about structured work tasks and how to use visual cues and schedules to show when work began and ended. We went from a “work” and “finished” basket to visual work schedule with velcro  numbers and a “finished” pocket for the numbers.  We covered fine motor, academics like counting and colors, sorting, stacking, matching and joint attention tasks.  He learned to point, but I never bothered with eye contact, its not really necessary for joint attention.  I bought some tasks, but usually made my own. As he aged and rapidly learned I had trouble finding /making materials with visual /hands on components and clear beginning and end of task that met his more complex learning needs.

Then he went to a small Montessori class run by our old church.  He was engaged, and fairly independent, though still in need of help staying on task and choosing work. The materials engaged him.  I began buying Montessori materials, teaching myself  and then him to use them, and then using them during his structured work time. They are wonderful.


Peter works on long division with “the stamp game”


I still fashion Peter’s learning activities into structured tasks, with written checklists to show completion. He doesnt mind working on the floor anymore. Here he is using a snap circuit to test conductivity.

He eventually started kindergarten in public school and my activities and materials ended up in storage.

My youngest son on the spectrum has a pdd-nos diagnosis and is much Pete’s opposite in some ways. His teachers would complain he wasn’t “table ready.”  They insisted in order to learn he had to be sitting straight in a chair at a desk or table.  This rarely happened. I refused to allow him to be restrained against his will, and refused when they mentioned trying to puppy train him into a chair using m&m rewards.  He also was best engaged when working with manipulatives, and balked at the pencil and paper activities that replaced the hands on work of his preschool years.

When the boys came home to learn, we went back to Montessori.  It still offers the structured tasks Peter needs, as well as hands on tactile activities for older students that keep Patrick engaged sans chocolate treats.

montessori grammar symbols, nouns, verbs, and articles

montessori grammar symbols, nouns, verbs, and articles

PLUS  Montessorians have nothing whatever against working on the floor.  Learning can happen anywhere, and the need to spread out, to move, to wiggle, doesn’t impede it.  Patrick still does school work mostly on the floor, but as he ages he also is ok with sitting at a little table from time to time as well.

Patrick using grammar symbols, on the floor of all places

Patrick using grammar symbols to identify parts of speech, on the floor of all places.

Christmas with autistic children, EXPOSED (plus “survival’ tips)

“Life is lived moment-to-moment. In anticipation of the child’s next move. In despair. In fear of the future. This is autism,” These words were written by the founder of Autism speaks a couple of Decembers ago.  We are not supposed to be living, merely existing in an autistic void of despair and suffering.

She’s so right.

My heavens you would not believe what my autistic sons have been up to. It’s been truly harrowing.

One kid often doesn’t want to eat lunch, another takes forever to complete his school work, and yet another spends too much time on his I-pad.  One time he left waffles ON his I-pad.

Truly, this is darkness.

The worse of the worst, I stepped on a lego left out by one the other day.

(if you haven’t ever stepped on a lego barefoot, you do not know pain)

The most heinous behavior occurs during the Holidays.

I thought I’d share some surveillance photos of their nefarious activities of late.

They’ve been watching Christmas tv shows and reading Christmas books.


They thought they could cover it up but no, they never put anything away.

Parents of typical children will just need to imagine what THATS like, I know, its hard.

They’ve also helped…





and managed to have a hand in our annual tradition of MAKING HOMEMADE ORNAMENTS.  (cue jump scare sound effects)

The nerve.

This time we made non-edible cinnamon ornaments to give as gifts to the grandparents.



This autistic child just recently had to have more eye surgery and yet even he participated.


I anticipate that their “next move” holiday wise, will be in the opening of presents.

Maybe we’ll see some lights displays first.

I suppose it isn’t suffering.

(hey, i still have cinnamon up my nose!)

My outlook on my children is not defined by the maybe or could haves or might have beens and certainly not by some standard of non-existent “normalcy” or narrow view of family life.

In all seriousness, I KNOW it can be hard


Celebrating the holidays with a child on the spectrum and everything going right is very possible, nay probable, with these tips in mind:

  1. Make sure your preparation activities include the child BUT Do not force involvement in activities like those mentioned above but keep them open for participation at the child’s level/desire to do so. One son used to only want to put two or three ornaments on the tree, now he stays till its finished. Example of doing it wrong: A parent inclined to force a child to sit on a strangers lap in a mall for a picture all in the name of tradition needs to re-evaluate their priorities.
  2. Have plenty of shows and books about the holiday on hand, include them in story time (an excellent small tradition to start if you haven’t already) and put them on the television. Maybe they’ll want them, maybe they won’t, but they’ll be there when and if they do. Doing it wrong: Forcing a child to sit through “Twas the night before Christmas” when they don’t want to. We’ve been having a “Christmas Carol” marathon. Kid participation has been spotty. I’m  not insulted.
  3. When going places keep hunger, tiredness, sensory issues and your child’s time limits in mind.  Doing it wrong: A child dragged to a crowded noisy mall for “fun” shopping for hours on end is set up for a meltdown. Another problem is in trying to visit everyone or visiting at homes where there is nothing to do. If you plan to stay long, bring distractions for the child. Some may say this is letting the child run the show, or spoiling. Forget that. This is respect and accommodation for your child’s differences, doing so will make it easier for both them and YOU.  I have to keep on eye on this for myself as well.
  4. Make family traditions for your holiday. It could be something religious like lighting the yule log, menora or advent wreath, a special meal,  or a tradition like ours, making homemade ornaments. Traditions tend to define us, and are remembered for lifetimes.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a happy holiday.

Note: If you really truly are just “existing” or waiting for your child’s “next move” know that it doesn’t need to be that way. Life can be better.





Sorry to disappoint, but life has been typical. (it isn’t always autism)

It’s hard to believe fall is finishing up, the “holiday” season is here.  Most of the summer was weird, and the fall surreal.

Blogging and social media time were taken over with “being with boyfriend Kevin” time.

“Boyfriend” seems such a strange word for one, since he’s in his late 40’s and two because I had previously vowed I was never attempting another relationship.


This past August Kevin asked me to marry him.  The date is set for a weekend in June 2016.

I feel so very happy.

How are the kids?


We’ve had a fairly productive time with schooling, went on a few field trips  and generally started looking for a new “normal” that includes a new family member.

Well, two family members, because we have a doggy now too.


Pete walking Cinder

I’ve also had three speaking opportunities at different Sherlock Holmes related happenings (symposium, conference, and scion society). In those talks I’ve disclosed my diagnosis, and while keeping personal info at a minimum, the boys’ as well.

The other day at another Sherlockian function I sat near a woman whose scion society I have attended in the past, but had missed the most recent meeting.

She had been worried about me, to the point of contacting me to see if I was alright.

I didn’t mind this, at first.

Through conversation I found that she had automatically assumed my absence was because of autism (mine or my children’s I couldn’t quite gather), and so thought some major catastrophe had occurred.

She didn’t even consider that like all people, sometimes life is just stressful, and often time is an issue. Automatically her mind went to autism.  I forget what she said exactly but it was along the lines of “with everything going on with you, I was really worried.”


I started to wonder if I was making a major mistake in terms of disclosure because of how autism and family life is portrayed in the media leaves us at a risk of being seen in this light.

It is a risk even with all the evidence to the contrary in my life, on this blog, and in other writings.

I decided not to bother telling her much about the reasons I hadn’t been around.  I felt like an object of pity and could see she formed so many assumptions on so little.

To be honest, I don’t feel like going back to that particular group now.

Nothing horrible nor harrowing has occurred.

Just life.

For the kids I’m thinking about:

How to engage and interest my six year old daughter,

keep my nine year old son out of trouble and interacting,

the almost twelve year old intellectually and socially  stimulated,

the almost fourteen year old son learning skills for independence,

plus helping the fifteen year old boy through high school and planning a future.

Every descent parent regardless of whether or not their child has a label should be doing that.

One kid has had health issues.

Typical kids have those too.

For me,

its a matter of continuing to try to build a career on the skills I have, paying bills, and working on a relationship.

I know its going  out on a limb, but I’m fairly certain most people think about and work on that too.

I’m having more issues with the city.

Living in Baltimore is a significant source of stress for anyone here.

My time is taken up with my fiancee, which should be no surprise to anyone  whose had a  romantic relationship or been around a love-struck couple.