Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dancing With Max - a Book Review recently joined LibraryThing to try to organize my book collection and, along the way, signed up on the site to be an early reviewer.  This means that every month I receive an email linking me to many books that LibraryThing makes available to its members in exchange for a review.  You can request as many as you would like and if you are chosen to receive a book, it is sent to you and you have several weeks to read and review the book (more people request most books than copies are available so you don't get all you request).  In my second month on the list, I actually got a book.  As fate would have it, from the many I had ticked off as books I was interested in, I received an autism book:  Dancing With Max:  A Mother and Son Who Broke Free by Emily Colson (with prologue and epilogue by Charles Colson, her father), published by Zondervan. The following is largely based on my LibaryThing review but I wanted to share here too.

Dancing With Max is a wonderfully uplifting story of breaking free of what parents of children with autism are often told to expect from their children, but the book is much more.  The book is about both author Emily Colson and her son Max growing and changing, in sometimes unexpected ways.  It is about forming a truly deep parent-child bond despite the challenges of autism.  The book also is about how Emily's relationship with her own father evolved and healed, due in part to the family having to understand, accept and adapt to Max's challenges with autism.  Chuck Colson was special counsel to President Nixon, a workaholic, who did not always, by his own admission, spend enough time with his family.  He also was incarcerated on Watergate-related charges.  He became more religious and founded a non-profit to minister to those in prison.  Like her father, Emily is a woman of strong faith and she found unique and wonderful ways for Max to share in her faith. 

Emily's story demonstrates what so many fail to understand about "autism moms" - how a mother can continue to fight to improve her child's life - searching for new therapies, schools, treatments - but all the while accepting him and loving him for who he is at the moment. 

I suspect that while on the surface there are many differences between myself and Emily Colson, deep down there is much that we share. Her book is a moving tribute to her son and her family.  It is clear that, while he faces many challenges as he becomes a young adult with autism, Max also has a gift to share with the world and Emily is working is ways both small (in their everyday lives) and large (the book!) to share Max and his gift with others.  While the book is frank about tough moments - any parent with autism would see through a book that did not give a fair shake to those tough times -  it is ultimately affirming -- a story about moving forward, persevering, growing, loving and being loved.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Congratulations to Angela Fish, the lucky winner of "All I Can Handle:  I'm No Mother Teresa"!  Enjoy Angela. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Giveaway and Book Review: Kim Stagliano's "All I Can Handle: I'm No Mother Teresa"

Reading Kim Stagliano's new book, "All I Can Handle: I'm No Mother Teresa" from Skyhorse Publishing is like sitting down with a cup of coffee (glass of wine?) and catching up with an old friend.  It is the perfect book to cozy up with on the sofa on a chilly day and read cover to cover (or maybe that's just because this is exactly what I did).  See the end of this post to see how you can win your own autographed copy of "All I Can Handle"!

Kim is the mother to three amazing daughters, each of whom is on the autism spectrum.   She is also the managing editor of AgeOfAutism, the online newspaper of the autism community, a HuffingtonPost contributor, and a blogger.

In her "Kimoir" (as she calls it), she shares her no-holds-barred story of raising her girls.  I sound like an overblown ad for a blockbuster movie when I say "I laughed, I cried - bring your family and friends, see (read) it again!" but that is exactly how I felt about this book. Kim's story is one of negotiating the ups and downs that life throws our way with faith, humor, and aplomb.  But, as the title says, she is no Mother Teresa.  Thank goodness!  Her story would not ring true if it was all roses and ponies.  Plus, this book would not be nearly so funny if she was a saint.  And it is laugh out loud funny!  If you cannot imagine an autism story written with humor - think again.  Without giving away too much, the image of Kim inadvertently stealing a fan from a local store after a bathroom flooding "Stagtastrophe" (her name works so well for wordplay like this!) is priceless (and hysterical!).

She shares moments of joy, such as her daughters' First Holy Communions, successful birthday parties, exciting career moves.  But she also shares challenging moments of anger, marital stress, financial difficulties, illnesses, a child lost in a vast Disney resort.  What she shares is real life.  As the parent of a child on the spectrum, her book is particularly meaningful to me but I truly believe that everyone can enjoy this book because there is so much more than autism here and the lessons of life, even when learned through the lens of autism, are applicable to so much more.

But back to autism... this book also serves as an important PSA to parents of children with autism.  It is incumbent upon us to be the best advocates we can for our children.  My heart broke and my anger swelled when Kim related her experience of a neurologist telling her that they just aren't that aggressive in treating children with autism.  I felt such anger reading this that I cannot imagine how the Staglianos felt at that moment.  This doctor was writing off a child - a child with so much potential - merely because of the label of "autism."  As so many parents know, and as so many doctors still so fail in ignorance to recognize, children with autism are sick - they have GI problems, they have seizures, they have immune system dysfunction, they have metabolic and mitochondrial disorders.  Thank you Kim for spreading that message.

So run, don't walk to your nearest bookstore or e-tailer and get a copy today.  Also, I am privileged to have an autographed copy to give away to one lucky blogreader.  Comment below, leaving your name and full email address, and I will pick a winner at random on November 15, 2010 and contact you by email.  Enter to win and feel free to share this post and spread the word.

Come meet Kim and hear her read from her book at the National Autism Association - NY Metro Chapter parent network exchange meeting this Wednesday, November 10, 2010, at the Rebecca School, 40 E. 30th St. in Manhattan (b/w Park and Madison Aves.) from 6pm-8:30pm.  Increase your chances of winning a copy of Kim's book by also visiting NAA-NY Metro's facebook page or blog!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Communications Shutdown for Autism - Nov. 1

Can you live without Facebook and Twitter for ONE DAY!?! I bet you can. And now you can do it and raise money for autism worldwide. National Autism Association is one of the beneficiaries. All it takes is a small donation - and some willpower to avoid FB and your Twitter! Join me in tuning out for a day and raising awareness.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fox News Steps Up to the Plate on Autism

Regardless of your political leanings, autism warrior moms and dads should tune in for continuing autism coverage on Fox and Friends - they have made Saturday mornings newsworthy several of the past weekends!  To those following autism in the news, CBS's Sheryl Attkisson often seemed like a lone media voice willing to investigate and report on controversial autism issues.  Now she is joined by Fox and Friend's Alisyn Camerota.  In late September and early October, Ms. Camerota has presented three segments on controversial autism issues.

First, TACA's Rebecca Estepp went head to head to with Dr. Marc Siegel regarding the Hannah Poling case and "Vaccine Court" (the omnibus proceeding), among other things:

The next weekend, Mary Holland, an NYU law professor, and Dana Hall, a parent with a case pending in the autism omnibus proceeding, appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss recent developments in the omnibus proceeding:

Mary and Dana captured in a few short minutes many of the flaws in the omnibus proceeding and why it has failed. Mary summed up with this powerful statement:  ". . . we will look back at this proceeding in shame." 

Then, on October 2, Dr. Bob Sears, a board-certified pediatrician and author of The Vaccine Book, appeared to discuss the CDC's failure to test vaccines in real world circumstances - i.e., to test the safety of vaccines given in the multi-vaccine combinations in which they are administered to infants and children.  Dr. Sears called out the CDC on its testing failures and challenged its blanket claims of vaccine safety, including the CDC's claim that vaccines present lower level exposures than children may encounter in their environment - pointing out that inhaling and injecting are very different!  Finally, he touched on the issue of bias and scandal surrounding some vaccine research. 

This coverage is welcome and we hope to see more.  Let Fox & Friends know that you are tuning in and continue to support Sharyl Attkisson's superb coverage on CBS as well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Restaurant Review: Pure Food and Wine - Haute Raw Vegan Cuisine

Haute raw vegan cuisine - not words you usually imagine putting together.  But you can at Pure Food & Wine on Irving Place in Manhattan.   I had the pleasure of dining there a few nights ago with a good friend and I cannot wait to go back.  I love casual, down-to-earth eateries too but for a change of pace, haute raw vegan rocks it!

The restaurant space is beautiful and sophisticated and it has a large back garden (but it was too hot a night for me to enjoy outdoor dining so we opted for inside).  The menu is likewise sophisticated.  I started with king oyster mushroom scallops in a lemongrass/coconut broth and my friend had an heirloom tomato and watermelon salad.  Both were amazing.  The king oyster mushrooms had a texture that was remarkably like a scallop.  We shared a plate of Dr. Cow's nut cheeses (made locally in Williamsburg (Brooklyn)), with rosemary crisps and strawberries, mache and raw honey as accompaniments.  Yum! For a main course I had a delicious zucchini "fettuccini" with asparagus and peppers and my friend had beautiful stuffed squash blossoms.  We were too full for dessert - a huge regret because they all looked great.

You can also order some of the products used to create delicious raw vegan cuisine, along with some awesome raw cookbooks featuring recipes from the restaurant, at the OneLuckyDuck website.  I am going to try the tomato/watermelon salad in the next few days - I think that was my favorite thing out of all the things I tasted at dinner.

I have stockpiled a bunch of raw cookbooks and want to start incorporating more raw meals into my diet.  I appreciate that Sarma Melngailis, the owner of Pure Food and Wine, admits to not being raw, or even vegan or vegetarian, all the time - definitely takes some of the pressure off - especially for raw newbies, like me.  That said, every raw recipe I have tried so far has been great - so fresh and just "good" - getting back to the essence of what food tastes like.  You don't even need a recipe to be raw (though there are some great ones).  One day I just pureed chunks of butternut squash in the VitaMix (this may be a must-have for vegans and raw food enthusiasts -- never have I seen a blender work so well.  It  costs $$$ but is worth it). The raw butternut squash soup - seasoned with some fresh herbs, was amazing.  This past week, I had a lot of Crenshaw melon at home - I pureed it, with some lovely oil, vanilla infused sea salt, a touch of (non raw I think) maple syrup, cayenne pepper and seeded cucumber - delish, even my husband loved the fresh and 99% raw fruit soup.

 Plus, eating raw brings incredible health benefits, preserving many of the enzymes naturally found in foods.  I have a tendency to go full bore at something for awhile and then tucker out but I can definitely see slowly incorporating more raw cooking ideas into everyday life -- it is all about the balance (see Sunday's post - but then ask why I am up at 3am??? - work in progress....).

Sunday, September 5, 2010


My "Balance" ecoBowl
Balance is my new mantra... Wish me luck!

I spent two weekends in August in New England working on ideas related to energy healing.  First was a series of workshops led by Dr. Miriam Wolf in Putney, Vermont.  Two days of learning and working on healing techniques on many levels - it was eye-opening, challenging, very positive, and centering.  After that great experience, the next weekend, the whole family (it was our anniversary too!) traveled to Exeter, New Hampshire for a little R&R and for me to work with Hilary Crowley, to catch me up in my Reiki master level training.

Both these weekends got me thinking much more about balance and the need to reestablish balance in my life.  I tend to go 110 miles an hour on everything, rather than balancing.  So now I am going to start making a conscious effort toward more balance.  That may mean letting go of some of my preconceived notions of how and when things need to get done, figuring out what it is important to focus on at any given time and what can wait.  I am hoping that this new outlook will be liberating but it will definitely be work for me to let go of some of the old paradigms.  I also have to recognize that it won't happen overnight - it will take time to recalibrate and, in a first step in that direction, I recognize that this is okay.

While in New Hampshire, we stayed at the lovely Exeter Inn - our stay was terrific, the only downside was that our shower, while beautiful, was not designed for tall people (the building is older and space constraints dictated what they could do).  While I worked with Hilary, the boys explored Exeter and then we met up to check out Portsmouth, New Hampshire - which was completely charming.  While there, I happened upon a great shop that had opened up only days earlier called Presence of Nature.  This shop sells beeswax bowls (ecoBowls), the creation of which helps beekeepers (who sell their scrap beeswax to create the bowls).  You use the bowl as a vessel into which you can place all sorts of materials, including air plants, to create a very personal environment (you can buy pre-made versions or create your own with their huge selection of items).  The shop's (and website's) tag line is "No matter what you choose, it's right."  You cannot make a mistake - I love that! When I walked in one of the first things I saw was a small flat stone with the word "Balance" engraved on it - there's a message for you!  I used that as a centerpiece to create my own bowl, which is now in our dining room (see the photo above).

Both weekends inspired me to continue to learn more about different energy healing modalities and to challenge myself to open up my mind to new ways of thinking.  One thing I am now very excited to learn more about is Matrix Energetics, a powerful healing modality developed by Richard Bartlett, DC.   But there are so many other things to learn about as well.  Dr. Wolf introduced me to some amazing books a variety of aspects of energy medicine that I cannot wait to dig into.  Of course, I have to balance all this new learning with the rest of my life!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Just one of the cutest things ever!

Thanks to HuffPo, I was just introduced to a photo blog with some of the cutest pics around.  Check out Mila's Daydreams, where new mom (and super creative person) Adele Enersen creates the sweetest photo tableaux while her little girl is napping!  The photo below is "Surfer Girl" (natch!)  Kudos to Adele for her creativity and capturing just how sweet little babies are. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Who is Showing Callous Disregard?

Dr. Andrew Wakefield recently spoke at a meeting of the New York Chapter of the National Autism Association. Almost 100 people attended - it was a full house! I have had the opportunity to see Dr. Wakefield speak several times, including at the recent NAA-NY Metro Chapter event as well as at AutismOne in Chicago this May. He is always eloquent and impassioned and he did not disappoint on July 8 at NAA-NY Metro. You can read more about his appearance on the NAA-NY Metro Chapter blog and on Age of Autism. Parents and medical professionals are becoming increasingly aware of issues surrounding vaccine safety and they want to learn more.

As were many others, I was quite curious about Dr. Wakefield's book, Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines - The Truth Behind the Tragedy, which recently was published by Skyhorse Publishing. Dr. Wakefield has been vilified in the media, but this vilification most frequently comes in the form of prepackaged attacks that rehash the same stories over and over. I also repeatedly see stories recasting as "fact" the opinions of those who disagree with Dr. Wakefield. It is unfortunate that many journalists seem to have forgotten about investigative journalism, merely taking at face value what their "sources" tell them - sources who frequently have significant conflicts of interest which go unmentioned. I am not asking journalists to disregard those whose opinions are contrary to Dr. Wakefield's. Absolutely not. I merely ask that both sides be presented in a balanced way, which almost never happens. Without both sides presenting their respective points of view, there cannot be true discourse.

In Callous Disregard, Dr. Wakefield sets the record straight - in methodical fashion, with numerous citations to both evidence and to scientific/scholarly works. Dr. Wakefield walks the reader through complex materials in a way that both parents and medical/scientific professionals can appreciate. This is a book that reaches both audiences, at least in part because Dr. Wakefield respects that parents of children with ASD are knowledgeable and are eager to learn all they can about their child's illness. Even if you disagree with Dr. Wakefield, I encourage you to read this account, and examine the evidence yourself, with an open mind. I also commend to readers an article written by Dr. William Long for Autism File magazine.

Dr. Wakefield continues his fight to clear his name and continues his work to help children with ASD. He has sacrificed incredibly for our children. It would have been easy for him to quit long ago and quietly walk away. He chose not too. I think that speaks measures.  Dr. Wakefield's commitment to children with ASD has won him many followers, but many critics as well. I continue to be amazed at the level of animosity toward Dr. Wakefield in some circles. In particular, much cyber-energy is spent in the blogosphere (though certainly elsewhere as well) trying to discredit Dr. Wakefield. Critics of Dr. Wakefield make scathing personal attacks, they belittle both parents and scientists who are open to Dr. Wakefield's work and the work of other scientists exploring a possible link between vaccines and autism. If Andrew Wakefield really is as unimportant and irrelevant as they try to paint him, why waste all that energy? I have to wonder if this is some kind of attempt to convince themselves that his work, and the work of others exploring these issues, is no threat to their their neat little world where there is no potential downside to mass vaccinations at unprecedented levels.

Do these critics think that if they merely repeat over and over again that Dr. Wakefield is a villain and that vaccines are completely safe, everyone will believe them? In fact, the contrary is true; more and more parents are becoming wary and distrustful of bald claims of vaccine safety. As a Harris Poll commissioned by the Center for Personal Rights and conducted this spring shows, a majority of parents believe that the pharmaceutical industry has too much influence over the vaccine schedule, a vax'd vs. unvax'd study should be conducted, parents (not the government) should have the right to choose which vaccines their children receive. Moreover, this poll and a recent study published in Pediatrics show that many parents also are concerned about serious adverse effects from vaccines (48% in the CPR poll, 54% in the Pediatrics study).

As parental distrust mounts and parents ask more questions about vaccine safety, I also have to ask why there are many writers who misrepresent the findings of studies concerning vaccine safety. For example, it is disingenuous (at best) to tell parents that a study vindicates vaccines when a study merely finds that a link between vaccines and autism is not proven - those statements are not equivalent and it simply is wrong to equate them. We can read, and curious parents are, more and more, going to the sources themselves. When they discover a study's actual conclusions and find they conflict with the spin, the spinner loses credibility. The bottom line is that the studies conducted to date are insufficient to prove or disprove a link between vaccines and autism, though there is a mounting body of evidence suggesting a connection, for at least some children. I blogged awhile back on the frightening implications of lack of scientific curiosity on this issue (or fear of what results may show).

On a separate but related note, the vaccine safety studies done to license vaccines are, as a general rule, woefully inadequate: they are short-lived (in some instances only days or weeks and, therefore, unlikely capture many possible reactions other than acute, immediate onset reactions), subject to manipulation, conducted by the vaccine manufacturers themselves (not objective third parties), and do not address the safety of the current vaccine schedule as a whole. Most parents do not know this. I even wonder how many pediatricians are aware of the inadequacies of vaccine safety testing when they tell their patients that vaccines are subject to rigorous testing? You can go to the FDA website to review pre-licensing testing information, and see for yourself what is considered sufficient - it is eye-opening.

Vaccines have become sacred in the public health sphere and to challenge that doctrine is a heresy. However, I think it is becoming more and more apparent that we do need to challenge the current vaccine schedule, challenge the inadequacy of safety testing, and challenge the lack of appropriate studies concerning vaccines and their possible role with respect to many diseases, including autism. As the CPR Harris Poll demonstrates, parents are becoming more aware of this issue, and asking more questions. This issue is now mainstream - half of parents think that there are serious issues with respect to the U.S. vaccine program. Those involved in the U.S. vaccine program need to recognize that parents no longer are willing to accept a pat on the head, telling us that they are the "experts" and know what is "best." Parents and a growing number of doctors and scientists are demanding that more and better testing take place and we are demanding honesty.

As a postscript I want to encourage my readers to also check out this post on Adventures In Autism.  Ginger Taylor's posts are always timely and insightful. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an officer and board member of NAA-NY Metro, a board member of the Center for Personal Rights, and on the steering committee of the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Photos from France

For your enjoyment (I hope), here are a few of my photos from our recent trip to France. Cliff still has my camera on his research trip so I don't have access to all my shots and I am switching to a new computer so I cannot try out some new Photoshop stuff I just learned about and cannot wait to try. These are unretouched (not that I retouch much but I have just seen some new effects to use with Photoshop that blew me away - I have it on my PC but am not savvy and want to learn more). My laptop having lost an unfortunate battle with a palmetto bug in Florida this spring, I am capitalizing on the opportunity to switch back to Mac after many years and am very excited about the Macbook Pro making its way toward me now. To start using the Photoshop effects I have been eyeing I will need to buy the Mac version of Photoshop too! I find taking these pictures so relaxing and am ready to step it up and invest in a nice digital SLR camera (Nikon D90 maybe?) We have great old Nikon film cameras and oodles of excellent Nikkor lenses (hoping some of the lenses can be used). My current digital camera has some manual functions but I would like more flexibility. Next step, a Miksang (contemplative photography) course at the Shambhala Center in NYC - hopefully they will offer another soon that I can join!

Vive la France

Embracing Wellness recently returned from 2.5 weeks in France - most of it spent in Provence, near Avignon, with a few days in Paris at the end. We had a great time even if was hot-hot-hot for several days. . . lots of swimming, biking (esp. for Henry) and yummy food, and even a little bit of sightseeing (like the Pont du Gard - that's where the boys are on the left). We saw friends who now live in Avignon (and their brand new baby - a gorgeous little girl who joins her three bothers and two sisters) and friends who have been living in Paris came down to spend several days with us. Henry even had the three Avignon-based boys over for a sleepover - it was fun and lively with four boys playing in the house and pool. Henry told us before we left NYC that the thing he was most looking forward to on the trip was meeting the new baby - she was just 5 weeks old - he LOVES babies. She exceeded his expectations and he was thrilled to be able to hold her. He is so gentle, sweet and protective with babies, it just tugs my heartstrings.

While he was sad to leave the house and go to Paris, once there Henry had a good time. We did lots of walking, took a bateau mouche ride on the Seine, visited Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle, climbed on and ran through the columns of the art installation Les Deux Plateaux in the courtyard of the Palais Royal (see Henry and Grandmere), and visited the iconic (even though it is only 20 yrs old or so) IM Pei pyramid entrance to the Louvre. In le Jardin des Tuileries, we took a ride on a giant ferris wheel - much to my height-fearing chagrin - where we were treated to incredible aerial views of the city. Henry also spent a quiet half hour gently steering a big sailboat around one of the man-made ponds in the garden. We almost missed our flight back from Paris (in a scheduling snafu, we were on a different plane than my mother-in-law, and ours left three hours earlier), but on the way home were treated to a cloudless view of Greenland from 37,000 feet - incredible views of mountains, snow, glaciers and icebergs - truly majestic and the stark vastness of it was awe-inspiring. Henry had the window seat and drew my attention to it (along with another plane flying off in the distance!). What a jarring contrast that chilly view of Greenland presented to the heat, hustle and bustle of home once we landed!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ASD on the High Seas (well, at least the Lake in Central Park)

Today we took to the water. . . Henry and I met up with our friends Claire, Milo and Sasha (and Chad, the wonder service dog that I have written about before (here and here)). Claire and her boys have gone kayaking/rowing in Central Park several times this spring and invited us along for today's outing. Henry had been rowing with his dad before but had never been in a kayak (and I suspect that he probably did not do much rowing when he was in the boat with Cliff) but he was game.

Claire and I (and Chad!) were in a rowboat and each of the boys had his own kayak (pictured are Henry in his yellow kayak and Milo in his red kayak). Henry picked it up right away - I was so proud! He and Milo and Sasha zipped around in the kayaks while Claire rowed us around (I took the oars for a bit; in short, to say that I don't have an Olympic rowing medal in my future would be an understatement - but it was fun!). Henry took a brief break, pulling up to our boat and, while I held the kayak, climbing in to the rowboat to rest (while we used Chad's leash to drag the kayak behind us) - luckily after a few minutes he climbed back into the kayak - VERY carefully - and was off like a shot.

One of the highlights of the outing was Milo, pulling into a little inlet surrounded by huge, inviting rocks on which people were lunching, and sharing with everyone his story of having an autism service dog, and how Chad helps him. Milo is truly an ambassador for autism service dogs - he is so articulate and matter of fact about sharing his story. One of those in "attendance" was a woman whose dog is trained as a therapy dog - very cool that she just happened to be there and totally got what Chad is all about.

For those who live in NYC or who may be visiting, boat rentals at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park (near the 79th Street entrance on the Eastside) are a bargain ($12/hr/boat ($2.50 for each add'l 15 minutes after the first hour (the add'l charge is figured upon your return based on your time stamped receipt) with a $20 refundable deposit). Out on the water you feel like you have left NYC, though you can admire the beautiful buildings like the Dakota and the San Remo, visible from the lake. This is a really fun family activity. They have only a few kayaks (maybe only three) so if you have your heart set on those, come early. We got there at noon, got all three kayaks and the lake was not too crowded. When we left at 1:30 a line was forming. This is definitely something we will do again soon!

Autism and the Arts Conference/June 25 & 26

The arts can be a powerful tool in working with children on the autism spectrum. Michael Pizzi, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, founded an organization, Touching Humanity, to help get that message out and now Touching Humanity is putting on the its first conference: Creative, Expressive and Performing Arts and Autism, June 25 & 26, 2010 in New York City. The conference has a full slate of speakers relating to all aspects of the arts and autism and there is content appropriate for parents and other caregivers as well as professionals working with children on the spectrum. If you are in NYC at the end of June, do check it out.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Spring has sprung ...a photo taken with my iPhone and the hipstamatic app on my way to work. The tulips made me very happy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Rallying Cry - Protect our Personal Rights

Dear Reader... I know, I know... money is tight for all of us. I am trying to raise $200 for the American Rally for Personal Rights. That's it -- $200. And I pledge to try to get one other person to raise $100! Just a few people, donating just a few dollars, can get this done! Learn more about the rally at my ChipIn page and click on the "Chip In" button below. Thanks for your support!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More on Milo and Chad

Following up on my recent post about Milo and his wonderful autism service dog Chad, Milo's mom Claire has shared with me more articles published about this dynamic duo and I wanted to pass them on to my readers. The first was published online and the second was published in the Long-Islander newspaper - Both are about Milo and Chad and the welcome and understanding they have received at Gersh Academy.

What a team! And what a mom!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: Cutting-Edge Therapies for Autism

A really short review of Ken Siri's and Tony Lyon's new book "Cutting-Edge Therapies for Autism 2010-2011", newly released by Skyhorse Publishing, would be "WOW!" That single word really captures how amazing this book is.

I believe that this book should be required reading for anyone whose life is affected by autism. In one volume, Ken and Tony have brought together mainstream and alternative treatments, long-standing protocols and cutting edge therapies. I have never seen such a comprehensive book, presenting so many different options in one place and the information, succinctly presented, to allow parents to make informed decisions about treatments they would like to explore further. There truly is something for everyone in their book and, even for an old-timer like myself, some new things to learn.

Even with respect to "traditional" therapies, such as speech therapy, the chapter's authors address innovations in their field and offer practical advice to parents (disclosure: Lavinia Pereira, one of the chapter authors, has treated my son). Each chapter is authored by someone with particular knowledge of the chapter's subject - the specialists discussing their areas of expertise, rather than a generalist trying to take it all on.

I appreciate that the book is organized into small, self-contained chapters so that a busy parent can can pick up the book, soak up a chapter or two, and easily come back to it later. This book is a real gift to the autism community and, in that spirit, a portion of the proceeds are being donated to AutismOne.

Isn't the cover terrific too - a little boy uplifted by his dad and reaching for the sky -- just what we want for all our children. . . what wonderful imagery!

The book is available online from B&N and Amazon and other booksellers . . . I encourage you to read the book and post a review online as well (I did!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bowling for Autism Dollars: A Bowlathon to Help Autism Families

I am thinking of all my bad bowling puns... let's strike autism, Let's roll over autism.... I could go on but I will "spare"you (sorry, couldn't resist!) - at least my mind is not in the gutter (oops, I did it again!).

This Sunday is the National Autism Association New York Metro Chapter's bowlathon -- donate now -- or even in the days following if you cannot right now! Every dollar helps us help families in the NY Metro area. Your support is MUCH appreciated.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Milo's Gift: Chad, an Autism Service Dog

Last year, my dear friend Claire and her family brought an autism service dog -- the incomparable Chad -- into their lives from Oregon-based Autism Service Dogs of America. Chad has made a tremendous difference in the life of Milo, Claire's son with autism -- and the lives of their whole family! Milo and Chad are featured in Rachel McPherson's book Every Dog Has a Gift, just released. In the moving video below (see parts 3 and 4 featuring Claire), Claire discusses Chad's incredible gift. Her own words are more powerful than anything I can say:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Autism Hero Needs Us Now

One of Autism's true heroes needs our help now:
Jo is in my thoughts and prayers. If anyone can beat this, she can.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Animal Factory -- Factory Farming and Its Impact on All of Us

Tonight I attended a reading at Borders Bookstore at the Time Warner Center in NYC by David Kirby, author of the bestselling Evidence of Harm and the sure to be bestseller Animal Factory. Animal Factory was released only a few days ago but the buzz it is generating is HOT! The book is an incredibly well-researched and timely look at the factory farming dilemma in the United States, from a very human perspective.

In discussing the book, reading 3 excerpts to the standing-room-only crowd, and fielding many questions, David eloquently discussed the very real looming crisis facing the U.S. as a result of huge CAFOs ("Consolidated Animal Feeding Operations"), a term that itself, quite frankly, makes me feel kind of disgusting - a feeling exacerbated as I learned more about them. As David said, when you dissect the acronym, "Operation" is kind of innocuous, "Animal" is, well, animal, that's OK, I love animals as a general rule -- it is the "Consolidated" and "Feeding" aspects that are problematic. CAFOs are huge operations in which thousands of animals may be housed in inhumane conditions and fed things they were not meant to eat (grains, corn, soybeans for cows for example, instead of grass). Moreover, the waste created by these facilities is highly toxic, likely to be poorly stored, and, if leaked or spread (as does happen) creates the potential for catastrophic health and environmental consequences. David described the consequences of poorly run CAFOs (and there are some that he found, though few, that are responsibly administered) and we should ALL be worried. The unwillingness and/or inability of federal, state and local government to address the issues raised by CAFOs is disheartening and worrisome.

In New York City, people often feel disconnected from their food sources. This book should serve as a real wake up call to many, and teach NYers -- and others -- about really examining where their food comes from and the consequences of their choices. For example, David pointed out that many CAFO cows actually eat other cows as part of their diets in several ways. This was very disturbing and, as he elaborated on, creates a real risk for the spread of "mad cow disease."

I grew up in suburban Cleveland a short drive from my great uncle's dairy farm outside of Erie, Pennsylvania, a small operation with dairy cows as well as some pigs and chickens (creating a lifelong fear of chickens because these were pastured chickens that roamed free and pecked me!). The cows were treated well, went outside, and had spacious accommodations in a barn. The aforementioned chickens roamed around, free to terrorize me! The pigs were outside in a sty. Well not an expert by an stretch, I know what a small family farm -- one that has sustained a few generations -- looks like. Contrast that to a thousand pigs in a huge enclosure where, if the power goes out completely, the fumes from their waste will kill the pigs in very short order.

While I gave up it up recently, the rest of my family still eats meat. However, we try to eat whatever we choose responsibly. Our CSA, about which I have written before, allows us to purchase humanely and responsibly treated meat and dairy products as well as organic fruits and vegetables - and the meat and dairy is available year-round. We can obtain grass-fed and grass-finished meat (the "finished" part is harder to find for most people, yet critical to maintaining nutrient levels in beef -- it means that animals were not feed-fed at a lot before slaughter, which often happens even to animals grass-fed on the farm). I consider myself pretty "aware" but I learned a lot tonight that reinforced my gut instincts about factory farming.

Many kudos to David for bringing attention to this subject.

Animal Factory, like Evidence of Harm, is available from all major booksellers as well as many local independent bookstores.

Monday, March 1, 2010

We have Moxie! Canine Therapy for Special Needs

I have had the pleasure of recently getting to know Barbara Wolf-Dorlester, PhD. Barbara is a therapist with many years of experience working with special needs children as a therapist and reading specialist. Barbara is adding a new wrinkle to her practice, incorporating her own dog, Moxie, into sessions. Henry has spent some time with Moxie lately and it is so refreshing to see him reading with a level of comfort he does not have when the focus is on reading to an adult. No matter how hard we try, it is difficult to not make some comments that, while seemingly innocuous, carry some judgment (even correcting misread words). Moxie delivers a judgment-free audience! Henry wants to make sure Moxie is paying attention (a little projection there???).

For children who are comfortable with dogs, canine therapy opens many doors. Henry loves dogs (having overcome a big fear of them as a toddler) and has embraced reading to Moxie with great enthusiasm. The last time we saw Moxie, he asked Barbara about scheduling a time to come back!

The use of canines in therapy shows great potential. Dogs can be certified to participate in therapy and can serve many functions - they help facilitate social interactions, language production, self-regulation, and relatedness. Their non-judgmental interactions provide a level of comfort to children and relieve some of the stress they may feel in interacting with and meeting the expectations of peers and adults.

On an independent but related note, dogs can also serve a great function as service dogs to children on the spectrum. The NY Times recently featured my friend Claire's family... read about their tremendous experience here.

Bent on Learning - New Yorker of the Week!

I just had to give a shout out to Bent on Learning. My friend Jennifer Ford is one of the founders of this fabulous organization, which was recently recognized by NY1 as "New Yorker of the Week." Watch the video here and see how Bent on Learning brings yoga practice into the NYC public school system, particularly into many schools that could not otherwise afford to share with their students the wonderful physical, emotional and educational benefits that yoga provides. Of particular interest to special needs parents in NYC - Bent on Learning also is hoping to soon bring yoga to students with special needs. Yeah - we can't wait!

Having just begun to dip my toes into yoga again after a really long hiatus (thanks Jennifer for helping set me up!) I can attest to how good it feels - physically and emotionally - and how its benefits extend far beyond a yoga session itself. I hope to continue to make it a more integral part of my life and to bring it more into Henry's life too! I shared with my instructor this week how, when I was in law school, I found yoga so beneficial to maintaining balance. The trick now is to give it a wedge into my current chaotic life to bring some of that balance back. Reiki has gone a long way to helping bring a centering and calmness when chaos seems to reign and yoga helps me there as well. I can only imagine how our kids, who are bombarded by stimulation and information from all directions all the time, can benefit from this practice - and for special needs kids, who often have even more trouble processing sensory stimuli and regulating and attending, the possibilities are truly endless.

Many thanks to Bent on Learning for all you do! Your kudos from NY1 are an honor well-deserved.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Bowling for Dollars" To Help National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter

I am so proud to be the Vice President and Treasurer of a not-for-profit, the National Autism Association - NY Metro Chapter, which provides direct support to families whose lives are affected by autism through free parent mentoring, moderated support groups, educational sessions and other activities and outreach. We have operated on a shoestring budget since we were established in March 2008 -- and have still reached many families and provided many great services. However, we want to expand our programs and services and reach even more families -- the need is so great for families of children and adults with autism. To do so, we are having a bowlathon fundraiser on March 21 and I am heading up "Team Henry and Scott" in honor of my own son and one of his best friends, who also is bowling with us.
Any donation in any amount is very much appreciated. Every dollar will go a long way to helping families. Please share this post with your friends and family as well!

Cick on the icon below to go to my donations page for safe and secure online donations. If you prefer to donate "offline" by check or cash, please email me privately.

If you cannot pass up an opportunity to bowl, go to NAA-NYM's FirstGiving homepage to start your own team or join an existing team, and join in our fundraising efforts and come out to have a blast bowling on March 21 at our fun-filled family event.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

NAA-NY Metro Bowlathon

Help me help to support the National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter. We are hosting our first fundraiser - a bowlathon - on March 21, 2010. I have set up a team page for donations -- Henry and I are bowling as a team along with some friends. NAA NY Metro will use the funds donated to expand our programming and services to ASD families in the NY Metro area. We have operated on a shoestring budget since we were founded and we would like to be able to do even more for a population so in need! Any donation is much appreciated.

Catch Up!

Things have been busy here so I have lots of catching up to do....
I will post in more detail later but I have adopted a vegan (almost completely!) diet and have restarted my long (reallllllly long) dormant yoga practice. These changes feel really good and very positive. I will post more shortly about each of these. The new year brings so many opportunities for change and, especially with the vegan diet, it felt right and was a surprisingly easy switch to make. Who knew???

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vote Autism!

Vote Autism!

Get out the vote for the National Autism Association.
A million dollars will go far in helping children, families, and communities in need.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Get Your Vote on for NAA to win $1 Million on Facebook

Click above now to vote...

National Autism Association is in the running to win $1 million from Chase Community Giving on Facebook. A million dollars can go along way in fulfilling NAA's mission of helping families with autism... with Autism now affecting 1:110 children and 1:70 boys it is a national health crisis.

Click below for an incredible video from NAA. NAA is all about HOPE for families.

Help NAA help families.

Every vote counts.

Cast yours now. Please.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Get Out the Vote: Help the National Autism Association Win the Chase Community Giving Challenge!

NAA (the parent organization of our chapter) is one of the top charities in the Facebook Chase Community Giving Challenge. NAA has a real chance to be awarded a significant grant that could help many children with ASD to lead safer, happier lives... please participate beginning on 1/15. Click below to see an incredible video and VOTE for NAA!