Autism Prevalence Rates Increase…you’ve got to be kidding

IMG_2297A[1] (2)According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of autism in children has recently INCREASED to 1 in 68 children…a 30% increase since the last report in 2008.

1 in 68 is children..not boys.  If the report was for boys only, I can only imagine what the number would be.

This is so disheartening as a parent with a child with autism.  Early Intervention is so important to us and a significant part of our book “Look At My Eyes” and our speaking engagements.  And the numbers keep getting smaller and smaller.  It feels like we’re running a marathon in sand….deep, wet, slooooooow sand.

The CDC report goes on to say how a person with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) can cost as much as $3.2 Million over their lifetime to take care of.

1 in 68 and what is our society doing?  What is our government doing?  What is our local government doing?  What are our schools, churches, community groups doing?

We MUST come up with a plan to educate, train, teach these 1 in 68 children!  We MUST have outlets and avenues for helping these 1 in 68 children live as independently as possible.  We MUST have opportunities for these 1 in 68 children to learn a trade or skill where they can work and pay taxes and be productive members of society.

I don’t have $3.2 Million to spend on my son.  I refuse to believe that he is merely a statistic and property of our government.  We MUST start the discussion NOW as to how we are going to help make these 1 in 68 children as successful in life as possible.

So let’s talk…

To read more blogs from Seth and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website (www.lookatmyeyes.com) and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”.  Or find them on YouTube.  To contact TheFowler4 Group email: info@thefowler4group.com

 

a new meaning to laugh out loud

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I have a loud laugh.  This can only be truly heard at it’s highest peak if… it’s real.     It cannot be duplicated.

I lost this particular laugh, <my favorite, my happiest one> around the time William was diagnosed.  I was busy, very busy. I was tired, very tired.

I was…sad.

I don’t hide from those first feelings post diagnosis… it was real and I am certainly not ashamed of those feelings.

It. Was. Real.

But, I had to move.  I had to live so he could.  I had to laugh again. Once our “new norm” took over, I had to go with it and soak it all up so that I could be proactive and later… educate others.

It takes time to enter the “new norm”… anyone telling you different is not a parent to a child with autism. I have two children.  One has autism and one does not.  It IS different.  Some general thoughts, behavior, and parental mistakes are the same (like many friends with typical children love to tell me), but inside lies a difference even I cannot always process or comprehend.  It’s not a pinpoint discussion… it’s just there, everyday.

My laugh didn’t come back in a flash… it took time.  I longed for it.  I begged for it. I gave many great and false performances.

But, I do know it can come back with a vengeance.  I fight for this loud, sometimes annoying laugh. I need it. William needs it.  The man sitting next to me in this picture needs it.

It came back… and it doesn’t hurt to have a ridiculously funny, always inappropriate, inside jokes and all of a husband either.

It feels good to laugh loudly again.  If you haven’t found yours, go look for it.

To read more blogs from Melanie, Seth and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website (www.lookatmyeyes.com) and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”.  Or find them on YouTube.  To contact TheFowler4 Group email: info@thefowler4group.com

Photograph taken by the the famous Claire McCormack Hogan at www.clairemccormack.com

fighting for Gray

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Color coded tabs, labels of any kind, a well stocked and organized pantry… these all put me in a state of sheer bliss.  Put me in an office supply store and I could meander for hours with a crazy smile on my face. Seriously.

Organization and structure are key ingredients for autism.  All children need structure BUT for children with autism, it is absolutely necessary.

Man oh man, I had this down.  Timely activities? Check!  Well organized routines? Check!  William thinks in black and white.  It is an organized way of thinking… it goes way farther than my colored tabs and labels.  Yes, it’s black and white… it’s always the same.

BUT.  Where is the Gray?

Where is the line of flexibility?  Over the years, I have come to love and nurture the Gray.  It’s the Gray that makes the big splash.  He thrives on Gray… that hard place he never wants to go to.  The place where his structure is questioned and put up on a shelf.

Thank you shelf.

I realized we needed more Gray years ago… The setup:  I pick William up from school.  We drive our route home.  I remember, “Oh, we need groceries.” I turn right instead of left to stop by store.

Fits of rage fill the car like a huge fog… crying and self infliction follow shortly after.

What just happened???  Gray entered the picture.  We began doing this more.  A missed turn here, a stop there… completely out of routine.  Over time, it got easier.  He became, well… pliable. FLEXIBLE.  That’s what you want people… I promise.  Routine is great, but you must, absolutely must, give room for a little Gray.

Gray is where you will see the most progress. It is where the the most strides in accomplishing goals are most visible.  We can now eat at different restaurants, do unexpected errands, change our minds and go a “different” route…. uh, we can be “normal” in a lot of ways thanks to Gray.

Keep fighting for the Gray while keeping your black and white close by.  Everyone needs a little Gray.  I am beginning to really like this color…it’s done wonders for William.

I need it too… <smile>

To read more blogs from Melanie, Seth and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website (www.lookatmyeyes.com) and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”.  Or find them on YouTube.  To contact TheFowler4 Group email: info@thefowler4group.com

a Skipper Too

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William’s legs are long.  Like, really long.  He’s always looked the same.  To put it into perspective, at birth, he weighed in at 6 lbs and yet his length was 22.5 inches. Yep, I told you, long!  He almost never wears a pair with the “worn” look because they’re off and then it’s on with another new and longer pair.

But, as I look at these long gangly legs, I am reminded about so much more than pant purchasing woes.  Over the past 8 years, these legs have entered more therapeutic facility doors and have endured more therapy hours than one can even conceive.

With these legs, he has achieved more success than I hope to in a lifetime.

These legs never crawled as a baby and standing and walking were HUGE milestones in more ways than one.

At one point, I thought these legs would never be able to run…

The plethora of hours in occupational and physical therapy certainly helped these legs reach their goal.  In fact, the goal was surpassed by mastering the “light” jog.  As William grew more strong and mobile, the “jog” one day became a “run.”

Every year, the Fowler Four participates in a phenomenally fun and meaningful 5k race and every year I am reminded of these long gangly legs and how far they have taken him… how far they have taken, us.

I continue to be blessed by each step that is mastered, his legs, his strength, his ability to tolerate hours upon hours of hard therapy and academics.

Guess what???  You will never.  These long gangly legs can now skip. <smile>

What has been accomplished that you never thought possible?

Merry Christmas, Here’s Your Spoon!

I wrote this exactly one year ago… while most of it still remains to be true, I am ecstatic to announce that we have added legos and sports related accessories into the stocking!  Progress can and will happen… Get Ready!!

Merry Christmas, Here’s Your Spoon!!

Our four (almost five) year old girl knows what she wants, when she wants it, and where she wants it… she just knows.  Christmas is no exception… her ideas and thoughts begin to explode from the moment her eyes open until they close again.  Her list begins and is never-ceasing.

But, for my seven year old son, it’s not that easy. Autism can be tricky. I have to think outside the “Christmas Box.” A list for William???  Christmas last year was hard on many levels and making a list of toys for family members to give was an exhausting task.  My son doesn’t really PLAY with toys. There, I said it. He isn’t interested in super-heros, legos, sci-fi, sports etc.  Many of our “toys” sit in a closet upstairs, collect dust or are re-gifted… yes, I said “re-gift”… don’t judge, you know you have done it too!

But, THIS Christmas will be different.  Instead of trying to think of toys that I think he should like or that I think others would like to get him (because it makes THEM feel good), I am going to actually make a list of items “HE” will like, regardless of how crazy, boring, different they may seem.

Here we go… <eh hem> William likes new shoes. He likes to look at them, he likes to wear them, he likes to touch them… he likes to smell them. He will get a pair in his stocking this year and will say “NEW SHOES!!”  He will want to put them on and I will smile a big smile.  Doesn’t seem so exciting???  It is to him and so my list begins…

On a regular basis, William loves to bounce, work on his iPad, and loves playing on the monkey bars (his poor calloused hands).  These are all “typical.” But, one of his favorite toys is the… ready for this… the plastic spoon!  Yep, the cheap white party plastic spoon.  He holds it, taps on it, walks around with it, jumps with it… it’s pretty much with him all of the time.  He would choose it over a piece of pie a hundred times over.  Does it make him happy, yes.  Is it “typical?”… well, not to the majority, but it’s not about YOU (the parent) and what you think your child should like.

So this year, whatever they like, throw it in the stocking for heavens sake!  Sit back (while sipping a mimosa) and watch their amusement as they open something they actually like and want.  For William, it won’t be the multi-hundred dollar Wii game and accessories… it will be new shoes, a pogo stick, and a plastic spoon… or two.

To read more blogs from Melanie Fowler and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website (www.lookatmyeyes.com) and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”.  Or find them on YouTube.  

To contact TheFowler4 Group email: info@thefowler4group.com…oh and they just released their book in SPANISH as well…buy it now! (www.lookatmyeyes.com)

Ugh, ANOTHER thing I hate about Autism

The list is long and distinguished regarding the things I hate about autism…but this is the one on my mind…would LOVE to hear if this affects you and  your child and if so, what do you do about it?

William has these episodes of frustration or confusion where he starts spiraling and just can’t regroup and bounce back without major meltdowns or fits of rage.

For example…yesterday my wife picked him up from school and  he for some reason didn’t want the snack she gave him in the car.  He got frustrated with the snack and then when she took it away, he started freaking out.

Well what do you want?  The snack?  To eat it?  There’s almost like a no-win solution.

It got progressively worse.

We have these ABSURD radio stations in DFW that think it’s funny and cool to start playing Christmas music 24/7 starting the day after Halloween…it’s extremely annoying to me because I get very tired of the same 100 Christmas songs and why rush the holidays?

So William hears a Santa song…then they go home and watch a “Max & Ruby” (he loves those) and it’s about Christmas and so William can’t understand WHY there is no Christmas tree in our house.  He doesn’t understand the concept of time or seasons or anything like that.

He has a total meltdown…he cries and throws his favorite item (these days it’s hair brushes) and just can’t regroup and get it together.

So we turn off the video because he can’t handle it…to which he gets even more upset.

Have I mentioned a no-win situation?

We can’t start talking about going on a vacation or visiting family too soon because it doesn’t compute to him that we’re going to BeBe’s house…in a few days.  He thinks that because we’re talking about going somewhere, that it is going to happen immediately.

It’s really frustrating because we want to involve him in our activities and experiences and want to share the joy and excitement of anticipation and holidays and all that…but more often than not it ends up with him getting very upset and emotional and having a fit of frustration and rage.

Surely this happens to you too?  What are some tips to not have this happen or when they are spiraling, are there any ideas of how to regroup as quickly as possible and not have it turn into episodes?

To read more blogs from Seth and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website (www.lookatmyeyes.com) and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”.  Or find them on YouTube.  To contact TheFowler4 Group email: info@thefowler4group.com

Progress Can and Will Happen!

Daddy and Wiggy climbing8 years ago my precious William was born.  I remember exactly where I was when my wife called me and said, “it’s happening–hurry home…NOW!”

Has it really been eight years?  Wow…some good times, fun times, hard times, miserable times.

Eight years ago (heck 2 years ago) if you would’ve told me that I would have a son with autism who could climb to the top of a rock climbing gym…I’d have probably said you’re crazy!

But that’s exactly what we did on Saturday for his 8th birthday party.  We took William and 12 other children to an indoor climbing gym and he had a blast!

William scampered up to the top of the wall over and over and over again.  I was so proud!

This is the same boy who, from ages 2-to-4, would poop and spread it all over his room every single night.  This is the same boy who struggled to learn to tie his shoes.  This is the same boy who continues to work on his speech and socialization with others.

Eight years from now he’ll be 16 freaking years old!  Just typing that makes me feel old!!!

I don’t know where William will be at age 16.  I have thoughts and we have goals and realistic expectations based on history and experiences of others…but I’m not worried about that today.

Today I am here SHOUTING FROM THE ROOFTOPS OF THE WORLD…to all you dads (and moms) out there…your child can and will make progress!

I didn’t always believe it…I still wish it were more frequent at times…but it will happen.

Happy Birthday Mr. William…Wiggy…Wigwammy…little man.  I am proud of you and your climbing (and other) accomplishments and am so proud to be your dad…and to share November 18th as our birthday date!

daddy

To read more blogs from Seth and TheFowler4Group, check out their Website (www.lookatmyeyes.com) and while you’re there, buy a copy of their book, “Look At My Eyes”.  Or find them on YouTube.  To contact TheFowler4 Group email: info@thefowler4group.com