Of Forever And A Lifetime Of Bliss

What’s your idea of a perfect honeymoon? For us, celebrating not one but three memorable events in our lives matter a lot. For our wedding anniversary and Mother’s Day as well as my husband’s birthday, we decided to reminisce what we had done 20 years ago today. We jumped into a Hawaiian cruise ship and had a blast!

Instead of just the two of us, we decided to tag John along with us. You see, this is as memorable to us as it is to him. We tried to explain to him how he was conceived while we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii and we felt that this is the perfect opportunity for us to show him how lovely and unforgettable the experience was. Notwithstanding the fact that we had promised him to come and join us, he was also part of this trip down memory lane.

Our Story

With the love of my life, 20 years ago
getting stronger, better, 20 years later

We were married on board the S.S. Independence by the Captain of the cruise ship in Hawaii. It was a spectacular experience filled with jaw dropping scenery spanning the vibrant shorelines of Waikiki Beach, miles and miles of white powdery sand on Molokai and of course, the enigmatic cliffs in Kauai. Everything about our wedding and honeymoon were amazing!

When we got home two weeks later, I felt so sickly that I thought I contracted the dreaded flu while vacationing. Lo and behold! Nine months and a day later, we had Johnny. Some Hawaiian flu I got. In a way, we wanted him to see how the grandiose serenity and vibrancy of Hawaii had been elemental in his conception. When we told him about the story, he was so ecstatic!

His biggest goal was to see a live volcano and sure thing, he was able to do just that. He even got to see his Dad dance the famous Hula on stage. His also wanted to try out SCUBA diving that prior to the trip, he researched about it and watch tutorials on YouTube to prepare himself. Aside from our 2-week Hawaii getaway, the stopover in California was also a blast! You can check out our pictures on Facebook HERE.

To some, going on a honeymoon with children tagging along may sound silly, but to us– it made a lot of difference. Allowing John to know that he was borne out of love and from pure joy made him feel more confident. John is part and parcel of our lives. While his first autism diagnosis shook our resolve, it is also his sweetness and pure innocence that always bind us all in our own sweet circle of unconditional love as a family.

While honeymoon may lost its significance in today’s fast-and-furious living, I would still strongly recommend that you and your partner go and plan for one. It is not just traveling to other places, but rather a chance for you and your partner to reignite that sense of intimacy in a marriage. So, pamper yourselves. Book that next flight. Our 2-week getaway was truly wonder-rific and I believe John’s shirt here says it all.

Autism ACCEPTANCE: There Is So Much You Can Do

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Is the world ready for Autism Acceptance? How about you or your community? As another Autism Awareness Month passed us by, it seems pretty much evident that many are becoming more aware of autism. From all other areas across the globe, people and establishments move to raise awareness as a means to step-up acceptance level on autism. People organize fundraisers, special events, talks and forums, contests, art shows, film showing, and a plethora of activities to make April a month for humanity to take a glimpse at what autism is all about. I believe, we have already succeeded in the “awareness” level. However, Autism ACCEPTANCE by way of supporting both individuals with autism and families affected by such is still very much lacking.

With the autism statistics continually rising, the number of unfavorable (some horrible and fatal) incidences also amplifies. Many kids with autism still get bullied or hurt by those who surround them or by those who are tasked to care and keep them safe. This extends to adults with autism. Amid the awareness campaign, many establishments are still reluctant to hire them.

These are the realities in the world of autism. No matter how we deny them, such things are happening within our midst. As a mother to a young adult with autism, I am urging everyone to find ways to support individuals and autism. Acceptance can come in many forms and some of these can truly mean a lot:

  • Stand up for autism when the situation demands it. There are certain times when ignorance sets in. Being “aware” of autism gives you an upperhand. Take time to explain or to give others a chance to understand more about autism. There is no sense not doing anything for someone being lambasted openly just for being who he or she is. Let people learn how to accept autism in society by showing them.

  • Offer to help families struggling with autism. Families touched with autism can be challenging and, at times, exhausting. Rest is but a word to them. There is no day-off. The very least you can do is offer to help them. Why not pick grocery items or a prescription medication? Lending an extra pair of hands to a neighbor or a friend with an autism child will help keep their heads above water. Sometimes, an offer to mow the lawn or simply clean the piled up dishes on the sink brings astounding relief to others.

  • While families with autism gravitate towards each other, the need for greater inclusion in a community is a welcoming idea. Include them in your community events or special occasion celebrations by extending an invitation. Even the act itself can be pure gratification.

  • For teachers, you don’t need a special needs certification to be able to extend help. There are various tools which can be learned online to aid you in making a difference to a neighbor’s autistic child. You can give practical ways to teach these kids. Subjects like reading, arts and crafts, music and the likes can help add more fun to their lives.

  • For caregivers, make it an advocacy to transform services into affection. People with autism need not just your therapies but more so, your love for them. There are some who simply take their jobs as autism caregivers as more of a money-making option instead of a passion to give support to those who need it most.

  • For parents to neurotypical kids, autism acceptance starts at home. Teach your kids the many challenges autism kids and their families face. Give them a chance to see autism through your compassionate eyes. Some kids indifference stem from lack of guidance at home.

In everything else, take time to listen and to understand the plight of families and individuals with autism. Yes, the first few steps to Autism Acceptance are going to be awkward. At times, it may even feel like you seem not to do what you’re supposed to do. Trust me, even without uttering a word—you being there will make a lot of difference.

Photo Credits: CancerSupportET.org

Watch out for Pamela’s Be SAFE Interactive program soon. Check this out > Be SAFE

#AutismAcceptance #Autism #AutismAwareness #CommunityLove #Support #iCare4Autism #LivingAutismDaybyDay

April Autism Awareness Month: Small Victories Go A Long Way

Me and John / Brighton Autism Walk / Adam's Hope
Me and John / Brighton Autism Walk / Adam’s Hope

A report once stated that autism parents have stress similar to combat soldiers. I cannot relate to it as I have never been to combat before, but one thing is for sure—the stress and pressure can sometimes snap any parent into two. This is even more so for those who are still waiting for a diagnosis or have just been given one. The confusion, the anxiety and, often, the over-thinking can put one on the edge. By and by, little milestones come your family’s way—and those will help take the stressors away.

Amid such joys being a momentary relief, celebrating milestones in our children’s autism is one of the lightest feeling to any parent. Sure enough, there will be more tough times than good times but the little victories we experience along the way should never go unnoticed. For one, you deserve it. When we’re too overwhelmed, we often take our own efforts for granted. Taking a short pause to pat yourself in the back will not only allow you to recognize the fruits of your labor but also as a motivation to continue fighting on.

Would you agree that self-motivation (endless supply of it!) is the one thing that allowed many parents to children with autism to gain courage every step of the way? Celebrating simple triumphs like learning to flush the toilet or being able to utter the word “Mom” or “Dad” allows a parent to reflect how much progress you and your child made—an exciting reminder that you and your child are capable to achieve more than you think. By recognizing your accomplishments, you can begin working on another step!

Remember the day your son or daughter is fully diagnosed with autism? Or that time when someone insulted your parenting skill over a meltdown of which you have no control of? It cannot be helped to feel awful about your own self. You may have wallowed in self-pity after that dragging your whole self-esteem to guttural level. Acknowledging small victories, however, can help rebuild your dwindling self-esteem. There is something astoundingly good to celebrate your own self. It will help steer you to a strong conviction that “you can do whatever you set your mind to.”

When you begin to acknowledge your efforts as a mother or father, as a sister or brother, as a carer or guardian, as a teacher or a therapist to a child or adult with autism, everything goes full circle. Doing what you do best out of pure love and dedication rather than as a sense of obligation will make the whole thing fulfilling. This is even more so when these pure acts of love deliver positive results.

So, this April and all days thereafter—go and do a happy dance. Laugh all you want. Sing an out-of-tune note or two. Plant a tree. Grow a herb garden. Do something positive for every achievement. Autism is not a problem that needs to be solved or a disease that needs to be cured. It is a way of life. It may be different but not less, and the best that you can do is to live a life of “AUptimism” and celebrate life’s small victories with a grateful heart.

Ever heard of the Be Safe Campaign? Check this out – http://livingautismnow.com/be-safe/

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#AutismAcceptance #AutismAwareness #Parenting #PureLove

 

White House Goes Blue For Autism Month

Despite Donald Trump’s false claims autism is the result of vaccinations, the White House will turn blue this weekend to honour those with the condition.

“Further research into the causes and treatments for autism spectrum disorders is one of the President’s priorities,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

“The President made a pledge to her,” said Mr Spicer. “He said, ‘If I’m elected President… I will light the White House blue.'”

Read full story here.

Open World Autism Awareness Month with a Bang!

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Photo by: www.facebook.com/mommybuddy

World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognised day on the 2nd of April every year, encouraging Member States of the United Nations to take measures to raise awareness about children with autism throughout the world. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution “62/139. World Autism Awareness Day”, passed in council on November 1, 2007, and adopted on December 18, 2007.

National Autism Awareness Month represents an excellent opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year.

Happy 2017 National Autism Awareness Month!

Cherish Every Moment – Great or Small

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(An ideal day. Fishing in Belize and ending the day cooking up our catch.)

What do you cherish most in life? Do you celebrate memorable moments and let other memories go by? Or do you find something to cherish even during tough times?

As a mother to a son with autism, I completely understand what it must feel like to be on your wit’s end day after day after day. There may even be certain times when you have to let out an exasperated sigh due to helplessness. Yes, I have always figured motherhood as a tough call. But it is even more so when being one requires you to go the extra mile, the longer more arduous route every day of your life.

But looking back these past few months, all these struggles feel like a relief. When you have been into so much hardships and tribulations, it is almost normal to have the tendency to feel invincible, like you can do everything if you put your heart and soul to it. Before Christmas came, my resolve was shaken to its core. After a battery of tests, I was finally diagnosed healthy. But the ordeal made me look more closely at how I live my life and why, today more than ever, the need to celebrate all things big or small is a must.

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Me and my bestfriend Willy before our Cave Tubing Adventure

The thought even become more persistent when just a few days after our Belize getaway, for instance, I had witnessed one of the scariest experiences in my whole life. While staying in the Mahogany Hall, a wonderful place to stay while in San Ignacio Cayo because of its strategic location right at the banks of the famous Mopan River, I bear witness to a drowning man. He was caught against the rapids, went under and did not resurface for quite some time. I tried to get him out but the rapids were too strong. Thank God, there were 4 other men on the other side who were able to get to him, performed CPR and then, brought him to the hospital.

Indeed, life is fleeting. Amid all the triumphs and defeat, we will all ultimately go into the abyss called death. But while it is inevitable to die, it is also important to live in the moment. The line that separates life from death is so thin—and that should put our procrastination aside knowing that each second brings you closer to death. It is important to remember that we only have this one shot at life. It is also imperative to see life as it is—unique—and that there is no sense comparing one’s existence to that of another. In the same ways as each autism case is unique so is every person’s life. At the end of the day, one thing remains clearer: live life in such a way that you when you look back, you smile and don’t utter a single regret because you have done it all!

Carpe Diem!

#Vacation #BelizEscapade #Autism #AutismAwareness

Adult Autism At Work: Through My Child’s Eyes

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John, Graduation 2016

Last year was a big year for John and his autism. He graduated from Secondary Level with an award of Top Student for Open Communication in his technology class and was able to get an official Beginner’s driving license. We did struggle to find him a college that suits his interests in Culinary and finally found some hope as we join the waitlist in one of the colleges in Whitby. What made the year even more sublime is that he finally found a job—a glimmer of hope for individuals with autism.

Yes! You heard that right. John had started working as a Chef’s assistant in one of the most popular kitchens in Brighton—Dougall’s Restaurant. He was so happy that it almost tore my heart to pieces. My son, with his humble and sweetheart, is finally ready for the world. Honestly, I dreaded the day when he will be considered an “adult”. I worry about his future like other parents to kids with autism, and I believe there’s a lot of hope in this world for acceptance to finally be recognized.

John at his Culinary Tech Class
John at his Culinary Tech Class

Focusing on his work experience, I had made careful observations on how everything played out. If you are a mother or a father to a son or daughter with autism, and looking for ways to make your kid find a good job, here are some important points to ponder.

  • Consider your child’s interests and focus on developing their skills around such. John loves to cook and bake. He hovers around the kitchen whenever I prepare our meals. To appease his growing curiosity, I taught him some of the basics of cooking—how to peel and slice, stir-fry, steam, bake, and so on. He loves baking so much that he became our own pastry chef at home. (He makes the best apple pie!)
  • Allow your child to gain hands-on experience—outside the comforts of your home. Enrolling John in a community program to help nurture his interest in cooking and baking helped empower him to do better. He made it a point to listen well during the cooking school’s program. He would then, practice such at home with me in tow. It’s a great bonding experience—and one that allows him to grow more mature and patient.
  • Establish a reliable support network. There will be setbacks and doubts. At some point, something frustrating comes up and without supportive shoulders to lean on, things can easily get complicated with them. John has his family’s support as well as friends and their family members who push him to move forward, to realize his dreams.
  • Be vocal in your motivations. Individuals with autism may not speak or don’t make eye contact but they are listening. They digest every word you say. As a parent, it is our role to make our kids believe in their own potential. Aside from me and my husband, John’s siblings also help keep him on track through constant communication and inspiration.
  • Practice interview questions at home. They can breeze through exams but be interviewed for a job can be tough. So we practice at home. I would ask him interview questions and he found ways to answer. It was so downright hilarious at first. By and by, he become more “into” our little practice that I literally broke down with tears of joy streaming my face.
  • Look for both online and offline job boards. When applying, be straightforward about your autism. John specifically mentioned that he wanted the “boss” to know about his autism. I believe, he wanted to be accepted as he is and so we did.

There is so much that needs to be done with autism acceptance in the workplace. But the world is changing and becoming more open to a whole lot of possibilities than before. I have high hopes for John’s future in the culinary industry. So while waiting for his college admission, I do hope his work experience will keep the embers in his heart burning. And like what my Johnny said, “Be patient, Mama. I will give my best, my all on this job.” That’s enough assurance for me, for now.

Do you have other tips handy on autism in the workplace? Share it with us by commenting below. Feel free also to check out for updates from our Facebook and Twitter page. We’d love to hear from you.

Embracing Happiness in 2017

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Life is never a bed of roses. This is even more so when you have seen autism eye to eye. I get that. There will always be challenges in our day to day living. Happiness, however, is a state of mind—and a choice. While March 20 is touted as the International Day of Happiness, you can actually celebrate “happiness” year-round, on a daily basis.

Happiness doesn’t come easy though. Like pesky gnats, annoying circumstances can push us to our limits that even the best stuffs tend to lose their luster. From financial issues to challenges in autism services and acceptance, meltdowns and adult autism woes, the idea of living life happy just seems so far out.

Over the years, however, I have learned how to cultivate a happy disposition. I have learned to acknowledge the good amid the negativities and that wherever life drags me, whether up or down, I know precisely that I am where I’m supposed to be. I keep a daily journal (in the same way as my book, Living Autism Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage) noting down at least two good things that happened in a day. This is also the perfect time for me to think of new projects to enhance my advocacy, of letting people accept autism as it is.

Unlike before, I take in everything in a stride nowadays. I wake up earlier than everyone and practice the “no-rush” routine. I could stare forever in the glimmering lake water from my favorite window in our kitchen thinking nothing but pure gratitude of what life has to offer while offering deep prayers for my son and daughter who are away from home. It’s a common pain among parents, particularly mothers, to see children spread their wings and soar high. Yes, I have raised my kids well. They are grounded individuals who are deeply rooted to their ancestry.

While there are some potholes along the way, 2016 is quite great for John. Aside from graduating high school, he was awarded top student for Open Communication in his Technology class. He was also able to get his Beginner’s License in driving after trying out 4 times. Yes! That’s how persistent he is. But what made me and the whole family beam with glee is that he had started WORKING as chef’s assistant at Dougall’s Restaurant—doing what he loves best!  He is currently on waitlist for Durham College’s Enhanced Culinary Course. I believe that thoughts about my children and how far they’ve come made me feel grounded and complete.

The pursuit for happiness, for me, is never a conquest. Happiness presents itself to all of us every day. We always have a choice. We can shun it or embrace its full glory. One thing for sure though, it is when we give back and connect with others that often, make living life happy more worthwhile.

So, come and join me in welcoming 2017—bring it on!

Photo: 4Seeds 

Read more about living life as it is by Pamela Bryson-Weaver, bestselling author of Living Autism Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage, on http://livingautismnow.com/.

 

#Autism #Acceptance #Happiness

Merry Christmas from your Living Autism Now Family

May God’s bountiful blessings shine down upon you and your family not only this holiday season but all year through!

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Sending love from our family to yours.

 

Photo: Margaret Berg Art

Autism and Birthday Parties: How to Have Fun Without the Stress

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Children having fun in a party

My heart breaks into pieces each time I hear children with autism being stood up for their birthday parties. Like any other children out there, many kids with autism and special needs also want to have the same fun and enjoyment. Some may not be able to verbalize it or may feel torn between sensory overload and inner joy, but upon closer look, kids—with special needs or not—love to have fun.

It cannot be denied, however, that parents will be as overwhelmed as their child with autism. Yes, there will be vast amount of stress and energy to consider when preparing for one. The pleasure on your child’s face and the squeals of glee among his coterie will definitely wipe-out all the fatigue and misgivings.

I’ve had my fair share of preparing special occasion parties with John. While he may be what others call “sensory seeker” as he loves being around people and traveling, I cannot help but still feel overwhelmed on what specific aspects to prepare to make the shindig friendly for everyone. It’s a tall order but, trust me, you and the rest will get by. So, how do I always make it happen for John? Here are some tips which may apply to your own child with special needs.

  1. It is important to ask your child what he wants to do for his birthday. This is not about you or any other family member. Make this day count by asking him if he wants a party. Do not impose your own social meanderings to your child. Some kids simply love it while others would rather do it with just you, Dad, and his siblings.
  1. Ask what theme he would like to do with his party. Let your preparation revolve around his idea of fun. Would he want a pool party (insert safety warning)? a day in the park or a local playground? a zoo safari? a chicken, macaroni-and-cheese, or pizza palace?
  1. Once you have set the date, the guest list, and the venue, it is time to think of fun activities and games. There are various activities that will make all kids, with special needs or not, enjoy such as matching halves games, guess-that-smell station, sculpting clay, painting, making alphabet or glitter bottles, and so on.
  1. Go deep into the children’s interest. Prepare a sensory table for kids to enjoy sifting, squishing or digging into something. This will engage them to their sense of touch, sight, and hearing without feeling overwhelmed.
  1. When doing party at home, always prepare a battery of cartoon shows. Turn on your Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network channels. This will keep kids glued to one place and may also give them a chance to relax.
  1. Do make sure to inform the parents or caregivers on these activities beforehand. This will help them plan ahead on how to handle things should a meltdown or any form of challenge occurs.
  1. Consider safe food options. Gluten-free recipes abound online. Some of your child’s guests may also have special food requests so make sure to add that to your invitation card’s RSVP.
  1. Transportation, restroom, adult helpers, decors, and other party needs may also be required. So, make sure to get these covered. Ask friends and relatives to help. A local autism community organizer may also be tapped.
  1. Remind who you invited at least a day before the party. Let your child know what to expect. We have heard a lot of horror stories, of guests not going, leaving your child groping for the hurt.
  1. Always have a plan B and, perhaps, a C. Three tubs of ice cream on different flavor with one being gluten-free or dairy-free. Different cupcake flavors on top of your birthday cake because someone might not want a sliced-up cake or ma want to blow his or her own cake. Yes, the most surprising things can happen. So, be ready.

While it is going to be a hit-and-miss to hold birthday parties or any other special occasion for that matter, we should never stop doing so for our children. Amid their autism and sensory issues, deep down they are yearning for that connection and enjoyment. The idea is to embrace stress like a best friend with the thought of putting your child’s happiness before your own. As it should be.. for always.

Photo: KidsPartyFood.com.au

Looking for the best Christmas gift? Check out Pamela Bryson-Weaver’s Living Autism Day by Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage. Available in Amazon now!

#AutismFun #PartyWithFriends #LivingAutismDaybyDay #Birthdays #Holidays