You’re going to do WHAT?!?

My family has dealt with our fair share of death in the last 6 months. In January our grandmother died, 6 months later my Sister-In-Law lost her husband. When you are left to make the final arrangements for those you love or help those you love make final arrangements for their husband, it’s hard not to think about your final plans.

I had a very honest discussion with my husband and told him my wishes. We made sure that we discussed what would happen with all of our kids, but more specifically Lil Man and Lil Girl. You see the reality is is that there is a big chance that my younger two children will not be able to live on their own. They may need support for the rest of their lives. Should I expect that my oldest child (barring that she is of legal age) be responsible for her siblings that are 2 and 4 years younger than her? Should I demand that she be their caregiver and have to give up her dreams and ambitions in life? These are just a few of the questions that we have to face as a special needs family when it comes to planning for life.

Call it selfish, but I refuse to demand that my oldest child give up her life goals. If she wants to make that choice she can, but I will not force it. The reality is there may come a point, even before I die, that my younger two children may need to go into a residential program. That day is not today, but it may come in the future. We have started planning for this. We have applied for the MedWaiver, since the waitlist is well over a ten year wait. We have our letter of intent written, and will be starting a special needs trust fund in the near future. None of this is easy to talk about, but if we don’t what will happen to our children when we are no longer here to care for them.

With all the death that has surrounded our family lately we have also filled in family members on our wishes. They need to know. They need to have a game plan in mind should something happen to me and my husband. It sucks to do it, but it has to be done.

In explaining our choices to one family member, I was damn near shammed for my decision. I was told I shouldn’t be allowed to just “ship” my kids off to some unknown group home for them to live away from family.

You see, I didn’t come to my choices lightly. I didn’t wake up one morning and say “Hey I think I will just stop caring for my kids” None of us do.  We fight long hard battles, we fight with ourselves, we question ourselves, we even end up with the bruises to show for those fights. No one, even family members, has the right to try to make us feel bad about what plans we have put into place for our children. They do not live our life, they are simply the visitors who pass through it occasionally.

When I made my choices, I knew they were subject to change based on my children’s current levels of need. I will not back down from my choices, I will not defend them to people who do not live my life. I will stand by my choices and change them as our needs change.

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“Autism on the Rise”

Yesterday Autism was a buzz word again with news reports following the release of new statistics regarding the prevalence of autism in our society. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) released the statistic that autism now affects 1:68 children. Previous statistics indicate that the numbers were 1:88. This release, these numbers, caused autism to be a buzz word yet again. Not only for the NT community but also in our own autism community. But why? Here is a statement from the CDC’s website:

Prevalence

About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. [Read article]
ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. [Read summary] [Read article]
ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189). [Read article]
Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with ASD with an average prevalence of about 1%. A study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%. [Data table] [Read article]
About 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism. [Read summary]  http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

This blurp does not include the facts from the rest of the release. These numbers came from 2010 and include only 11 states. So why is this important you ask? Easy! The data is two years old. The states that the population was pooled from are limited. Seriously 11 states out of 50 in the US. This limited selection of individuals, mind you is counting only children above the age of 8, showed an increase of 29% in two years. The media is picking this up as autism being an epidemic. IT IS NOT AN EPIDEMIC! Autism is still widely misunderstood. The news stations picking this up are fueling a rise to find out why, a race to find a cause and cure. Let me tell you, we are not broken. We do not need to be fixed. 

I made a comment about the news report on ABC World news yesterday regarding a “Race to find out why autism is on the rise” and it lead to a friend asking “did they say why?” You see I don’t care why. Our house has rates of 3:5 with autism. My house is full of autistic people. I don’t care why it happened or what caused us to be autistic. I actually love our autistic life, even the struggles we have to go through to get to the great stuff. Instead of telling her that. I responded with:

there is no known cause at this point. Many believe there is a strong genetic component. The bigger concern is that there are very little services currently provided to our autistic children and adults. As parents we have to fight for every single thing in the school systems, more and more autistic kids are being placed in the general education (regular) classrooms with teachers who have NO knowledge on how to teach them. Media reports like this one and associations like Autism Speaks place more emphasis on finding the cause and/or cure and no focus or very little focus on helping families obtain services needed. The rates (which only included 8 yr olds from 11 select states in the US) indicate that we are going to have a generation of individuals entering the adult world and there are NO supports for them. The magical cut off for services seems to be 18 years old. I have two children who may never live outside of my home and may need my support all their life, who will take care of them when i no longer can? I’m not the only one in this boat. What will happen when those 1 in 68 children enter adulthood and their parents can no longer take care of them. This is why I was so outraged at focusing on finding a cause. We need to focus our efforts else where.

These new numbers will focus energy elsewhere. What we need to focus on is not the why’s or how’s, we need to focus on the services we are given. We need to focus on teachers knowing and being educated about the truths of autism. We need to understand that in a few short years we will have a group of people “age out” of the system and then what? Where are the supports for adults on the spectrum? We know what will happen after our children “age out” As parents and care givers we will be left high and dry with limited support. Should this be our reality? Shouldn’t we have a better chance at life? Autism is not something to be cured, rather the individual should be supported so that they can live the best life they can. 

Thankful for Her

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Lil Advocate, Age 2

In September of 2006 I was blessed with my first child. While all children are gifts, this child was something special. My pregnancy with her was rough. I spent most of it on bed rest after going into labor at only 15 weeks into the pregnancy. My cervix had already started to dilate and due to a partial placenta previa my OB could not surgically close my cervix. This meant I had to spend all of my second trimester and part of the third on bed rest.

I do not know how to stop moving or sit still. In order to ensure I stayed on bed rest my husband and mom decided it would be best if I stayed at her house where my younger sister was home during the day finishing her senior year of high school via virtual education.

By the third trimester I was released from bed rest but told to take it easy. My husband and I FINALLY were able to move into our first apartment. I spent the last 10 weeks of my pregnancy getting ready for this little girls arrival. Finally the day came, and I got to meet this beautiful baby girl. The best thing about it was she was MINE! and boy was I scared about that. 

Lil advocate has been a blessing to this family since the day she was placed in my arms. While she may never understand how much she had taught me about life, she will always feel the love I have for her. I am thankful for this amazing child that calls me mom everyday. Image She has a personality that will light up the room. Our family would not be complete without her. 

I am thankful that with all the challenges our family faces and the amount of attention that her siblings require she still comes out on top of it all. Her determination to succeed in life is one that is awe inspiring. I am thankful that I can be a positive role model for her to learn from. 

I am thankful that my daughter welcomes me into her heart with love and understanding. I am not always happy or perfect, but she knows that at the end of the night I will give her that huge hug and kiss before she goes off to sleep. 

I am so thankful that my daughter knows how great she is and how much she means to me. Image