Over the years, we have all witnessed the famous transformation of our beloved Mattel Barbie doll and we have enjoyed every moment of it. Decades ago, Barbie’s representation of the little girls who loved and played with her was pretty marginal. Barbie was blonde with blue eyes for many years before she finally had brown hair! Still, her figure was impossibly thin, and she only ever seemed flawless and perfect. I’m a seventies child and had quite the impressive collection of dolls as a child. The only doll that came close to representing me was my Cher doll - and she looked nothing like me!
We are all treading through uncharted territory right now as we are dealing with having to take caution against a fast spreading illness, decreased hours or losing our pay entirely, helping our kids with online learning - while balancing our already stressful lives before COVID 19 and all that followed. Add to this the struggles that come with challenging behavior exhibited by our children and teens with special needs and we’ve got a well-stirred recipe for anxiety and some serious meltdowns.
Autism awareness is a topic that is discussed all year ‘round. However, during the month of April, we hype up awareness by sharing and celebrating success stories of individuals and children on the spectrum who are doing and learning things people didn’t think at one time were possible. I have heard people mention that we are inundated with information about Autism and that it’s too much. I’ve also heard others mention that they despise Autism Awareness Month because of their private struggles with autism as a self-advocate and as a parent. I understand why people may feel the way they do, there is no easy path to follow when living a life with autism or caring for a loved one who has it. Still, autism awareness is needed for understanding, for sensitivity, for acceptance and access.
For years, among the many charities I have supported, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the one I find myself drawn to when it comes to becoming a continuing supporter – and with good reason. Who wouldn’t want to support a cause working to relieve and prolong the lives of children having to deal with the cruel outcomes that come with having to fight aggressive cancers? Join in on St. Jude’s lifesaving mission this Thanks & Giving season by donating with your Domino’s order in-store or online.
There is always a season or reason for gift giving, since after all, there are holidays, birthdays, graduations, and sometimes just random acts of kindness. These special occasions remind us that love, togetherness, and feelings of gratitude and gift giving are always in season.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to these two veterans at the dealership where I was getting my car serviced today. They were entertaining as they carried on a conversation about how things were during their time and how sad they view the world today. They recognize that technology is a blessing, but they believe it comes with great cost.
I know the title sounds a bit absurd – after all – longevity in any marriage is precious - couple that with step-parenting a teen with autism and to some, this might be something of a phenomenon. I just don’t believe it should be that way. I am hurt by the number of times my husband is told he is a saint for staying with me - a special needs mom, and for being a step-dad to my son who is a teen with autism. I think it's important to mention that my husband stays because he is drawn to us by love, not charity.
Not so long ago, I wrote about how my family used the positive behavior process to help manage our son Richie’s challenging behavior. The entire series was about how we were able to overcome and manage Richie’s aggression towards others, self-injurious behavior, and when he became destructive in our home. We were successful using the positive behavior support process and we’re having success using it again! We had a lapse in upholding our original plan with fidelity and as a result, we were experiencing the same behaviors – only this time around it was much worse. We were dealing with the fact that Richie was taller, stronger and now repetitive self-slapping was added to his list of self-injurious behaviors. Richie’s frequent self-slapping is a new behavior that is so difficult to control and change, but it’s something we’re currently working on with a new and improved positive behavior support plan. After teaming up with knowledgeable and experienced behavior analysts and assistants, and using other therapeutic interventions, we were able to get Richie’s aggression under control again. Only this time, we took it a step further. In addition to following our well-crafted positive behavior support plan, we were going to create a Person-Centered Plan.
There are many obstacles and issues that have made day-to-day living very challenging for individuals with disabilities for decades. Over the years, we have seen many positive changes, movements, and systems put in place that have improved the lives of individuals with disabilities in many ways. The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Section 504, Section 508, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) has improved the lives of millions.
Treating Autism with Medical Cannabis Part V - Visiting a Medical Cannabis Dispensary: Things to Know Before You Go
If you’ve been following this blog series, you know that we have been chronicling our experience with using medical cannabis for treating our son Richie who has autism. If you’re interested in learning more about how other parents, medical professionals, legislators, and concerned citizens, have recognized the incredible potential healing power that medical cannabis has for treating patients who have tried everything else – this is the series you want to follow! That being said, if you're considering becoming or you’ve recently become a qualified patient or caregiver for your son, daughter or loved one and you’re feeling a little anxious or intimidated about visiting dispensaries for the first time, here are a few things to know before you go!
As parents of special needs children, we all share unique challenges, witness beautiful moments, and experience extraordinarily stressful situations. All that is required for effective parenting, such as, patience, resilience, strength, resourcefulness and perseverance is multiplied exponentially when raising a child with special needs. It’s up to us to care about our mental health and body’s overall well-being.
When it comes to the big screen and the red carpet, the disability community continues to rank as the most underrepresented in Hollywood. I admit that it is exciting times to see more individuals with disabilities play leading roles on television or in the movies, but it’s still not enough. Many in the disability community are now questioning Hollywood why roles with specific disabilities are not played by individuals with those same disabilities. In the United States, 1 in 8 people have a disability, that makes up for about 40 million people in the united states living with a disability. That’s a pretty large population for Hollywood to consider when it comes to disability representation.
Treating Autism with Medical Cannabis Part IV: “The Science Behind the Development of an Individualized Treatment Plan”
Since Florida has allowed access to using medical cannabis to treat eligible conditions, the use of medical cannabis continues to increase dramatically across the state. For individuals and families of children with autism who have qualifying conditions, medical cannabis has proven to be an effective treatment plan for healthcare professionals and families to consider.
Now that Richie was approved for being treated with medical cannabis and I was approved as his caregiver, our next step is going through the actual treatment process. In this blog segment, we’re going to share what we learned from Dr. David Berger of Wholistic Releaf about how to develop a personalized treatment plan for our son Richie. I’ll begin by sharing what we learned from Dr. David about the different medical cannabis strains available.
I was recently asked by a fellow parent why I refer to my son Richie who has autism as nonspeaking as opposed to nonverbal. After explaining my reasons, she felt differently and we agreed to respectfully disagree. I know there are parents who refer to their children with autism or other disabilities who don’t communicate with oral speech as “non-verbal” and this is completely acceptable. I also respect the fact that many people will not agree with my thoughts on this topic. I respect this because I was a parent who once introduced my son Richie to other people as non-verbal all the time. I'm no stranger to having unpopular opinions, but after learning just how brilliant our son Richie is, I tend to care little about what others think and more about what I feel is best for Richie.
Treating Autism with Medical Cannabis Part III: “The Florida Medical Marijuana Use Registry Process”
In January of 2017, The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (known as Amendment 2) went into effect allowing Floridians the right to use medical cannabis to treat eligible conditions. The Florida Department of Health created the Office of Medical Marijuana Use for overseeing seeing the Florida Medical Marijuana Use Registry and its application process. After our first visit with Dr. David Berger of Wholistic Releaf and the completion of our application in the Florida Medical Marijuana Registry for our son Richie, we began to feel hopeful about finding relief for him and the pain, anxiety and other internal struggles he experiences daily. Everything Dr. David explained about the medical marijuana registry process was on target. If you've been wondering about applying for medical cannabis, please keep following our blog series and read about our step-by-step experience with the Florida Medical Marijuana Use Registry Process.
Medical cannabis is now becoming known as one of the safest and most effective form of treatment for many qualified medical conditions. More states are recognizing its incredible healing properties and legalizing its medicinal use. Thankfully, Florida is one of them. However, among the many important decisions special needs parents need to make, finding the right doctor for qualifying and treating your child with medical cannabis is a decision not to be taken lightly. Our family was in search of a doctor who is aligned with our beliefs for holistic approaches, knowledgeable in treating special needs children with medical cannabis, and values meaningful doctor-patient relationships. Few doctors have all of these characteristics or this level of expertise, making this one of the most difficult tasks to take on. Luckily, we found a specialist who exceeded our expectations in Dr. David Berger of Wholistic Releaf.
Treating Autism with Medical Cannabis Part I: "Why We Chose Medical Cannabis to Treat our Son with Autism”
Autism continues to be on a “diagnosis rise” as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates it affects 1 in 59 children across the United States. Many of you who have been loyal readers (thank you) of my blog know of our life as a family with a loved one named Richie who has autism. Our family has recently made the decision to treat Richie’s symptoms with medical cannabis and we want to take you along with us on this journey. In this blog series, I will share an overview of how autism impacts Richie's life and our family. This series will chronicle our experience of the application and treatment process. We hope to achieve the same life-changing results reported by other families of loved ones with autism after using medical cannabis. It's also our wish to raise awareness of how medical cannabis can be a holistic and alternative treatment option for families like ours to consider.
It is exciting times. Our son Richie who has autism is sixteen-years-old and has started using words to communicate. We know we have a long way to go before he starts using full sentences, but this is an amazing start. Especially, when I was told by professionals that Richie would never speak when he was diagnosed with autism at age two. In this post I'll be sharing some of the methods we've been using to help facilitate Richie's ability to communicate with us and others.
This weekend we celebrated National Puerto Rican Day in our own way here in the Sunshine State of Florida. We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month every year, but every second Sunday in June, Puerto Ricans celebrate their cultural contributions to the United States and their residence in the mainland by marching along 5th avenue in Manhattan, New York. The very first parade was celebrated on Sunday, April 13, 1958. While we couldn't join the fun at the parade, we got together with family and celebrated Puerto Rican culture. In doing so, we all shared some information we knew about Puerto Rico and learned some things that we didn’t know. It was a fun gathering with music, dominoes, delicious food, and spending time together as family.
"A Quiet Place" is this Year’s Best Thriller Featuring an Actress with a Disability Playing the Role of an Individual with the Same Disability (No Spoilers – I promise)!
This film has all the elements of a horror movie that was brilliantly done. From the writing and directing, to the acting and musical score, this movie has it all! Edge of your seat suspense – check. Fear of the dark and the unknown – check. Creepy and grotesque creatures – check. Scary places (like corn fields) – check. Fear of the unusual and ultimately death – BIG CHECK! Of all these important chilling elements, what probably tops this list is the fact that the only character with a disability is actually played by an actress with the same disability (the daughter is hearing impaired). This is a wonderful precedence that John Krasinsky (director and leading actor in the film) sets for others in the big screen industry. I know, we've seen it before in movies like "Children of a Lesser God" (Marlee Matlin is a hearing impaired actress who played the role of a character with the same disability), but it shouldn't be a rare occurrence.
Author: Christine Goulbourne