Lookie lookie!

bwtruckergirls2

See how excited they are? Go check it out!

Hey folks, we are on the blog “Crazy Good Parent” today! CGP is a great publication for parents from all kinds of mental backgrounds, who are looking for a safe place to express themselves and read about others like them.

Come see our new post on 6 Things An Autistic Parent Wants You To Know…


 

Image by AmyFisherLittle on Morguefile.com

 

4 Aspie Parenting Challenges – And How To Face Them

file0001912826764
I’m not a veteran parent, but I’ve realized during my short experience with being a mom, that parenting is a special challenge–whether you’ve got one kid or ten, with or without Autism. However… there are some unique things that I face as a parent on the Spectrum. With some helpful advice and trial-and-error, I’ve found a few ways to deal with them, too. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

Struggles with Noise
Probably for survival purposes, a baby’s high voice seems almost specially made to cut through obstacles–like multiple insulated walls, shooting-range earplugs with foam muffs over them, and Los Angeles smog. This is great for getting your attention when they are in need or in danger, but not so great when it’s simply nap time, nothing is amiss, and they just want to keep playing (yelling). And loud, sudden noise can sometimes trigger panic or even a meltdown for me.
How to deal with it: I use earplugs. I can still hear little one well due to my very sharp hearing (and her very loud voice), but it’s less painful for me to respond to her when she’s tantrumming, and I can concentrate better on her needs rather than my throbbing eardrums! Just make sure that
1)
you’re watching your child closely,
2)
you aren’t wearing these all the time, and
3)
you can still hear them well enough to respond and interact normally with them.

Getting Alone Time
If you are an introverted Aspie, you probably recharge your energy most effectively by yourself in a calm environment. “By yourself” and “calm environment” may have gone the way of the dodo with the beginning of parenthood–but the more moments you can grab to refocus on calming your mind and body, the better you will feel for both your and your child’s sake.You need to take care of yourself to better care for others!
How to deal with it: You may need to call on a friend or family member to watch your little one(s) while you go to a quiet room or leave the house for a bit. You could also try hiring a babysitter for a few hours if needed. If you can’t get help right now, common advice is to “nap while they nap”, if you are able. Or, you can use this time to pursue your favorite calming interest, whether that’s reading, listening to music, or heck, collecting insects. Unless housework is your interest, it can wait. A little time spent doing what I love works wonders for my mood and makes me a better mom to my daughter.

Changing Routines
It seems like it’s common for us Aspies to need a steady routine to function best. In a previous post, we talked about how having a child can turn this upside down (and why that’s a good thing!). It’s great to set up routines like regular nap times and bedtime rituals for kids, and it’s been proven that they feel safest with some structure. But we need to expect that there will be things that suddenly upset the routine, so that we can be ok with that. Kids teach us that it’s ok to color outside “the lines” sometimes.
How to deal with it: This isn’t easy in the moment, but it also helps to consider all stages as temporary. They won’t wake 5x nightly forever. They won’t be teething forever. They won’t be taking your car without permission forever (ha!). The one thing you can reliably expect is for your child’s routine to eventually change as they do. So don’t get too used to bedtime at 6PM, or regularly having to clean carrots off the walls. This too, shall pass!

Making Eye Contact
Do you struggle with making eye contact with people? I do. It feels intense and awkward to me, and often I either can’t look a person in the eye, or I stare. I feel silly about this, but my daughter has a pretty intense, unblinking stare that I find a little uncomfortable, even though she’s just an infant. Babies love their parent’s faces, and eye contact is seen as beneficial to help our kids to bond with us. Making eye contact with them also helps them learn how faces and emotions work, and teaches them patterns and responses of other people. Along with eye contact, it also stimulates baby’s development to make different facial expressions at them.
How to deal with it:  I’m still working on this challenge, but I’ve gotten better as I push past my comfort zone. I can relax knowing an infant hasn’t developed the social expectations of an adult, and won’t think I’m weird while I try to find the appropriate amount of eye contact! And there is so much I can see about my daughter when we look each other in the eye. I can see her developing personality and curiosity peeking out at me. This link has some wonderful tips on how to meet people’s eyes in various situations (the last one on loving someone may be the most relevant).

Do you recognize some of these issues? If you have some tips to share, or would like to mention a unique challenge you’ve faced, feel free to comment below!


Image by presto44 at Morguefile.com

 

The Mom & Me Wardrobe : Cheap Practical Edition

 

file000272649659
For the first 3 months of her life, my daughter would rarely be seen in pink. No miniature tutus either. No bows, frills, or rainbow sparkles.
Why? Because she was a newborn baby. In about an hour or less, her clothes would just be covered in vomit that I wasn’t able to fully remove–or they were victim to a horrendous blowout where I had to actually throw them away.

What I did use? Socks, plastic-backed bibs…and plain white utilitarian “onesies”–those legless snap-crotch bodysuits. Yes, she could have been mistaken for a boy, but it really didn’t matter because I wasn’t wasting time trying to save a $60 outfit made of fairy dust from the clutches of diarrhea stains. They’re unisex (for those waiting for the gender reveal), they’re easy to remove, they are bleach-able, and baby won’t risk choking on some ribbon that she just yanked off. They’re so cheap they can be discarded guilt-free if they are suddenly poo-covered. Voila, life is simplified by at least an iota.
Heck, you could even decorate them at a baby shower with fabric markers if you want, then save the “artwork” back when baby outgrows it. Orrrr…if you’re not a bleach user, you could get baby heavily patterned and dark-colored clothes, which will also hide stains.
While we’re at it, here are some more practical, inexpensive, and comfortable new-mom clothing items you may find helpful.

For Mom:

  • Yoga pants. Pretty much the same thing as those comfy maternity pants with big stretchy bands around the belly, except half the price and a wide variety of designs. Not sure if these would be good for recovering c-sections or not, but you can always fold the stretchy band down. Get them in black. Really, get EVERYthing in black, for the reason mentioned above–no one will be the wiser on how many different colors of baby food, milk and poo have gotten on your britches.
  • Nursing tank tops with built-in shelf bra
    Rather than trying to wrangle with my itchy nursing bra underneath a regular shirt, I preferred just tucking nursing pads into the shelf bra of a tank top with unclip-able straps. Nursing tanks were comfortable, went with everything, and could be dressed up with a vest, scarf, or a jacket.
  • Button-front nightgowns, AKA “mom pajamas”
    OK, these look like the ones your mom used to wear–extremely modest, over-sized and usually covered in outdated flower print. But they are are SO convenient because you just unbutton the front and remove boob to nurse. And your new udders and hips aren’t going to have any issues fitting into what is basically a really long t-shirt.
  • “Sport bras”
    Yeah, you probably guessed these won’t really be for “sports”. But these babies will stretch to meet your ever-changing boob size, are super-comfortable and wire-free, and are usually able to hold a lot of engorgement weight.
    I like the wide-strap full-coverage cotton ones because they breathe better and I get less sweaty.

For Baby:

  • The “good brand” of diapers
    If you’re still expecting, take advantage of people wanting to give you stuff! For those planning on using disposable diapers, ask for a more expensive brand of diaper in more than one size on your registry, because baby will grow fast. When you buy diapers, you can get the cheap ones and use the expensive ones for overnight, when baby sleeps longer at night than during the day. It really makes the difference between cleaning a 3 AM blowout off of bedding and clothes, or just off of a tiny butt.
  • Second-hand duds
    Infants grow so fast and it’s expensive to buy a whole new wardrobe every 2-3 months. There is no shame in outfitting baby in previously-loved clothes. The very first time they wear something new and it gets washed, it becomes “used” anyway (or will look that way after the first time they become covered in vomit), and many items of clothing available second-hand are in nearly new condition. A good way to save money is to get a lot of clothes in the next couple of sizes up from what baby fits right now, at a consignment or garage sale.
    Sizes are confusing. If you have already had your baby, find more items that fit by bringing a onesie that fits well right now and comparing things with it. Any items a little larger, disregard the size on the tag and treat as the next size up, then make stacks with similar-sized items. I ended with up clothes tagged for 3, 6, and even 9 months, which were all about the same actual size! Then, bag up each stack and label the bags, and keep where you can remember them. When baby outgrows their current duds, you’ll have a whole wardrobe for the next stage all bagged up and ready to rotate into use. Don’t forget to buy future clothing appropriately for the upcoming seasons. I received beautiful “12 month” winter clothing from friends, but thermal footed clothes may not work for a one-year-old who was born in the summer. And finally–enjoy sorting through the adorably tiny socks and jackets!

 

Image by talesin at Morguefile.com

Just enjoying the naptime…

file00029145808

Ah, thank goodness for long naps! I mean my kiddo’s, not mine, although I could use one too…(couldn’t we all?). There’s nothing better than a rare 1.5-2 hours of naptime, because not only do I get a chance to poop in silence while poring over magazines with unattainable home-decorating standards, but darling daughter wakes up in the jolliest giggly mood …and we’re all happy.

Anyway, just a quick note here to say I’m not dropping off the face of the earth if you don’t see some new posts soon. (Although I might be buried under some dishes and laundry). One of my younger sisters is getting married shortly, and I’ll be helping her prepare/revel in the celebration! I’m also trying some new ways to make money from home, and working on an art piece for a gallery showing, which is very exciting and nerve-wracking. Between these things and of course keeping up with kiddo–who is more mischievous by the minute–regular posting may not resume for awhile.

But I’ll be back, so stay “tuned”! 🙂

~The Puzzled Mom


Image by clarita at MorgueFile.com

A Puzzled Interview – M.L.

Time for another interview with an Aspie! M.L., a soon-to-be mother of four, shares her personal insights on Autism.

TPM : When did you first find out you were on the Autism Spectrum?

M.L. : In 10th grade I did a book report on Donna Williams’ book “Nobody Nowhere”. Although I have not read the book since, and can’t recall exactly what it was that I had remarked on, I do remember clearly the little niggle at the back of my mind when I commented to a friend that I thought Donna Williams was reaching a bit to find ways she was different. I thought it quite reasonable that she must have had a strong need to feel a sense of personal identity (hence the title of her book), and could understand searching for what made her ‘her’, but I didn’t give any credit to certain descriptions of how she experienced the world because I thought “that’s not Autism, everyone is like that.”
And in the back of my mind there was a little thought: “On what grounds can I say that everyone has the same experience? What if…” and at that point I brushed the thought aside. I had chosen the book, however, because of a long-standing fascination with Autism, because I had always felt that somehow, in a very little way, I could relate to Autistic people, and maybe if I understood them I might understand why I was different. I knew when I was 5 years old that I was different, but I thought I must really be some special kind of stupid.

Later, in my early 20s, I gradually came to the realization that the statement I got in college out of a learning assessment of “Autistic traits” might be accurate–and that perhaps the rather lengthy list of sensory and cognitive differences on my report could be more simply summarized by the term ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’. I still did not feel like the term “Aspie” could ever in any way define me, and had no desire to seek a formal assessment, but I thought of my secret knowledge like a secret weapon.

I worked with children on the spectrum, and I worked well with them because the things they did made sense to me, but I did not want any of my colleagues or the parents of the students to guess the real reason why I was so comfortable working with those children. (I loved those kids! They were so amazing, and I felt like it was such a privilege that they accepted me as they did.)

TPM: How did you feel when you found out?

M.L. : I didn’t have a sort of light-bulb moment that I recall, but I started telling myself that I wasn’t stupid, I wasn’t defective, I wasn’t just Gifted/Learning Disabled (my official label), and it took years before I started to really believe I was not those things. I felt vindicated, like I had a false sentence lifted.

TPM: Name something you like about being on the Spectrum.

M.L. : I love the way I am able to experience the world. I can get right into a moment or an experience like I am part of it. I can do it with ideas, with sensory experiences, or with objects, by allowing my awareness to focus and deepen until nothing else intrudes. Most of the time I can’t allow myself to do that, now that I am a parent and need to keep my wider awareness switched on at all times. But knowing I can do it is comforting, like I know I have a secret world to escape to if I need it. I kind of suspect that when other people use illicit drugs, or struggle for years to learn deep meditation, they are in search of some kind of experience like that, because they don’t know how to just alter their own experience of the world at will.

TPM: What do you struggle with as a Spectrum parent?

M.L. : Sensory overload. My children are all high-energy, and sometimes the noise and movement is too much, and it gets all too much, too fast, too loud. That’s when Mama gets a time-out (we don’t do time-out as a punishment).

TPM: Do you have any advice for other ASD parents?

M.L. : Embrace your spectrum-ness. I think the family I grew up in and the family I am now raising are both awesome. We’re all a little different, and I love us exactly the way we are. People are pretty amazing in general, and it’s what makes people different from each other that adds such richness to the world. Don’t stress over failings or struggles, focus on your strengths.

TPM: What is one way that ASD makes you a better parent?

M.L. : I think I’d have to say two ways here: First of all, I can understand my children and give them the whole-hearted message that they are perfectly acceptable as they are. I want to send them out into the world with the confidence that they will find their own niche in the world where they will be treasured and accepted for who they are.
Secondly, I guess it’s kind of an all-or-nothing way of thinking, but I really struggle with doing a sub-par job on anything, including parenting. Right now this is my job, so I work at learning and developing skills and doing the best job I can, just as I would do for any other current job or interest.

TPM : Is there anything about Autism that you’d like to tell non-Autistic people?

M.L. : I am not defective. There are things that I truly struggle with, even if it’s hard for you to understand (like the fact that no amount of driving lessons are going to fix my visual-spatial perception and allow me to drive a car). But that’s just the way I am, and I’m not broken or less worthwhile as a person because of it.

Thanks to ML for sharing her perspective and tips!

Would you like to share your voice on the blog? If you would be interested in answering a few short questions for an interview like this one, please let me know in a comment below, or email me at thepuzzledmom@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you!

Sensory Issues : 6 Tips For More Comfortable Breastfeeding

file000956778186
Hoo boy, this one is tough. Breastfeeding felt like a constant assault on my boobs, which is pretty normal for some women, particularly in the beginning. But there were some things that made a big difference in our nursing routine and may help you too:

Nipple shields: If you are very sensitive, you may need nipple shields, which reduce sensory over-stimulation or pain with a thin rubbery piece that baby can latch onto over your nipple. They gave me one at the hospital, and I got another from a lactation peer counselor.

Lanolin: This funny-smelling, natural soothing gel helped prevent cracking from hour-long nursing sessions. I got a couple tubes of it from the hospital after delivery. If you are really brazen like me, you can ask for a tube of it each time you get a new nurse in your room with their shift change, and stash them to take home with you, since lanolin is expensive (hey, you are already paying for your stay!). If you decide to use an electric breast pump, lanolin is an excellent buffer against the plastic nipple shield and the strong suction, and may help create a better seal.

Organic Coconut oil : This considerably better-smelling natural oil is a great moisturizer for your nipples, safe in your baby’s mouth and it may even prevent thrush with its fungicidal properties. A little goes a long way.

Scratching: Babies may be born with practically microscopic fingernails, but they are often razor-sharp already. They can accidentally scratch themselves with them, and scratch you too. You can trim them, carefully, with a tiny baby nail clipper (don’t use the full-size regular clippers, which are too big). The nails grow fast and break easily, so check baby’s fingers daily for raggedy nail edges. Secondly, if you are nursing and those sweet little fingers are like pins and needles on your boobs, you can put a baby mitten or sock on their hand. Make sure it’s not too tight around baby’s wrist and remove it when you’re done.

Tongue-tie: If breastfeeding hurts and it’s NOT getting better, baby is acting like they’re not getting enough but you know you have a decent supply, or when you take baby off breast it looks like your nipple has been squashed and “creased”–please see your pediatrician a.s.a.p. and ask if your baby may have “tongue tie”.
This is so important, as a tongue tie will make baby unable to eat properly, nursing will HURT, and it will be harder for you both to learn to breastfeed right unless it is fixed. It can also cause eventual speech impediments. My wee one’s tongue was attached to her mouth in such a way that it wouldn’t extend past her lips, which made her bite my nipples, and frustrated her. An E.N.T. Doc fixed this easily in a quick-in-office procedure, and nursing became immediately easier.

Lactation Consultants: Breastfeeding may not be automatically natural for you. There are an awful lot of things that play into it–don’t assume it’s your fault if it’s not working. No one knows how to do something without some practice, babies are not all born knowing just how to latch perfectly, and there can be physical challenges that are unavoidable, like tongue tie or inverted nipples. Make sure to get some help if it is uncomfortable for you or your baby. Although we eventually stopped breastfeeding due to several separate issues, I got a lot of helpful advice from WIC Lactation Consultants and from my own mother, who had struggled with some of the same things I did. You may also be able to find a Lactation Consultant through your hospital or pediatrician. But most importantly, don’t worry that you are a “bad mother” if you do determine you can’t breastfeed. Just love that baby and do the best that you are able to for your situation, that is what matters!


Image by andyk at MorgueFile.com

Sensory Issues: Odors

file0001580378288

Hope everyone is having a good New Year so far! Today, we go over a sensory trigger that some Aspies may have particular struggles with.

Do you have a sensitivity to odors?
Many moms mention the sweet scent of a newborn, but we all know what other scents naturally come with having a tot in the house–dirty diapers, sour milk and spit-up, and other smells can be pretty overwhelming.While most of these odors are largely unavoidable, there are a few things that have worked for me to lessen their impact.

To prevent that yucky sour-milk smell that ends up most everything baby and I wear, I try to do a load of laundry every day I’m able (of course this isn’t always possible!) and clean up any spills or leaks from either of us with just a washcloth, dish soap and water. For laundry that has sat for awhile, some recommend 1/2 cup of baking soda or 1/4 cup of vinegar added to your wash load. It’s easier to remove spit-up before it dries, but water, an old toothbrush and dish soap (can you tell this is my go-to cleaner?) works well to remove wet or dry spit-up that’s seeped into clothes.

If your baby is like mine and has reflux, or a pool of milk collects around their neck with each feeding, this will get stuck in their neck “folds”, gets putrid pretty quick and can also cause them skin irritation. If you don’t have a bib handy you can tuck a soft washcloth/burp rag under their chin–I used to do this with every feed due to how much ended up outside rather than inside my daughter’s mouth. The terrycloth bibs with velcro closure and plastic backing are great and affordable, and baby may like the “crinkly” sound they make. My pediatrician suggested applying a bit of diaper rash ointment on my wee one’s neck (in the folds where she doesn’t put her fingers), this created an effective barrier from the milk and helped clear up any irritation.

Babies are capable of having bad breath like adults, for a variety of reasons. However if you notice a particularly “sour” scent, this can be a sign of infant reflux/GERD, which is something you would need to mention to your pediatrician.

Finally, the diapers. These tend to get smellier with the addition of solid foods. An interesting speculation–diapers from breastfed babies reportedly smell less stinky. All poo is stinky to me, so I’ll let you be the judge of that! I don’t have a “diaper genie”, but a regular trash bin I use only for diapers, in a corner of the nursery works fine for me. I use a kitchen-size bin with one of those lids that opens with a foot tab. A scented bag or deodorizing spray also helps. I use a homemade lavender-oil air mist every time I change the bag in the diaper bin.

Have any tips for dealing with obnoxious odors? Comment below!


Image by dmscs at Morguefile.com

Time to enjoy the leftovers…

I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas! Darling daughter (and her parents) had a whirlwind couple of days and handled it surprisingly well considering how much she had to take in. I’ll be taking a break from posting until after New Year’s–mostly to recover from the crazy that is the Holidays, and to hopefully work off 3 different Christmas dinners on the treadmill that “Santa” brought.

Just kidding. I mean I DID end up with a treadmill, but there is far too much dessert in the house right now for me to justify using it yet. Someday…soon…

Have  a good week and talk to you soon.

What Do I Do With My Hands?

 

man-hands_1

For only $30, you can have hands like mine at http://mcphee.com/shop/man-hands.htm

 

Ah, my hands. I love them and I hate them.

I don’t like them because they are not my mother’s long, feminine, slender-fingered olive-toned hands. They are like my dad’s–chubby, stubby, always slightly battered and dry from my using them as shovels, screwdrivers or paint scrapers, and washing baby bottles in very HOT water. Have you ever seen that Seinfeld episode with the “man hands”? Yeah, I’ve got THOSE.

These things…they’re just so awkward.
They flail around so wildly to illustrate what I’m speaking, that you would think I had invented my own over-enthusiastic sign language. They constantly have to be touching and fidgeting with things, unconsciously destroying book pages and headphone cords. They move too suddenly, making me accidentally bump people or knock things over. They are extremely double-jointed and cramp up painfully and easily for some reason.
I don’t know what to DO with them when I’m not actually doing something with them. They freeze rigid in weird positions when I’m in public, and I’ll look down and there one of them is in a tight fist while the other is splayed open on top of it and I wonder why.
It’s like they’re almost a separate entity with a mind of their own.

But I love them because of what they can do: type quickly, craft almost anything I want, pick up the jagged pieces of whatever glass I just broke without a scratch. They are unfazed by baby boogers, spit-up or poop. They can carry 9 bags of groceries at once so I don’t have to make a ton of trips. They give great hugs and back rubs. They look like “man hands”, but they are mom hands.
And I love that they remind me of my dad’s, which gave the best hugs, chopped wood for our stove, and created beautiful art.

(By the way, in case you haven’t seen that Seinfeld clip, here it is. You can thank me later.)

I’d like to know: What do you do with your hands when you’re not actively using them? And what do they do best? Feel free to comment below!


Image used with permission courtesy of David Wahl at Archie Mcphee.com

A Puzzled Interview – L.E.

Trying something new here, folks. I was speaking with a fellow Spectrum parent recently and he kindly agreed to do a Q&A with me, a sort of interview if you will. There are people who make assumptions about ASD and need to hear the truth about us–from us. Sharing our perspectives is also helpful for people with Autism who need to know there are others like them.

Here it is:

TPM: When did you first find out you were on the Autism Spectrum?
L.E.: I found out last year after a lot of tests that I am on the spectrum.

How did you feel when you found out?
I have to say after finding this out, my life really made sense to me for the first time. It was freeing knowing that why I react and how I react to certain things is normal for people on the spectrum, as opposed to people thinking I am a psychopath (including myself). Such as seeing the world in black or white, good or bad, wrong or right, however you want to say it.

Name something you like about being on the Spectrum.
I can smell and hear things others seem to either ignore or not notice. Four years ago I woke up to a burning smell that burnt the inside of my nose, and I followed it down to our basement where a candle my girlfriend had burning that day had started paper nearby on fire. (Our bedroom was three floors away). I could also hear the microwave shorting out due to a frayed wire inside arcing across to another wire.

What do you struggle with as a Spectrum parent?
[My kids] present a lot of things I don’t know how to cope with and me being on the edge of losing it emotionally is a struggle I have. I seem to mimic the fear, anger, or frustration they seem to be feeling, with no way to pull it back inside myself.

What is one way that ASD makes you a better parent?
ASD makes me a better parent by allowing me to hear everything they are doing, though they hate it. It also allows me to clue in on little things. Such as body language (very important with a non-verbal son)–a tilt of the head, position of an elbow or look at an object can mean everything to him and can be the difference between him getting what he needs and wants, and a melt down because we don’t understand him.

Is there anything about Autism that you’d like to tell non-Autistic people?
Everyone on the spectrum is different and we each deal with things the best we can. We want to be understood, loved, wanted, and needed. We just need someone with an open mind and heart to really see us.

Thanks L.E., for giving us a glimpse into your experiences with ASD!

If you would be interested in answering a few short questions for an interview like this one, please let me know in a comment below, or email me at thepuzzledmom@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you!