Thursday, December 12, 2013

New position at ASU

I am humbled that my alma mater, ASU, has asked me to be a part of their facilitator team in the program I graduated from (it's now split into 2 programs - I will be part of the Behavior Analyst program). I probably should become a Sun Devils fan now. And create more hours in the day.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It happenend again....more school disappointment

I am seriously at a loss for words. I see that my son, who is at the top of his class in math, gets a 61 on a math test and I can't help but be pissed. You know why he scored a 61? Because no one read him the instructions, which is part of his IEP! He has progressed to a 2nd grade reading level which is great, but I am constantly told "he loses focus." I have respect for teachers but I am struggling with the concept that they cannot see past their own noses and change up their teaching style for an exceptional kid. Trust son is not the only one who needs help, but because he is the one with the dx, he is now labeled as "loses focus" and "hard to teach." As sassy as I can be, I have been patiently waiting for this to get resolved. The best part is when, in Joey's meeting, I am asked "Do you think you could help our Behavior Interventionist with other kids? She's new." Ummm no. Try helping my kid first. I guess I'm going to have to get loud and risk Joey not having his variance approved next year. But at this point, I don't even know if we'd stay at Parkridge. Feeling disappointed.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Game 6, the Sox, and the bloody sock all over again

Although today was the best day of my life 9 years ago, Eric Rodman had to remind me that it was also the day of the Bloody Sock, also known as Game 6 of the ALCS, Yanks vs. Sox and the Sox won! And tonight, the Sox won Game 6 again. But no bloody sock. Still traumatized. Link: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 October 19, 2004: The Bloody Sock The greatest thing about Game 6 is how it still bothers Yankee fans. Yankee fans still refuse to admit that Curt Schilling had anything wrong with his ankle. They are convinced the blood was fake and Schilling was just creating the drama. As a Red Sox fan I love it, it shows just how much the collapse bothers Bronx Nation. The facts are the facts, Schilling only made 11 starts the following season because of surgery and had an ERA of 5.69. Schilling was not the same in 2005 and in reality was never the same after that incredible night in 2004. It was the ultimate sacrifice by Schilling, he went out there on one leg and forever changed the Red Sox franchise. He will always be remembered for it and it was the kind of thing that may just push the Cooperstown doors open for him. The bloody sock will live on forever and be a thorn in the side of Yankee fans as long as there is baseball. BOX SCORE The Schilling heroics were far from the only story line from this game. Bronson Arroyo and the Alex Rodriguez saga continued in the 8th inning. The saga actually got it's start back on July 24th when Arroyo plunked AROD on his elbow pad in a game the Yankees were dominating. This touched off the infamous bench clearing brawl with Jason Varitek giving AROD a picture perfect facial. The Red Sox woke up on that day and came from behind and beat the Yankees with a walk off homer by Bill Mueller against the great Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox would use that win as a rallying point and it transformed them from a team that wasn't looking like postseason material into a very dangerous pennant contender. With the Red Sox up 4-2 in the 8th inning they turned to Arroyo. The Red Sox bullpen was on fumes and Arroyo who served most of the season as the fifth starter was now asked to get three very big outs before turning things over to Keith Foulke. Arroyo struck out Tony Clark for the first out of the inning and then gave up a double to Miguel Cairo and a single to Derek Jeter. AROD was up with runners on the corners with one out in a two run game. Rodriguez had a chance to build a reputation right here as a true Yankee and a great postseason performer. Instead, he dribbled a ball off the end of his bat and then slapped the ball out of the glove of Arroyo.  As the ball was rolling free, Cairo and Jeter scored. Alex was standing on second base and the game was briefly tied. I was watching in utter horror. Jeter was pumping his fist as he touched home plate and I was contemplating throwing my television out my bedroom window. The umpires came to the rescue and for the first time in the history of postseason baseball the Yankees did not get the call. Arroyo got Gary Sheffield to pop up and the Red Sox dream was alive and kicking. AROD would go hitless in Game 7 and would struggle the next several years in the postseason. He would briefly redeem himself in 2009 but Rodriguez will be more known for his big game failures than for anything else and it all started with that at bat against Bronson Arroyo seven years ago tonight. While AROD began a personal trend of postseason failure, the Red Sox second basemen entered his name into Red Sox lore. Mark Bellhorn was booed incessantly by Red Sox fans throughout the 2004 playoffs. He hit just .091 against the Angels in the first round. Fans wanted Pokey Reese, but Terry Francona stuck with him, beginning a pattern that would define Francona's mangerial career in Boston. He always stuck with his veterans, it was a trait that angered many Red Sox fans but it was his style to the very bitter end. In Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS it paid off.  The Red Sox would win 4-2 and force a Game 7 thanks to a Mark Bellhorn three run homer and an incredible performance from Curt Schilling. Two of Tito's veterans stepped up when it mattered most making this 2004 team one to remember for the ages.

Happy 9th Birthday Joey!

Happy 9th Birthday to my sweet little pepper! How wonderful to hear you joke with your friends (you have friends!), hear your belly laughs, and know that you are just like the other boys. There is no difference, no standing out. You understand my sass and give it right back to me! Hard to believe that a little more than 6 years ago, you spoke less than 20 words. You amaze me everyday! I am definitely going to annoy you and cry today because half your childhood is over. In the first 9 years, you learned to walk and talk, enjoy Italian food, and ride a bike; you started school and learned how to make friends; you learned how to complete your morning and night routines by yourself; and you learned what it meant to care about someone else. In the next 9 years, you will learn how to drive, go to high school, and become a young man. I can't wait to see what is in store, but know you will always be my little man. "You are the best thing that's ever been mine." I <3 you!

Favorites from your 9th year:

Games:  Skylanders, Sonic Colors

Food:  Noodle soup, oatmeal cream pies, Sidekicks shakes, vanilla shakes, Lunchables, Crunch bars, hot dogs

Sports to play:  Soccer (in your 3rd season now!)

Friends:  Connor (play time every week), Chase, Donovyn & Tristyn, and Xavier (all of whom were at Guys Night)

Clothes:  still anything soft but we're slowly working into itchy clothes territory!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Joey's Hope Blog is 5 years old!

To commemorate the 5th anniversary of starting this blog and documenting our journey, I decided to repost the very 1st post. My, how far we've come.

Joey's Journey in Silence
Joseph was born October 19, 2004. He was by all means a pleasant baby. He was sleeping through the night at 6 weeks. He reached all his physical milestones early or at the appropriate time. He even had his full set of teeth in by his 1st birthday...yet he barely said a word. At his one year check up, his pediatrician asked how many words he spoke and he barely said ten.

During his second year, Joey was noticeably quiet. As friends' children the same age were advancing with their speech, Joey was not. He was more advanced than other children when it came to everything else so I wasn't worried. As his second birthday approached, my Mom voiced her concern that he wasn't repeating after us. I spoke to his pediatrician who ordered a hearing test and a consultation with an ENT. The audiologists were concerned and wanted to see him back for a retest when the middle ear fluid cleared up, while the ENT thought it was too soon to put tubes in his ears. The audiologists also hooked me up with a program through the state to get Joey started with speech therapy, which I started shortly after Joey's 2nd birthday.

I had Joey's hearing retested in March '07 and again I was told to bring him back when there was no middle ear fluid. He was prone to ear infections but was not having one at the time of the test so how was I to know when the middle ear fluid was present? I brought him back to the ENT, who finally agreed to place tubes in both ears. Joey had his surgery a few weeks later and on the very same day, he started repeating after us!

The ENT said Joey had "glue ear" because the middle ear fluid was solidifying. He heard everything as if he were underwater. I can't imagine what that was like and feel terrible for not catching it sooner. When your children don't have a voice, parents need to be their voice and I failed my son by not being his soon enough.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

5 years ago today

It's hard to believe 5 years ago, we had our 1st appointment at the Melmed Center (Joey was dx'd later on 9/11). Who knew how much our lives were about to change...

And on August 19th, it will be 5 years ago that I started this blog!

This is what my Mom wrote on Facebook in response to my status above:
August 18th has always been an important date in my life -- 41 years ago I lost my father and my life was changed forever but it became a happy date when we bought our house on LI 36 years ago and all our lives changed for the better. I knew it would be another important day when we took Joey to Melmed 5 years ago -- I'd like to think my father has been watching over Joey and helping with the phenomenal changes that have taken place these last 5 years -- thanks Dad!

The first week (and a half) of 3rd grade

We have survived our first full week (and 2 days)!

The first day went well. We got there 24 minutes early and just in time to snag the last parking spot. New classroom, no familiar faces, and he says he doesn't remember his teacher, who is the mother of a classmate from 2nd grade / former t-ball teammate. I annoyed him with my usual pictures. He was anxious just to get into his classroom. I told him to unpack his backpack and he said "You do it." I knew he was feeling anxious so I helped him unpack and showed him how to organize his desk.

This was the first year I didn't pick him up from the first day - my dad  did - so I was anxious to find out how his first day went. When I got to my parents house to pick him up, I asked "How was your first day?" His response?  "Horrible." Why? Because he says it made summer vacation end.

The second day went better and he came home telling me that his day was "good" which was an upgrade from "horrible." But it didn't start out good. We arrived on the playground like we did everyday last year. I waited with him for the bell to ring and for him to line up with his class. But today was different. I totally forgot that it was a new year and a new grade, which meant a new line to find.

When the bell rang, I asked him if he knew where to go. He said "Yes" and ran off. As I turned to leave, he ran over to me with panic in his voice and said "I don't know where to go." We walked over and when we weren't sure, I asked Mrs. Yanez. She said her line was right in front. When I got Joey in the right line, he said, "This doesn't look like my class. I don't know anybody." I assured him it was the right class and pointed out Kayla from 1st grade. He was still visibly upset. I was so worried about him that I drove up to school between appointments in S. Phoenix to have lunch with him and make sure he was having a good day. When I got there, he introduced me to Samuel and Leland. Samuel is the boy that earlier that day, Mrs. Yanez told me Joey was playing rock, paper, scissors with on the 1st day and resulted in him having his desk moved. When she told me, I couldn't believe my ears. My son got in trouble for socializing! Music to my ears! Words I never thought I'd hear!!

The third day started without a hitch and ended with Joey and Connor walking out together and asking if they could have a play date. I had a feeling this might happen and I'm glad it did. Connor had asked the day before if they could have a play date soon and on the way to pick Joey up from school, Connor's dad had texted me about the possibility that afternoon.

Monday started the first full week of school. It also was the day he was ok with me leaving him on the playground before the bell rang! We got into the groove of daily homework and a new way of taking a spelling test. He forgot his folder on Monday and we had to run back to school. He knew I was upset and said "I'm very sorry. Is there any way I can make it up to you?" He promised he wouldn't do it again. My boy is growing up.

By Wednesday, it was time for Grandpa to pick him up again and I guess there was an issue on the first day. Well, there is always confusion on the first day, but I found out through Mrs. Yanez that he told her he was an am/pm kid and so he was there instead of at Jamba Juice. When we were trying to coordinate where Grandpa would pick him up, he was visibly frustrated. I know it was because he gets confused and is starting to feel frustrated about it. Another thing to show he is growing up. I tell myself that we can work on it. As a mom, I just never want him to feel anything other than happy.

The first full week ended with Connor coming to our house for a play date. Unfortunately, at 2:45p.m., I was called by the nurse because the teacher sent Joey to the nurse because "he smelled. He smelled yesterday but it was worse today" (that's what the nurse said the teacher said). It was a bump in the road that we've been working on and it has improved, but that incident was a reminder that we still have some work to do.

On to full week #2 and a wonderful year of growth, new friends, new experiences, and overcoming learning obstacles. I love my sweet boy!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Interesting study linking the use of Pitocin to Autism

My clinical director posted an interesting study today about the increased use of Pitocin being linked to the increased number of children being diagnosed with Autism. Read more below.


Can inducing labor cause autism?

A new study out today in the journal JAMA Pediatrics says that induced labor might be the reason for the spike in autism over the last couple of decades.    
Autism is the most pervasive childhood disease today, with one child born every 20 minutes who will fall into the autism spectrum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC. It is more prevalent than Down Syndrome, diabetes and cancer combined.

Duke University and the University of Michigan conducted the study. Researchers looked at mothers whose births were induced or hurried with the drug Pitocin and found that there may be a connection between induction and children born with autism, or ASD.

Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin, a naturally occurring hormone that causes feelings of warmth and relationship toward others.

Pitocin, made from the pituitary glands of cattle, is used to induce or speed up labor. Its use has increased in the last two decades, according to the CDC, as has the diagnosis of autism.

That correlation may have prompted the study.

Read the study.

Autism spectrum disorder is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and by repetitive behaviors, according to

Mary Ueland, a Missouri-based midwife and owner of a birth and wellness center, told WND that as a midwife who follows research closely, she finds it “concerning that as a society we have made pharmaceutical induction the norm, even for women with no known complications.”

“We have not studied the effects of Pitocin imprinting an infant’s brain,” she said.

She poses the question: “Could it be that bombarding an infant’s oxytocin receptors with far larger than normal amounts of synthetic oxytocin could destroy or ruin their oxytocin receptors?”

Earlier studies indicated that there was a connection between Pitocin and adverse effects on neonatal outcomes, such as lower Apgar scores, and time spent in neonatal intensive care units.

Other studies examined a possible connection between vaccines and autism.

Dr. Eric Hollander, chairman of psychiatry and director of the Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, suggested that “a possible imbalance of blood levels of oxytocin may be associated with certain forms of ASDs.

“I think that this is an important area for future development to understand the underlying root cause of ASDs and develop treatments to help manage symptoms,” he said.

Dr. C. Sue Carter conducted a study that confirmed a link between oxytocin and ASDs.

She said that the oxytocin receptor chemicals (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms-SNP’s) may be compromised during Pitocin induction and that further research was warranted. Her work has resulted in studies examining whether the use of oxytocin will benefit patients with ASDs.

“Patterns of oxytocin, even in [the] blood of nonautistic persons, are not well described. We don’t understand the developmental effects of oxytocin very well, and it is possible that the most important effects of oxytocin on ASDs occur in the prenatal or early postnatal period,” Carter explained.

Both Hollander and Carter have studied the possibility that excess oxytocin, given intravenously during birth via Pitocin, might be a potential cause of ASDs.

“In some individuals whose oxytocin system could be genetically vulnerable, a strong environmental early hit while the brain is still developing could down-regulate the oxytocin system, leading to developmental problems. But this is only a hypothesis that has been observed by association,” Hollander commented.

Carter said the biggest hurdle in studies are finding people who have not been exposed to Pitocin, because it is given so frequently. The last two decades have seen such an increase, that perhaps examining 30- and 40-year-olds would offer some clues.

The obvious coincidence of the massive increase in Pitocin use, coupled with the massive increase in Autism diagnoses is suspect. In 1980, one child in 5,000 had autism. In 1990, one child in 1,000 was diagnosable. In 2000, 1 in 500; 2004, one in 166; in 2007, one in 150; and in 2010, one in 110 children had autism. Today, one in 70 boys are ASD. The numbers are mind boggling, to the point of epidemic, according to the CDC.

Carter said it’s often assumed that Pitocin does not reach the infant in amounts that would directly affect it.

“Increasing amounts of Pitocin are being given in some hospitals, though,” she said. “In our most recent research in animals, a little extra Ooxytocin given directly to newborns facilitated certain forms of social behavior, but larger amounts were disruptive.”

Michelle Huffman, mother of two, said she was forced to use Pitocin in both of her births, “and I begged not to.”

“Of course I worried about the effect on my babies, but they told me that the Pitocin would not even get through to the babies in traceable amounts,” she said.

Most mothers and birth professionals agree that Pitocin makes the contractions very intense, sometimes too much so. Hospital births may use Pitocin to time the births so that they are paced with a doctor’s presence.

Other birth professionals, like midwives, tend to reject Pitocin use as unnatural and embrace other birth facilitating measures such as walking, massage and positioning, sometimes in a warm bath or pool.

Midwifery today cites the work of Dr. Michel Odent, founder of the Primal Health Research Center in London.

He says that “autistic children show alterations in the oxytocin system.”

The period of birth, he says, causes a natural but dramatic reorganization of central oxytocin binding. He speculates that artificial induction of labor could create a situation in which that reorganization is dangerously interrupted.

Other factors may be at play. Neurologist Lawrence Lavine says that today’s obstetrical practices might be to blame for some of the problems, while use of Pitocin and epidurals might represent the structural factors leading to ASD.

As the author of “A Natural Guide to Autism,” Stephanie Marohn said the use of Pitocin elicits contractions so hard, it is like “using the child’s head as a battering ram to force the pelvis to reshape to accommodate it.”

Marohn says it is natural then that the compressions compromise the cranial nerves and nervous system, resulting in cranial compression.

The research leaves room for studies of other possible problems with induction.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Independent Joe on his way to 3rd Grade

August 6, 2013

My sweet boy. I have no words. I broke down earlier as I packed up his new Skylanders Giants backpack with all of his supplies for his 1st day of 3rd grade tomorrow.

I told myself I wouldn't cry. I told Joey I wouldn't cry. I lied to both of us.

There were so many times over the course of the summer that I was just in awe of the little man that my sweet boy is becoming. The things he said, the way he acted, the concern he showed for his friends and family, the confident reader he is becoming, the choices he is started to make for himself (his clothes, activities, etc.)...all of these things show how his personality is changing and how he is growing up.

I don't know why I get misty every year on the first and last days of school. I'm not sure if it is because he is my one and only baby boy, if it's because of the journey we have been on and how far we've come, or if it's because every year, he needs me just a little bit less.

I mean, let's face it...every mom goes through a constant identity crisis for 18 years. We become somebody's sole supporter the day we give birth, and as the years go by, we struggle back and forth with wanting to be needed and fighting to get our independence back, hoping we aren't need sped so much, even just for one day.

I love how far Independent Joe has come. But now matter how old he gets or fast he grows out of my arms, I will always long for the days when he would say, "Do you need some snuggle time? Because I'm available."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Wait...that's me!

Today started out like any other day. Although I had been waiting for weeks to get the results from the BACB, I tried to put it in the back of my mind. I even started planning alternate career choices if I didn't feel like redoing my course work. Call me a negative realist.

I sat in the movie theatre, waiting for Despicable Me 2 to start. I checked FB before shutting my phone down, and someone posted on one of the BA message boards that the results were posted.

I panicked.

Do I check now and chance ruining the movie that Joey has been waiting over a year to see?

Or do I wait and get increasingly anxious as the movie goes on.

I checked. The site page looked different. I scrolled down. My jaw dropped.

Then I saw the word PASSED.

Holy crap!

My mom looked at me and asked me what was wrong. I stammered when saying "I passed my exam."

I texted and then called my husband.

I texted my boss and told her I had bad news. She said she couldn't handle any more. I told her she was stuck with me and I passed. She called me crying.

I texted Nick and told him I had bad news. He called me and I told him to buy me that bottle of vodka he owed me.

I texted my closest family members and co-worker friends.

I posted to FB: "What did I do today? Played games, tried not to die in the heat, saw a movie and....found out I'm now a Board Certified Behavior Analyst! In the words of my son: "Boom!"

I am still in shock. This is surreal.

And so a new journey begins. I am beyond excited. And relieved. And proud of myself for not giving up. And forever thankful to my Joey, who started me on this journey. He is forever my inspiration to be a better person. I hope I make him proud.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Farewell 2nd grade

What a month May has been.

We wrapped a 2nd season of soccer. Joey had a great time this season. Not only did he ask to sign up so I know the motivation was there and last season was reinforcing to him, but he got to play with Hannah, Aydan, and Connor from his class. AND Lexie, our next door neighbor was also on the team. Also, Hannah's dad was the coach, who just happens to be an OT with tons of experience with kids with special needs. Could I have asked for any better scenario.

May was also the month that Joey started having after school hang outs with Connor. 2 Fridays at his house and then 1 Friday at ours. We have plans to see Connor this Thursday, and Joey even gave up one of his end of school gifts (3 Skylander Giants figurines) so he could give Connor "another Skylander Giant because he doesn't have a lot of giants." So sweet!

Joey also started Kumon on 5/21. This is another step towards becoming a better reader.

And then there was the farewell to 2nd grade and to Mr. Svorinic at Parkridge (he is heading to Liberty in August). I was pleasantly surprised that on the last day of school, Mrs. Stone (his reading teacher) told me he has already mastered his IEP reading goals that were written 1 month ago!

I am so proud of him and how hard he works! I wonder what 3rd grade will have in store for us?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Joey, nitrous oxide and butter

Joey had nitrous oxide at the dentist today when they filled a small cavity and sealed 3 of his teeth. This was his first time. I was nervous. The neurologist said it would be safe.

Joey went back like a trooper and a half hour later, he was done. He looked a little "off" and the assistant said he threw up a little. As we walked outside, he said he wasn't feeling well. In the car, he asked "What do you call this sickness?" I said "A side effect from the gas." He asked, "Well how do you get rid of it?" I told him that he needed to eat soft foods, drink liquids, and maybe poop and pee it out.

When we got home, he said "Mama, I'm gonna do what you said:  pee and poop." He informed me he pooped twice and then told me he was sleepy. He cuddled up to me and slept for almost 2 hours. He told me after that he felt better after his nap. He was back to his normal crazy goofy self

He ate Lipton noodle soup and had Italian bread with butter for dinner. He ate good! I saw him playing with Cocoa while he was eating. Later on, I noticed that he had butter inside the leg of his pants. I asked, "How did you get butter in your pants?" How often do you hear yourself asking that? I guess it went flying during his bread tug of war with Cocoa.

Well now we know the effects of nitrous and that he is ok with it, for the most part.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tiny milestones

This year, Joey is very interested in celebrating little milestones. He reminded me for a month each time when I didn't get him a gift for ST. Joseph's Day and then for his half birthday. Today, he turned 8.7. This week, he will finish 2nd grade. Last Saturday, he finished his 2nd season of soccer. I thought less presents would get bought as he got older. I think I might be wrong.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Joe becomes an ABA therapist

While Joey was waiting for speech to start, our former neighbor was attempting to elope from OT and get Joey's iPad. Each time, I told Joey to pause his game and wait for the boy to go back to his OT. When the boy was done, he asked Joey for the iPad and Joey says, "Umm are you done with your therapist?" I told him he should come work with me and he said "You couldn't handle me for a whole day."

Friday, May 3, 2013

Leaving the nest for a playdate

When I went to school to pick Joey up, something extraordinary happened: Joey asked me if he could go to a friend's house to play!!! This is the FIRST time ever!!! And this helicopter mom let him go. Now I have empty nest syndrome.

It was so cute. I wish I could bottle the moment and enjoy it over and over! Joey ran up to me and said, "Can I go over Connor's house to play?" I said, "Sure, maybe one day soon" and he said, "No, we want to do it now." Then Connor came over and asked if Joey could come over. I asked if it was ok with his parents and he said "I'll go ask."

Joe and I walked a little slower than Connor did to his Dad's car. I figured I would allow time for him to talk to his Dad so his Dad wouldn't be put on the spot. By the time I got to the car, Scott, Connor's Dad, said it was ok for Joe to come over. We exchanged phone numbers and I got their address, buckled Joe in the back seat, told him to have fun, closed the door and waved goodbye.

How did this happen?

I promptly showed up at 5:58 p.m. to pick Joe up. He had a great time. They both wanted to know if they could have a sleep over, or get together Saturday, or maybe Sunday. Too cute! Let's not forget they will see each other at 9 a.m. tomorrow for soccer.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The importance of pointing

The Verbal Behavior Approach posted this article on FB yesterday and I had to share. Follow them if you aren't already!

Here's the link:

How Pointing Makes Babies Human

What does it mean when a baby points?
What does it mean when a baby points? Photo by Hemera/Thinkstock
Parenthood in early infancy is equal parts tedium and astonishment. The trick is telling the two apart.
This is harder than you might think.

Pointing, for example, is not an obviously astonishing act. I have already pointed several times today and no one was astonished. But when a baby points ecstatically at a puppy, or responds to someone else pointing at that puppy, we should marvel at him: We have just witnessed an astonishingly complex act. In fact, by pointing, that baby is, in a very real way, acting out what makes us uniquely human.
Over the last decade, a series of studies out of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have made a very good argument for marveling at your pointing infant. A group of psychologists there have documented that infants, beginning at around 1 year of age, point and react to other people pointing in remarkably sophisticated ways. Babies point to refer to events in the past and the future. They point to refer to things that are no longer there. They can figure out, when an adult points across the room toward a group of objects, what exactly the adult is gesturing toward (the toy they’ve previously played with, say). They can deduce that, by pointing, an adult is trying to communicate something specific (find that toy hidden in that bucket). And not least of all, babies point because they want to share their experience of the world—that puppy—with someone else.
These may just be the talents out of which humans managed to assemble minor things like culture and language. “The basis of language is all right there in gestures,” says Malinda Carpenter, a developmental psychologist at Max Planck, who conducts research on larger issues of cultural cognition. When Carpenter sees an infant pointing out a clown to his mother, she sees a meeting of the minds: That baby is coming together with someone else to share his experience of—and his attitude toward—something else.
This is declarative pointing—showing something to someone else. (It’s very different from imperative pointing, which is pointing to request something. Imperative pointing is what Donald Trump does.) Of course, you could interpret this kind of pointing in a less sophisticated way than a meeting of the minds. Maybe the infant just wanted more attention. Maybe he just wanted the experimenter to see the toy, not to share in having seen it. Maybe he was just pointing for his own sake; maybe it had nothing to do with anyone else.
So Carpenter and her colleagues designed an experiment: They put infants in a highchair across from a screen with lots of closed windows; when a window opened, a puppet popped out. The infants did what any sensible person would do when face-to-face with a gyrating puppet: They pointed. To test different interpretations of what that pointing meant, the experimenter varied his reaction. The only reaction that the babies found satisfying—the only reaction that inspired them to keep pointing for each puppet—was when the experimenter looked back and forth between them and the puppet, saying things like, It’s Grover! That’s so interesting! The infants were delighted by this response. They wanted the adult to share the totally awesome experience of this totally awesome puppet. When the experimenter failed to do this, Carpenter says, “The kids stopped pointing for this weird adult, who wasn’t giving them what they wanted.” When the adult only looked at the infant, the infant often pointed again at the puppet, as if to say, No, you dunderhead—over there.
The infants didn’t just want attention to themselves. They wanted someone to share in their experience of the world. “It’s just so rewarding to have somebody else share your opinions about something,” Carpenter says. “Especially for a 12-month-old baby, but also for us. Imagine if you had a friend who never found the same things interesting that you did. It’s really rewarding for us, too.”
If you look closely enough at those outstretched fingers, you can see the roots of human cooperation. Our primate relatives don’t point declaratively. They point imperatively, like Donald Trump, and they will point to inform an experimenter where an object is—but only when there’s something in it for them, like food. But an ape wouldn’t point to a puppet, or anything else, for that matter, just because it was really cool. It’s a question of motivation, Carpenter says. “It’s just not important for them to share their opinions of things with others.”
Pointing to share an opinion builds on the foundation of what psychologists call joint attention—when two people pay attention to the same thing (and are aware that they’re both paying attention to that thing). Joint attention arises out of what Michael Tomasello, who heads the Developmental and Comparative Psychology Department at Max Planck, has called the nine-month revolution. Out of it grows the basis of pretty much all human achievement: the motivation and the ability to work together toward shared goals. (Apes never get there: They have the attention part but not the jointness.)
All this is enough for the appearance of pointing in infancy to be the most interesting mundane gesture ever. But as Carpenter and her colleagues have demonstrated, declarative pointing is not the only sort that babies do. “Infants from 12 months on, and even earlier in some cases, are pointing to express all kinds of complex meanings,” Carpenter says. For example, they will point just to inform you of something. “So if you’ve dropped something and don’t realize it, infants will point it out to you. There’s nothing in it for them. It’s just to help you.” In addition, babies will not just point to refer to an object that is no longer there—what psychologists call an absent referent—they take into account whether the adult has previously seen the object or not. In some cases, they seem to be trying to tell the adult what was there.
They can also deduce meanings based on who is pointing. When an adult and a baby are tossing toys in a basket together and the adult points to a toy and says, “There!” the baby will toss that toy in the basket too. He understands the pointing to refer not just to the toy but to the game they’re playing together. However, when another adult who isn’t playing the game points to an object out of the blue and says, “There!” the baby won’t toss it in the basket. (Who knows what that crazy adult means?) They also deduce meanings based on how purposeful the pointing appears: If an adult points to an object while looking distractedly at her wrist, the infant seems to assume that this pointing is happenstance, not an attempt to communicate with him.
Pointing, in other words, seems to call on a sophisticated understanding of what is going on in the heads of other people. “That suggests that they can do so much more with pointing prelinguistically than we ever thought before,” Carpenter says. Until recently, people thought that this sort of knowledge only emerged with language. Carpenter herself went to graduate school because she was interested in language. But then she started looking at prelinguistic gestures. “And everything’s already there! I completely lost interest in language because you can see so much complexity already in infants’ gestures.”
My youngest child is now 10 months old. We have exchanged deeply meaningful glances about fish pull-toys. He holds fabric vegetables up for shared approval.
We don’t know why pointing happens when it does. But in all likelihood, sometime soon—after months of my pointing toward interesting things and him drooling and staring dumbly at my finger—it will click. His head will turn.
And then, perhaps when he sees a totally awesome puppet, he will stretch out his own finger. This is a thrilling moment. Instead of listening to yet more of my opinions—and keep in mind that I’ve been monopolizing the conversation for a year now—he can offer his own. As Carpenter says, “The infant herself is able to say, ‘This is what I’m interested in.’ ” And she knows that you’ll be interested in what she has to say.
Nicholas Day's book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World, will be published in April. His website is

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Bye bye Attention Deficit...look there's a chicken...

I make a joke because I am so scattered all the time. I even said, "Look there's a squirrel" in the middle of my vows. But truly a diagnosis is not a joke.

We had Joey's quarterly appointment with his developmental pediatrician at the Melmed Center today. In January, I went in armed with a good report card and a good IEP progress report, plus data from home, to prove to the doc that Joey did not need the Focalin 5 she prescribed in October, after data showed that a low dose of regular Focalin did nothing to improve Joey's attention.

In 2011, when he completed the TOVA assessment, he scored in the double digits on most of it, impulsively hitting buttons and showing low focus. His results were "suggestive of attention deficit disorder."

Tuesday (4/16). Joey scored in the single digits, with a total of -120 (I don't understand this result) and his results were "not suggestive of attention deficit disorder." She did note that although the test is boring, which it's supposed to be, he still paid attention to it. When he came back into the waiting room after the test, he said "It was so boring!" The proctor told me it wasn't supposed to be exciting so they could test how well the patients attend to non-interesting material.

The doc is no longer pushing meds which makes me happy. We will continue to monitor him closely. I know as a parent, I can do things better, like push no electronics after a certain point, and be adamant about an earlier bedtime. There is always something that could use improvement.

Attention is a tricky thing and is a very common issue with kids on the Autism Spectrum. Most get a dual diagnosis. But for Joe, I never felt that he was truly ADD, even if both his parents are.

The doc did say that she would like him to have a pediatric cardiologist do a complete work up on Joey to get a baseline for when he is older, based on his cruddy family heart history.

Other than that, Joey is healthy (53 lbs, same as last time / 4 ft. 1 ins., he grew 1.5 inches).

I am so proud of my big boy and how hard he is working!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Redirecting goodbyes

Written 4/2/2013:

Goodbyes are said, all of Joey's things are back at the "heavy house" and his Dad is on his way. I was afraid there would be tears from Joey, but in typical Joe fashion, when Daddy said, "I'll see you in September," Joey said, "I can see my face in the doorbell."

It's sad and cute at the same time. I am glad that he is not upset and in tears; however, it shows how detached he can be. Maybe it's his coping mechanism. Only time will tell how well he does with his Dad leaving again.

Update 4/16/2013:

It's been exactly 2 weeks, and Joey has only mentioned his Dad a few times. His Dad, who is also very detached, went 12 days without so much as a text to see how Joey was doing? He texted me Sunday and then called a few times. Is it wrong that I want to put Daddy on extinction and ignore his attempts at contact for 12 days? Ben had a whole week before his fiance arrived, and still he couldn't find time to reach out to his son. Seriously, how long could a call take? Joey only ever talks for a few minutes. And how long does it take to text? Even the slowest texter can get it done pretty quick.

I wonder if and when my heart will stop breaking for my son.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Autism Awareness Day

Today, I don't celebrate Autism; I celebrate my son, his accomplishments, and my belief that we can improve the lives of kids with Autism. We will celebrate all the children affected by Autism today in the way we always celebrate: doing the robot dance.

Autism has led me down a path and on a journey that I never could have imagined. It has shown me great sorrow and great joy, and strengthened my faith in love, determination, and honestly, science. I feel like I was able to pull my son back through to me somehow before I completely lost him. I never thought that I would ever hear the words "I love you, Mama" from him but now I do everyday. We stil...l have challenges ahead, but I wouldn't change one step of this journey because it led me to where we are today. Joey made me a Mom the day he was born and challenged me to be the best parent that I can be over the last 8 years. Everything he does amazes me because I never thought that he would have friends and play dates, be a part of a sports team, be mainstreamed with typical kids in school, laugh at my jokes and imitate my sarcasm, show concern for others, and even have a conversation with me. Some parents take those things for granted, and even think I'm weird because I marvel at everything he does. But if they could only understand that just a few years ago, I never thought any of these things were possible. And then I found an amazing place called SARRC and our journey began...

Saying goodbye to Daddy...again

Preparing my sweet boy to say goodbye to his "Ben Daddy" tomorrow. In the last year, he has gotten to spend 11 weeks with him, and tomorrow he will say goodbye for another 5-6 months. Can you imagine not seeing your kid everyday? When his Dad comes back, he will have a wife which changes the dynamic for my son once again. I hope that as Joey continues to mature, he will understand that he can't take his Dad's choices personally. Some people are just not meant to be parents, but I'm thankful that he gave me my baby boy.

I have a feeling this time it will be harder than the last. His bond is growing with his Dad. I hope his Dad doesn't do anything to destroy it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Broken Cheeseburger

I love this story on Yahoo! today. I can imagine Joey saying something similar!


Autistic Girl's 'Broken Cheeseburger' Story Goes Viral

A local Chili's restaurant in Midvale, Utah, might have made the grave mistake of "breaking" one little girl's cheeseburger by cutting it in half, but the waitress, manager and line cooks more than made up for it Sunday when they presented her with a brand new "fixed" one.

Seven-year-old Arianna Hill is autistic and she loves cheeseburgers. But apparently, ones that are cut in half just won't do.

"We just decided we were going to get some lunch before we were taking her to see the Easter bunny," Arianna's older sister, Anna MacLean, 25, told "She usually does OK in restaurants. It seemed to be going pretty well. She wasn't too overstimulated. She was really enthusiastic before we were even able to put our drinks orders in. She told the waitress, 'I'll have my cheeseburger.'"

However, when Arianna's burger was delivered to the table, MacLean noticed that Arianna wasn't touching it, but instead only eating her french fries.

"Her verbal skills aren't the best, but she can communicate basic things," MacLean said. "I asked why she wasn't eating and she said, 'I don't want it. It's broken.' She said, 'I need one that's fixed.'"

MacLean loves spending time with Arianna, but is always prepared to come across someone who might not be as understanding of her special needs. Fortunately, the restaurant didn't skip a beat in correcting the broken burger and their compassionate actions have now gone viral.

"Our waitress came back over and I felt bad. I don't really expect people to understand these special requests, so I just told her to add a new burger to our bill," said MacLean. "I just told her to charge it to us and she said, 'No way.' She was just so sweet and played along with Arianna."

The Chili's server, Lauren Wells, didn't hesitate before leaning down to personally apologize for the broken burger and assured Arianna she would bring her a brand new fixed one.

"The manager came over and did the same thing. It was really a big deal. The line cooks even got involved," MacLean said. "When she brought it back out, Arianna said 'Oh, thank you! You brought me a fixed cheeseburger.' She sat there and looked at it and said 'Oh I missed you,' and kissed it over and over again."

MacLean was so touched by the staff's compassion and understanding that something as minor as a cut-in-half cheeseburger would be enough to ruin Arianna's whole day that she snapped a photo of Arianna giving the cheeseburger a kiss and uploaded it to Facebook along with a brief description of how well the restaurant handled the situation.

Before MacLean knew it, the "broken cheeseburger" photo had more than 100,000 "likes" on the social media site, a number that continues to rise rapidly. At the time of this writing, the post had more than 220,000 "likes" and 10,000 comments.

"It's just touching," said Harrison Dixson, the Chili's general manager. "I had no idea. I looked at it this morning and it had a couple thousand likes. I thought someone would say, 'Hey, good job Midvale. But I'm talking to 'Good Morning America.' This is just unbelievable."

Dixson said he's gotten calls from people all across the country, including the president of Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization, thanking him for the way his manager, Brad Cattermole, and server, Lauren Wells, interacted with Arianna.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of those two. I've been with this company for 13 years and I've never been as proud as I am today," said Dixson.

"It turned out great and this turned into something way bigger than anything I ever imaged," MacLean said. "The comments on the post just bring awareness to people. This is Arianna's story. And this is Lauren's story, and the manager. They are a true inspiration."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Reading update

It's almost that time of year again: time for the IEP update. Joey's reading teacher emailed me today to let me know she did an assessment today and Joey has moved up from a primer level to 1st grade. This means he is reading independently at a first grade level! He also got a 7 out of 10 on his spelling test. Baby steps, but they're moving in the right direction! I love my little man!

Saturday, February 16, 2013


9 years ago today, I found out I was FINALLY pregnant with my sweet baby boy. Life for me changed forever that day, as I began my journey into this thing called "motherhood." And I would not change a thing.

Goodbye to Legos?

I just heard words I never thought I'd hear: "Look, Mama, I really don't like Legos anymore; just the ones that aren't real, like aliens." "What about Pirates?" "They're not real." "Yes they are." "With a squid beard? Really?" "Can I sell them?" "Maybe. I'm all about Zords now." Well, I can't regret the thousands of dollars I've spent on them. I truly believe they changed Joey's life. They changed ours too. For the better. Because they pulled Joey out of the Autism fog, helping him with imaginative play and communication.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bernesto and Chase

"Bernesto" and Chase were the first kids Joey considered his friends (even before Karsen joined the crew mid-year in Kindergarten). Bernesto was even in Joey's special ed preschool class, but we didnt realize it until almost the end of Kindergarten. Both boys were in Kindergarten with Joey and then neither were in his 1st grade class. Bernesto is in 2nd grade class and even sits at Joey's table. Chase, Karsen, and Bernesto all came to Joey's birthday party this past October. Now to my point... This morning, as we walked into school, Bernesto was in front of us. He turned around, gave Joey a hug and said "Hey Joey." Then, when I walked up to get Joey from school (short 2 hour day today), I saw Chase and Joey having a conversation. Joey kept up! When other kids walked up, Chase and Joey naturally blended in. So proud of him!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Being literal with God

Last year, it was all about the zombie Jesus. To Joey, if Jesus is not dead and he comes back to life, then he must be a zombie.?

Then he wanted to know why, if God sees everything, why he doesn't shoot the criminals with his lasers?

Let's not forget Joey saying that God is not on the playground because he can't be more than one place at a time (like Church or watching over our house)

Last week, Joey got a question wrong on his quiz. It was "God provides you with everything you have, True or False? Joey said "False" and got it wrong. His logic? "God doesn't give me everything; Mama does."

Today, he was asked what he was giving up for Lent and without flinching, he said, "Smoking." He must hear me joking around about giving up something that I really don't do. When I told him he had to be serious, he gave me another serious answer:  Broccoli.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

My baby's love

"I love you with all my heart and bones and organs and my brain and my memories. And my squishy eyeballs." My child loves me so much. I need to remind myself of this when my heart feels a tug because he gets so excited when his Dad is around. Speaking of Dad....he will be on a plane tomorrow back to AZ. Joey's love for his Dad is super sized and in short spurts. His love for me is daily and long term and...squishy eyeballs.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Rules...according to Joey

Today at Target, we started talking about things Joey needs to learn before he becomes a teenager. He said, "I already know the rules:  Do not smoke; always pay for your stuff; do not go on crack; do not eat a popcorn seed; do not shoot a gun."

I said, "You forgot don't have a baby when you're a baby." He said, "How can a baby have a baby? A baby couldn't fit in a baby's belly." 

I clarified that I meant to not have a baby when he is a teenager. He asked what would happen if he did, and I told him he better never find out.

They grow up so fast:(

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dove and Daddy

Joey read a Dove wrapper that said "Make "someday" today. He then said, "Maybe someday I'll see my Daddy, you know your ex-husband." Just then, his Dad called to tell him that if his team goes onto the Mexico World Series (there's such a thing?), he won't be home until February...when spring training starts (he'll leave for Seattle 6 weeks later and be gone for 5 months). Joey is fine...he was happy to talk to Ben, but I feel bad for him. I'm so thankful I have Bryan, Uncle Paul, and Grandpa nearby.

As always, Joey keeps it locked up inside. I wish I knew how he was feeling and how I can help him.

South Park episode addressing Cartman's behavior

I have been a South Park fan for years. Behaviorguy posted the link to this episode on his Facebook yesterday and I had to share. Please be advised there may be some inappropriate language.

Fabulous waiter refused service because of rude remark

I love reading stories like these:

The waiter praised for REFUSING to serve man who made vile remark and complained about being seated near Down syndrome child

By David Mccormack
A waiter at a steakhouse in Houston, Texas has won a lot of fans after refusing to serve a customer who made a cruel comment about a special needs child that he didn’t wish to be seated near.
The incident took place at Laurenzo’s, where Michael Garcia has been working for more than two years and enjoys a good rapport with many of his regular customers.
On Wednesday night he greeted two groups of regulars - Kim Castillo and her family, including five-year-old Milo who has Down syndrome, and another group who sat in the adjacent booth.
Support is flowing in from all over, thanking Michael Garcia for taking a stand for a special needs child
Waiter Michael Garcia refused to serve a customer who made a cruel remake after special needs children
Michael Garcia has been working for more than two years at Laurenzo's in Houston, Texas
Michael Garcia has been working for more than two years at Laurenzo's in Houston, Texas
Not long after Garcia seated the second family they requested to be moved. Garcia duly obliged, until he heard the man say, 'Special needs children need to be special somewhere else.'
Garcia was thrown by the cruel remark and couldn't believe that the man had said it in front of his own children. Although worried that he might lose his job, Garcia felt he had to something.
‘It was very disturbing,’ he told ABC13. ‘My personal feelings just took over and I told this man, 'I'm sorry, I can't serve you.'"

That family quickly left, but not before Garcia told him: 'How could you say that? How could you say that about a beautiful five-year-old angel?'
Kim Castillo says she noticed the family leaving, but didn’t think anything else about it until one of Garcia’s co-workers told them what had happened.
'If he had been obnoxious, which like any other five-year-old he can be, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the family asking to move,' she said.
Kim Castillo and young son Milo, she said he shouldn't be discriminated against because he has Down syndrome
Kim Castillo and young son Milo, she said he shouldn't be discriminated against because he has Down

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Parkridge boundaries

I went to a "closed" meeting regarding the boundaries at Parkridge Elementary school. Let's just say, I was shaking for an hour after.

Please read my petition and consider signing it. This is not fair that people who live near the school are being zoned out or "displaced," to accomodate children on variances from other schools. My son's daily life and skills development will be affected by this.

Peoria Unified School District Governing Board and Zoning Committee: Stop open enrollment which is overpopulating our schools.

Petitioning Peoria Unified School District Governing Board and Zoning Committee

This petition will be delivered to:
Peoria Unified School District Governing Board and Zoning Committee

Peoria Unified School District Governing Board and Zoning Committee: Stop open enrollment which is overpopulating our schools.

    1. Michelle Hogan
    2. Petition by
      Peoria, United States

In the northwest area of the Peoria Unified School District, schools are becoming overpopulated. To fix this, they are changing the school boundaries and are moving students as many as 2 or 3 times in the next few years, based on estimated growth of the area. They have a program in Arizona known as "open enrollment," which allows for children to go to any school of their choosing, regardless of where their home school is, or even if they live in the district. The rule is supposed to be as long as they can accommodate those children, they can attend the school. However, the zoning committee is now saying that once you're in the school, you're safe, meaning that the children on variances from other schools are a higher priority than the children who live within the boundaries of that school. This is not fair. Why is my child not safe when I purposely bought within the boundary for our school? Our subdivision, Camino A Lago South, will be the most affected. My son, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, Epilepsy, and Dyslexia, will be moved several times, with no regard for his special needs or what the constant change will do to a child who needs stability and security. Change can be difficult for any child, especially those who thrive in structure and familiar surroundings.
The rules from PUSD regarding open enrollment and variances is attached below:

What is the district policy on open enrollment? The District has an open-enrollment program as set forth in A.R.S. 15-816 et seq. The open enrollment program described in this policy shall be placed on the District website and made available to the public on request. No tuition shall be charged for open enrollment, except as authorized by applicable provisions of A.R.S. 15-764, 15-797, 15-823, 15-824, and 15-825.
Resident transfer pupil means a resident pupil who is enrolled in or seeking enrollment in a school that is within the school district - but outside the attendance area - of the pupil's residence.
Nonresident pupil means a pupil who resides in this state and who is seeking enrollment in a school district other than the school district in which the pupil resides.
Enrollment Options
District resident pupils may enroll in another school district or in another school within this District. Resident transfer pupils and nonresident pupils may enroll in schools within this District, subject to the procedures that follow.
Information and Application
The Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee shall prepare a written information packet concerning the District's application process, standards for acceptance or rejection, and policies, regulations, and procedures for open enrollment. The packet will be made available to everyone who requests it.
The Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee shall annually estimate how much excess capacity
Peoria Unified School District Governing Board and Zoning Committee
Stop open enrollment which is overpopulating our schools.
[Your name]


Reasons for signing

    • 31 minutes ago

    My son with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be affected by having to move schools more than once before high school just to accomodate other children from other areas.


Keep your supporters engaged with a news update.

Michelle Hogan
Petition Organizer