Handicap placard…

I did a thing today. I applied for a handicap placard as a parent of a child with a disability. At first I wasn’t sure about it because Courtney is not physically handicapped. Other autism parents had shared that they had one so I decided to ask her pediatrician about her. Courtney’s pediatrician immediately said we should definitely have one for safety reasons.

Courtney is a runner. As the doctor stated on the form, “she’s a flight risk”. If you are walking in a parking lot and not holding on to her hand, she will likely take off running. She may even try to take off while holding her hand. Though it has gotten better after a lot of practice, there is still a chance at any given time, she will take off on us.

Courtney also struggles with transitions into places. If she is anxious about going into a building or store, she will fall to the ground. Now that she’s bigger, I can’t just carry her. I’ve learned ways to safely physically assist her but it is not easy.

So for these reasons, with her Pediatrician’s assistance, we have applied for a placard. so to other parents in my position, don’t hesitate. Do what you need to do to keep your child safe!

So many changes….

Courtney’s last few years….

Kindergarten: new school, new teacher, new nanny. Covid hits in March and “school” out for year.

1st grade: 1st nanny (Savannah) returns, remote learning, hybrid learning then full time in person.

2nd grade: New nanny. She’s finally in person all day and every day then….nanny quits, and Courtney also has a sub at school for 3 weeks only to find out her teacher resigned so now a new teacher. Savannah returns!

Alyssa’s last few years…

Preschool: new school, new teacher, new nanny. Covid hits in March and “school” out for year.

Pre-K: Savannah returns. Remote learning with teacher from 1st year. Remote learning with new teacher . Hybrid learning. Full time back in school.

Kindergarten: new school, new teacher, all day school. New Nanny. Nanny quits. Savannah returns!

My family thrives on routine. We thrive on consistency. I feel like the last three years have been all but that. No wonder Courtney’s behaviors are all over the place. No wonder Alyssa’s anxiety is bad. No wonder I’m losing my mind!

We will just keep plugging along and enjoy every moment of those calm and happy moments.

The good, bad and well….disgusting

September was a very long and hard month. There was some good, some bad and well…some disgusting.

The good…we are all adjusting to being back to school. Alyssa is handling full day kindergarten beautifully! Our new nanny is managing the schedule well and we are very pleased! I’m one week away from completing my first class of 10 towards my BCBA! And we survived the month!

The bad…Courtney has had a rough start to school. Not awful but not great. Her behaviors have increased and avoiding work like a champ. We have seen some regression in some areas too. It’s been defeating to see reports of a lot of pinching and scratching day after day.

The other bad…Alyssa’s sensitivity noises had gotten better once school started. It definitely helped that she wasn’t home all day with Courtney. The last 2 weeks though it is coming back. School is starting to see it too. She talks about how the class is just too loud. This of course worries me. Fortunately the teacher seems to be very understanding and is helping her through these moments.

Then there’s the disgusting. The behavior that’s going to break me if it continues much longer. The behavior that makes me want to shout “Autism sucks” as loud as I can. As I’ve shared, Courtney is still not potty trained. We still have this major hurdle of her being scared of the bathroom. In some ways she’s ready, but yet we are so far. Her newest behavior is when she has a bowel movement it ends up everywhere. Let’s just say this beautiful Saturday morning started off with us pulling out the massive rug cleaner at 7 am.

September was tough but we survived. We are happy and healthy and sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

An older sister…

“Mommy?” Asked Alyssa from the back seat of the car who was sitting next to Courtney.

“My friend, ‘Rachel’ has an older sister who can talk. I don’t. That makes me sad. So does ‘Elise’.”

It was hard to hold back the tears but I needed to. While holding back the tears I also had to think of a response that would make it all better for this little 5 year old special need’s sibling. How do I explain to her that though she doesn’t have what her friends have she still has something special.

I know what triggered this conversation. We were at her school’s ice cream social tonight. She ran into her friend, ‘Rachel’. The two of them, along with Rachel’s sister, played on the playground together and ate their ice cream together. Courtney was there but Courtney was doing her own thing. Courtney didn’t even acknowledge that she was at the park with Alyssa.

I came up with a response and I think she was ok with the response. Meanwhile, my heart is still healing from the conversation.

Birthday emotions…

The emotions a parent goes through on the day of their child with autism birthday is hard to explain. It’s definitely one of those moments that unless you have a child with autism, you will never understand. In fact, you may even question our emotions? I can almost hear the comment, “can’t you just enjoy their special day?”

That’s exactly it! We want to enjoy their special day! We want to enjoy just like everyone else gets to enjoy their child’s special day. But it’s hard to enjoy their special day when you don’t even know if they comprehend that it’s their special day.

Did we celebrate it the way Courtney wanted to celebrate it?

Did she have fun?

Did she get the presents she wanted?

Did she enjoy her cake?

Does she even know it’s her birthday?

She can’t answer these questions so I honestly don’t know.

So I’m left with basing it all on body language, her facial expressions, her mood, her noises, etc. Based on those? Well, she attacked me when I tried to put her penguin birthday shirt on her because it wasn’t pajamas (mind you she had pajama pants on, she seemed indifferent about her presents, and she barely even looked at the adorable polar bear and penguin cupcakes. Did she enjoy her birthday?

I forgot to mention the strongest emotion I feel on her birthday each year. The emotion of though she is another year older, she is still so far behind those her age,

I know, I should just enjoy her on her special day. Which I did. I just also think it’s healthy for us special needs moms to acknowledge all the emotions we feel.

Happy 8th Birthday…

My mom painted this beautiful Winnie The Pooh picture with my favorite quote on it for Courtney’s nursery when she was born. It reads, “As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was about to happen.”

Oh, Courtney, the adventures you have brought us on these past 8 years. Adventures that have brought us heart ache and joy, tears and laughter, fear and excitement. Some adventures I never even imagined we would go on that first day I held you in my arms. Most of these adventures have been far from easy but every single one of them I would go on with you again because each one of them have made me so proud to be your mom.

You are 8 now and there are still so many adventures to go. No matter the adventure, you keep being the beautiful little girl that you are.

We love you more than words can say. Happy 8th Birthday, Courtney Cathryn!

Inclusion is for everyone…

I got the most beautiful email from Courtney’s teacher. Instead of paraphrasing it, I’m sharing it. It read…

Hi Mrs. Cranston,
I just have to tell you about this fabulous experience that I had today with your sweet girl! She makes me so very proud! I hope I can explain it all.
I was able to go to her general education art class today! She was a bit cranky…bc it turned out she went number 2. But we didn’t realize until we were there. She came in for her 25 minutes of art. She immediately sat down and asked for play doh…she knows that is Mr. Arndts routine. Project than play doh. She was using her talker. Which of course got the interest of all of her peers! They started asking Mr. Arndts questions about it. Then I invited them over to look at her device. They started asking Courtney questions! I prompted and modeled ‘hello’ on the device. And then the questions kept coming. What’s your favorite pet, favorite color, favorite food…in which Courtney navigated her device to answer some of those questions. Because she was a bit crabby, I was close by, but she was able to keep herself pretty level as far as meltdowns go when there were so many questions and people around! Safely though!
I was so very excited to navigate and teach these students how Courtney communicates and to help foster friendships outside of my classroom. (End of email)

I cried as I read it. Cried so many happy tears. I’ve struggled some with the idea of her going in a regular classroom. I question how much she actually gets out of it. But here’s the thing. Inclusion is not just for the students with special needs. This is a beautiful example of how inclusion is for everyone involved.

To the students in that general education classroom…thank you for wanting to learn how truly awesome Courtney is.

How’s it going?

This was the first full week of all 4 of us being back in school. So how did it go?

Joe is in his usual groove. Happy to be back with all of his students in person.

This year is the first year um starting with half of my day having a full case load and boy are we feeling it. You can tell everyone is still trying to recover from the craziness of last school year.

Grad school kicked my butt this week. I was definitely surprised on how much work was involved. I wasn’t joking in my last post when I said I almost backed out 3 times. I think now that I know what is expected I’ll be able to make it work but that definitely made this last week difficult,

Alyssa is starting off kindergarten beautifully! I couldn’t be happier. We are struggling with her not wanting to eat anything while there but we will figure that out. Her favorite thing so far is music class. She said her music teacher is super funny!

I was so consumed with Alyssa starting kindergarten that I didn’t worry much about how Courtney’s year started. She has the same team for the 3rd year. I went with the attitude of no news is good news. Needless to say I was a little surprised on Thursday this week when I received an email in the middle of the afternoon from her teacher saying it’s been a tough week for her. This made my heart sink. That news was followed by a happy Friday and news that she actually peed in the toilet! Not sure what others think but that news easily trumps the tough week!

As much as this year is starting a tad bit more normal than last year, you can still feel the aftermath of it all and the anticipation of how it will continue but to keep this post from attracting an argument I’ll just keep it at that.

It was a stressful week. It was an exhausting week. But overall I think you can say it was a successful week since we all made it to Friday.

Happy Friday all!

We did it!

We did it! All four of us are back to school. This week included getting use to mommy and daddy being back at school, a new nanny, full day kindergarten, 2nd grade and grad school. There were tears, anxiety, aggression, smiles, and laughter. BUT…we did it. We got through this first week that included so many new things and we finished with smiles (and a look of exhaustion) on our faces. I am one proud mom!


Photo Challenge-Day 18


Day 18- – picture with a sibling

My very best friend in the world is my little sister. So when Courtney was born, I knew immediately I wanted her to have a little sister. I wanted her to have a sister to play dolls with, play school with and always be the teacher while her younger sister was the student, ride bikes with and all those other fun sister things. She has a little sister but their bond is quite different then I imagined.

Their bond is complicated but special. Most often they are happiest when they are no where near each other. Their sensory systems can’t always tolerate each other. They don’t play dolls together, they don’t play much together at all.

Then there are these moments. Moments where they rough house and Alyssa tickles Courtney until she is belly laughing. There are moments when Alyssa gives Courtney her hand to rub. Moments where Alyssa helps Courtney with something that is hard. Moments where you see they truly love each other. It is those moments where I stop and smile. Their bond may not look like the one I have with my sister but there is a bond and it is beautiful.