Monday, May 28, 2012

The Beach: a Different Place

As summer nears, the thoughts of many of us turn to the beach. Today, we had an advance show-and-tell, starting with Deep Sea Dive, a dive guide book that helped us explore the underwater world and learn about deep-sea creatures.

Then Ms Forbis said, "Cristopher…do you see the octopus on this hand-puppet?"

"Oh, yes," he said. Then he traced over sandpaper fish hidden by Ms White under green construction paper. It was an exciting morning for all.

The beach is not only exciting, it's a place that never changes but never stops changing. After all, time is precious — it seems there is no longer time to relax and spend time away, no time to think things through. But surely you and I believe that all people should have a place to go, a place of complete serenity, a place we can call our own. Surely we all believe we deserve some time away — with or without our disabled child.

But isn't that somehow…selfish?

To paraphrase what Erma Bombeck once wrote (God Chooses a Mom for a Disabled Child): "You may have been chosen for this child because you have just enough selfishness. It's a virtue because if you can’t separate yourself from the child occasionally, you’ll never survive. However," she continues, "you’ll have to teach the child to live in the child's world and that’s not going to be easy."

But, increasingly, help is available. Mothers and dads are not alone. There's even help at the beach! For example, you can register now for Surfing for autism, a free two-day (August 10-11) event on the Outer Banks at Jeanette’s Pier in Nags Head. It offers individuals and families impacted by autism to experience the therapeutic benefits of paddling and surfing. It was created in 2010 by two parents with children who have autism.

Others of us may turn to the mountains, or maybe someplace exotic and far away. But what if your long-planned trip ends up somewhere other than where you intended? Emily Perl Kingsley wrote about just such an event in her 1987 essay "Welcome to Holland" where the excitement of a planned vacation to Italy becomes a disappointment when the plane lands instead in Holland. It's a metaphor about raising a child with a disability after planning for a "normal" child.

Holland: just a different place.

There I go again, waxing poetic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Picnic at Pullen Park

Tickets please! You're about to board the train, kiddie boats, and carousel of Pullen Park. Ready? Let's go!

Hungry? Time for the picnic!

By the way, the music you just heard (if you watched the video or rode the carousel) was from a Wurlitzer 125 organ, identical to the one made by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company and installed here in 1924. The carousel itself was made circa 1900 by master carver Salvatore Cernigliaro and just re-opened last November – as did the entire park – after being closed for two years while undergoing extensive renovations. The one-third sized operational miniature train is a near exact replica of a locomotive that was built in 1863. The park itself was founded in 1887.

'Nuff said. The picnic shelter was a great place to spend some quality time together. It was good to be back.

We'll have to do it again!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Signs of Spring

Hey everybody!

It's spring!
— and you know what that means —
The grass grows tall and then — well, you know the rest — Spring is when...

hummingbirds sip, dart and dip
bees hum, strum and drum,
snakes glide, slip and slide,
caterpillars lunch, crunch and munch,

But I bet you didn't know that we not only grow our own caterpillars — we make them!

A sure sign of spring: Ben turned five today (May 8). And he was serenaded to twice! — by Ms Forbis and Ms Paula.

Like Ben, we learn as we grow. Today, we learned the fist bump – another way to say hello. It's like a handshake or high five. And everybody knows that a fist bump and a song help us to pull together as a team.

And sometimes it takes a team to get things done; like this super-team below who recently came together to share cutting-edge issues in medical and clinical autism research.

Springtime for a cure?
In 1938, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi, was the first child diagnosed with autism. Today, some form of autism affects one in every 110 American children – and nobody knows why. Recently (May 11), I saw the most interesting discussion I've ever seen on the subject – the Charlie Rose "Brain Series 2 - episode 6". Charlie brought together a panel of five leaders in autism research to examine the very latest developments (
Here are just some of the questions discussed…

• What is the biology and instance of autism?
• What is the instance of autism in children of parents who are older?
• What is the living experience of autism in children and adults?
• How are autistic children and adults like/unlike "normal" children and adults?
• What is the new "Theory of the Mind"?
• What role do genes play in autism?
• Is the William Syndrome autism's opposite?
• Can an autistic child develop increased ability over time?
• Are parents justified in feeling guilt for "bad parenting" or "passing along bad genes" as being causes of autism in their child?

• Charlie Rose: American television talk show host and journalist. Since 1991 he has hosted Charlie Rose, an interview show distributed nationally by PBS since 1993. A new one-hour episode airs nearly every weeknight.
• Eric R. Kandel: Columbia University professor, senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
• Alison Singer: Co-Founder and President of the Autism Science Foundation, mother of a daughter with autism, legal guardian of her adult brother with autism, graduated from Yale and Harvard.
• Uta Frith: Leading developmental psychologist working at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, pioneered much of the current research in autism and dyslexia, author of "Autism: Explaining the Enigma".
• Gerald Fischbach: Executive V.P. for Health and Biomedical Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.
• Matthew State: Associate Professor of Psychiatry; Director of Yale Neurogenetics Program. Pioneer in the molecular genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and Tourette’s Syndrome.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cinco de Mayo at Frankie Lemmon

Ben: "Charlotte, What on earth is Cinco de Mayo? Do you know?"

Charlotte: "No sé."

Marlon: "Bilal, do you know?"

Bilal: "Ask me later – after I finish this wonderful flan."

Marlon: "What's flan?"

Bilal: "It's sort of a Mexican baked caramel custard – and it's Ohh so good! Ms White made it for Cinco de Mayo."

Cristopher: "Ms Forbis, what's Cinco de Mayo?"

Ms Forbis: "Maybe I can help. Cinco means five. Right?"

Cristopher: "Right, Ms Forbis."

Ms Forbis: "And look what it says in our book Cinco de Mouse-o! – right on the first page: 'On the fifth of May, Mouse woke up and wriggled his whiskers. Spicy smells tickled his nose—beany, cheesy, ricey smells. A Mexican fiesta. ¡Fantástico!' In other words, Cristopher, Cinco de Mayo means the fifth of May. That's Saturday. To our Mexican and Latino friends, it's like our fourth of July."

Miss Paula (just entering the room): "Friends, let's celebrate – and that means fiesta! ¡Cinco de Mayo! ¡Que Felicidad!"

(If you can't see this video, click here)