Celebrate Often and Be Peppered with Possibilities!

Many parents experience difficulties with children having ‘picky’ eating habits. This challenge is often magnified for Autistic children because of the increased probability of sensory processing complications. Whether the food overstimulates or underwhelms the senses, it can be a quick and easy refusal of food on sight or smell alone!

Of course there are Autistic children who enjoy a variety of vegetables and fruits. However, many parents – including myself – find it difficult to persuade our Autistic child to voluntarily and consistently consume the most healthiest of foods.

One minor solution to help increase vegetables/fruit intake is to hide these items among food that your child already enjoys. For example, try adding a purée of carrots to spaghetti sauce if your picky eater loves spaghetti. One may conclude that ‘hiding’ fruits and vegetables is a good start. However, the ultimate goal is finding the right healthy foods that your child will be eager to eat!

For more ideas about boosting meals with purées, check out this book.

The Right Super Food Made it to the Table

I admit that I have not been the best at preparing and eating vegetables. I recognized that changing my eating habits could directly influence the habits of my son. This thought, along with some unexpected weight gain, helped guide my decision to participate in a Reset and Rebalance Program. The “Reset” included a week of all the vegetables that I could stand. So when it was time to dice all those vegetables to make some easy and filling soup, I had my seven year old son sitting at the table with me. To my surprise, he picked up a piece of a bell pepper and took several bites!

I must admit that when he first tried bell peppers, he only chewed then (which got messy). But my “Celebrate Often” excitement of knowing that he chose to opened his mouth and try peppers overruled my concerns over the mess. Now, whenever I chop and dice vegetables, I try to have my youngest son sitting with me, leaving every type of vegetable within his reach.

Small Change, Great Reward

You might think that adding bell peppers to a diet is not much to celebrate, but you would be wrong. There are many amazing benefits of bell peppers. They are high in vitamin A, supporting eye health. They are a great source of vitamin C, which supports tissue health and immunity. The folate in peppers supports the functioning of red blood cells. The lycopene, in red bell peppers fight free radicals that are acquired from natural exposure to environmental toxins. Are you celebrating yet? All these benefits are great, but there are a couple more benefits, or possible benefits, that really causes me to celebrate!

The high sources of potassium and the good source of fiber helps keep fluids and minerals balanced and can help regulate digestion. Since my son regularly suffers from constipation, these combined benefits are greatly reflective of his nutritional needs. Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, consumption of bell peppers may help lower the risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal, breast, and prostate. Although my son is only a young seven, his Autism is thought to be a symptom for a rare disease, PTEN Hamartomous Tumor Syndrome (PHTS), which can increase the risk of cancers such as colorectal, breast, and prostate. Amazing, right?!

The Not Mad. Motivated. Mindset

When it comes to a picky eater, just like in life, it is important to create new paths and possibilities to success. We all come across difficult situations, some more difficult and more traumatic than others. These situations are ours to overcome! Whether we have the support of a community, or we are in our “corner” alone, it is ultimately our decision to use all the strength within and around us to survive and seek success.

Not Mad. Motivated. was created to be a reminder to use current and past difficulties and challenges as motivation for forward movement toward positive change. Help us spread the Not Mad. Motivated. mindset by purchasing your Not Mad. Motivated. shirt today!

Not Mad. Motivated. short sleeved t-shirt in Royal Blue with white print.

Coming this week: New Not Mad. Motivated. merchandise!

Autism at the Movie Theater: A “Not Mad. Motivated.” Point of View

Today I head about an 8-year-old Autistic girl being mocked by a woman during a screening of Dumbo.

“You don’t bring a kid that goes ‘Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop,’ every other minute to the movie. . . I’m leaving. You ruined the movie.”

– unidentified woman according to abc13 Houston

The story, which was posted by abc13 Houston, inspired a social media user to seemingly sympathize with the mocker. As a parent of an Autistic 7-year-old, I would like to share my reaction to both the mocking and the comments raised by the third party.

“Can you please shut her up?”

– unidentified woman according to mother of 8-year-old (as seen on abc13 Houston)

How would you feel if someone approached you with these words about your child, niece, nephew, or any child under your supervision, especially one with special needs? Even if the child was completely in the wrong, which this child was not, approaching the wrong caregiver with this level of disrespect could have resulted in much more than a ‘ruined movie’. In most circumstances, you are better received when your words are kind and respectful.

We Pay a Lot of Money...

The one argument that was given in support of the unsatisfied moviegoer was that a lot of money is being spent at the movie theaters and ‘it’s no fun when you cannot enjoy the show’. Does this statement imply that my money is less valuable than the next person’s money because my child may be disruptive at times? If I decide to take my sons to the movie theater, I am also paying a lot of money! So much money that I prefer to attend the earliest viewing to save a few dollars on the four or five tickets we need to purchase to treat the whole family. We also buy, at a minimum, drinks and popcorn. If you feel that your movie is being ruined, speak to a theater representative versus allowing your words and actions to further ruin the movie for others. Maybe the theater supervisor would be willing to refund your money, or give you a voucher for a different viewing.

Maybe a Private Movie Would be Best.

The social media user continued with a “solution” by suggesting that “maybe a private movie would be best”. It sounds like the user could be referring to what has been labelled as “Sensory Friendly” movie showings, where the lights are typically turned up, the sounds are typically turn down, and getting up to dance, walk, shout or sing is acceptable. I think these types of initiatives are good efforts that more venues are starting to adopt, but the options are limited in terms of viewing times and movie titles. Plus, not all Autistic children/adults are created “sensory-equal”. For example, my son very much enjoys loud sounds and would be fine with the typical volume found at the theater.

A “Not Mad. Motivated.” Point of View

The Autism Logo for Not Mad. Motivated.

As a parent of an Autistic child, venturing outside of are normal routine is not taken lightly. I know that my son’s behaviors may cause negative reactions, stares, and comments but that does not mean that my family has earned exclusion from normal family activities. Isolation can be very dangerous. This is particularly true within the special needs community. As an outsider, please consider that your kindness can ‘heal’ but your rudeness can ‘kill’.

Instead of getting mad over the often self-regulated, self-soothing behaviors of a person with Autism or any other disability, decided to get motivated! Be motivated to be a more joyous person when you witness the authenticity of a child being a child or an adult being free of masking. Be motivated to provide an environment where all people being their innocent selves are excepted. Be motivated to encourage theaters and other venues to provide a more suitable variety of “Sensory Friendly” options. Be motivated to accept families and individuals, as they are, by recognizing that your acceptance of them is not only a Blessing to them but will also bring you pure joy – if only you are patient enough to recognize it.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Autism Awareness and Supporting Community

This Month – September 2018 – Not Mad. Motivated. has set an ambitious goal of selling 100 Not Mad. Motivated. shirts.  I know that reaching this goal will only take place with the support of community.  Most of us have been members of many communities throughout our lives, and there are often elements of support that allows us to successfully move from one stage to another.

My parents and family supported my math and reading interests, which allowed me to be confident when pursuing my education.  My friends and classmates, along with teachers and staff, at Farrell Area Schools (Farrell, PA), Bennett College (Greensboro, NC) and the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC) provided me an environment to learn how to better “become me” and create lasting memories,  while preparing for the unknown future.

As a parent, I am now creating communities to help build support for my children.  Our Merrick-Moore community is amazing and makes me feel like I am back home in Farrell (minus the Olympics-size swimming pool and the planetarium – yes, my small home town school had both)!  We are new to middle school this year, so we are in the process of building a new and productive community at Neal.

My youngest son has inspired us to become a part if a much larger community.  He was diagnosed with autism, and this community of families encompasses an intersection of all people from all walks of life. Not Mad. Motivated. was, and continues to be, inspired by autism.  We are dedicated to increasing autism awareness, and once we sell our first 15 shirts in the month of September, we will purchase at less two copies of Noah and Logan – Children’s Book Series, written by Benjamin K.M Kellogg.

Mr. Kellogg is an adult with autism and he writes children’s book that focuses on social and life skills.  I am excited to read his stories, which includes “Noah and Logan Learn to Clean”, “Noah and Logan Learn to Share”, “Noah and Logan Learn to Tie Their Sneakers”, “Noah and Logan Learn to Care for Their Pets ”, and “Noah and Logan Learn to Make New Friends ”.  I am even more excited about gifting Mr. Kellogg’s book to my son’s exceptional children’s classroom.

If you are interested in learning more about Mr. Kellogg, go to benjaminkmkellogg.com or kellogthoughts.com.  Thank you, Mr. Kellogg, for using your experiences to help others navigate a path that can be full of challenges.

To purchase your Not Mad. Motivated. shirts, go to notmadmotivated.com or email me at notmadmotivated.@gmail.com.  Thank you for your support!

The Important ‘Voice’ of the Autistic Expert

My interactions with disabled individuals, from cousins to classmates, started at a very young age. My most impactful experiences likely came from my mother working at a group home. Some children were wheelchair-dependent, some spoke, some didn’t speak so well, and some did not seem like they belonging there. At that time, I didn’t completely understand why people were ‘different’. But I always understood that, no matter their appearance or abilities, they deserved compassion and respect.

When I was younger, the terms ‘Autism’ and ‘Autistic’ were not including in my language. However, I believe that my experiences and interactions with the disabled helped to prepare me for one of my most challenging – and rewarding – roles, being a mother of a disabled, Autistic child. My family’s journey with Autism started over six years ago, even though we only became aware of this journey last year.

The journey has been full of challenges, but the biggest challenge for me is not knowing! Not knowing if he hurts. Not knowing the healthiest foods that he will eat. Not knowing the best methods for him to learn. Not knowing if I have what he needs to maximize his success. He doesn’t have many words to vocalize his needs and wants, but he has plenty of potential role models who have experienced some of the things he has, and some things he will, experience.

This week, I have started a project to collect work from autistic authors who want to share their knowledge and educate others about their perspective of Autism. I can’t imagine a better expert to relay these life lessons. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all are teachers and students. Let’s support our Autistic authors and let the know that their voices are important to us!

If you know an Autistic author of books, blogs, etc., please leave the information in the comments area, or email me at NotMadMotivated@gmail.com.

We are the support that we need!

Amazing April and Autism Awareness – Awesome!

As another April comes to an end, I reflect on my first Autism Awareness Month “after the diagnosis”.  It was a month packed full of new adventures.  During spring break, our family celebrated World Autism Awareness & Acceptance Day at the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Camp Royall in Moncure, NC.  It was on a very warm North Carolina spring day, but the ‘hay ride’ provided a very comfortable breeze!   

We also had a quick getaway to our nation’s capital, the beautiful Washington, DC!  In DC, we were greeted by amazing cherry blossoms and SNOW!  We braved the surprisingly frigid weather long enough to walk onside the reflection pool up to the Lincoln Memorial.  This journey was especially symbolic as this visit took place the same week as so many celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, fifty years after his assassination. 

Another super awesome event that the family participated in was the “It’s Cool to Fly American” event at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.  This event, hosted by American Airlines, AT&T, and the HollyRod Foundation, provided individuals with autism, and other developmental disabilities, and their families with a mock flight!  We were given tickets, went through security and boarded the plane.  We were able to experience the acceleration of the plane – although we did not take off.  We were even served drinks.  It was a useful experience to get a glimpse of how air travel might be in the future. 

As this Amazing April and Autism Awareness Month comes to an end, I am looking forward to the many adventures to come!  I plan to organize a team for at least one run/walk for Autism in the 2018 – stay tune for an invite!  I am also in the planning process of proposing a school program to promote autism awareness year-round and to promote better acceptance of autistic children from the general student population.  This is all to say, I am “Not Mad”.  I am “Motivated”.  Wishing you all a #NotMadMotivatedLife!