Autism Awareness #LightItUpBlue for Understanding and Acceptance

I recently shared a bit about my autism story with my middle child. Diagnosed High Functioning Autistic about 3 years ago or so, it was a new learning experience. With that being said, finally having the diagnosis that now is pretty much Asperger’s helped us to better raise our son. Now when others want to look at him odd or make faces because he isn’t as social as one would anticipate for a 10 year old boy to be, I just say “that’s how he is and that’s okay! He will socialize when he warms up to people but that takes a while.” And I am okay with who my son is and I think he’s pretty darn awesome!

Since April is World Autism Month, I’ve decided to #LightItUpBlue with Autism Speaks to increase understanding and awareness of autism. I have found that more people are aware of autism than ever before. I personally have learned that there are many areas of Autism that make raising autism so tricky. No two parents will have the same child who exhibits exactly the same quirks or personality traits. It’s highly likely that you know someone with autism too since the CDC estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in every 68 children in the United States.

Autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

Why I’m Going to #LightItUpBlue for Understanding and Acceptance

Autism’s most obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Autism Speaks encourages parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.

My Son Was Diagnosed around age 8

It wasn’t easy to get an autism diagnosis. First he was said to be ADHD, bi-polar as that runs heavily in the family and at age 2 I even had a pysch try to give him anti-psychotic drugs. I walked out and never went back there! It isn’t easy to get a diagnosis for Autism because the symptoms can be clearly misdiagnosed for ADHD, bipolar and other mental health symptoms like anxiety. There simply aren’t many professionals out there who will look deeper, they prefer to give a quick diagnosis in my opinion and ADHD or anxiety is much easier to say a child has than to take the time to evaluate for autism. Again that is simply based on my own experiences. Finally we met a psychologist who has an adult son who is high functioning autistic – she diagnosed my middle kiddo in a mere matter of minutes. From that day forward my son was no longer on any medications and we worked to mold his household life into something that decreased meltdowns, was routine driven and worked for him.

Never Give UP!

If I had to advise anyone looking to get a diagnosis or answers, I would say DO NOT EVER GIVE UP! You will find someone who gets your child and will give you the diagnosis you and your child deserve. Try to find someone who has a child or grandchild with autism, they are the key to spreading awareness and getting more kiddos diagnosed properly.

Light it Up Blue

The “Light It Up Blue” campaign is about more than awareness — it is about increasing understanding and acceptance of autism.  This includes advocacy and support for people across the entire spectrum throughout their lives. It also includes advancing research into personalized treatments for autism and related conditions.  I encourage you test your understanding of autism by taking this quiz!

Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include GI disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.

My son has GI issues, he has sleep issues and as a younger child ADHD was certainly present. Overall my son still has anxiety and after having his adenoids out he sleeps okay. There’s a tick he has when he is excited and now at age 10 he simply tells his friends that’s what he does when he’s excited, he doesn’t know why. There’s little symptoms he has that you can see if only you know more about autism, the average person may just see him a shy, quiet kid until you get to know him then he’s a chatty Cathy!

Why I’m Going to #LightItUpBlue for Understanding and Acceptance

Make a Difference …

You can help make a difference too by taking the Light It Up Blue Quiz to see how much you know about autism. If you’re moved to do so after visiting, please show your support for and understanding of the challenges faced by individuals with autism by sharing a photo to #LightItUpBlue for Autism Awareness Month too. Also, check out Autism Speaks’ nationwide calendar of autism-friendly friendly events and activities in April.

High Functioning Autism: Gets Better with Age?

My experiences as a mom to a high functioning autistic son may be different than others. Every person has their own traits, quirks and environment that play a toll in changes that happen. This post is based solely on my own experiences of raising a son on the autism spectrum.

Teach Skills in a Logical Way vs Emotional Way

OCD, Autism, Anxiety and ODD

In Spring of 2014 we received the diagnosis that our son was High Functioning Autistic. After years of counseling, various physiologists and even risky narcotic medications we were at the end of our rope. Nothing was really working and our son didn’t fit into any specific category that anyone could pinpoint. There were some signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Autism, Bipolar and Anxiety to name a few things.  As parents, we did what we thought was best, following instructions of a counselor and psychologist. The medication seemed to be necessary and so we went with it. After multiple medications being switched and tried, our son became immune to the medication. Any medication our son was placed on seemed to stop helping him as quickly as it helped him.

Anxiety OCD ODD and More with Autism

Finding the Right Psychologist

During I believe the month of May 2014 we met with a psychologist who had a son diagnosed as High Functioning Autism. This woman was amazing and opened our eyes to a few things. The most specific example that helped was that she has an adult son who is high functioning so we felt confident that she would have some answers. After witnessing some things our son did, such as lack of eye contact, rocking and the tick he has when he’s excited or overly happy, our son received the diagnosis that he is indeed High Functioning Autistic. Ever since this meeting in Spring of 2014 I have been educating myself on autism and have found that no two autistic people are alike.

Nothing Was Easy and It Shouldn’t Be

The times were difficult when our son was younger because he was not able to effectively articulate the feelings behind his actions. The toddler years and well into age 8 was the most difficult, once our son hit age 9 and now age 10 he has become more aware of his quirks and what works for him. This current year we are faced with the lovely hormonal influxes that every child goes through, combine that with autism and it can make for some challenges. I have more proud moments than not during this particular age with our son, he is more apt to speak up about something that bothers him rather than lash out in anger. He is more apt to tell me things that he is OCD about and other things that just don’t work for him. When I hear my son at age 10 express things that he has noticed about his self, I beam with pride because in my heart I know he is growing up.

Teach Skills in a Logical Way vs Emotional Way

My Heart Aches

I have many friends with children on the spectrum and my heart aches when I hear about a meltdown. One thing I have learned in this over 10 years of raising a son with autism is that life is unpredictable and until you really get to know your child’s needs and what sets him or her off, life can be challenging. With autistic people not always recognizing politically correct statements nor the feelings of another person you can often have your hands full as a parent. We were once told that our son would never be able to show empathy, to read someone’s facial expressions and to ever really comprehend human nature. I am glad to say we proved “those” people wrong!

Teach Skills in a Logical Way vs Emotional Way

Teach Skills in a Logical Way vs Emotional Way

I say this, it is false that your autistic child will never understand or express empathy, that they will never be able to read facial expressions or learn how to be socially polite. While there are many parts of the autism spectrum, I firmly believe when raising a child who is high functioning medication is not necessary. What is necessary is the willingness to change the environment, your parenting ways and what your child is around on a day to day basis. It wasn’t easy to morph life in a way that helped our son excel, and each day something new arrives I still struggle with the change. What I decided to do as a parent to a high functioning autistic child is to watch his quirks, really take a look and hear what he has to say. Take in everything about this child over the years and learn to adapt things that can be adapted, change my thinking and learn that he can be empathetic but it’s less emotional for him. Teaching empathy and compassion for our son was more about the logical side, versus an emotional response. Now that he is 10 years old and making a lot of friends, he is better able to feel in ways he couldn’t in the years past.

Finally Told Son he is High Functioning Autistic

Finally Told Son he is High Functioning Autistic

We never did tell our son, he was high functioning autistic until recently, as he does have a 504 and is old enough now where he comprehends to some level what it means. The reality is, he has been raised to think he is just an everyday boy who can be anything he wants to be and is loved unconditionally. Isn’t that what our job is as a parent? To teach all of our children that nothing has to hold them back in life? To be humble, kind, compassionate and learn to be confident with who they are. That’s how parenting has worked for me and now at age 10, I firmly feel taking this child off those risky medications was the best decision ever, it’s been three years since our son took risperidol or any other drug for autism and I wouldn’t go back to it if someone paid me.

Advice to Parents Struggling with Autism

Advice to Parents Struggling with Autism

My advice for you is this: when a professional thinks your child needs all of these medications to survive, perhaps open your mind to saying no. Take a moment to work towards changing how you respond to your child, who is around him and change the environment to suit your child’s needs. You will be shocked at what a child of any diagnosis can do when given  the chance simply by having parents who are willing to exhaust themselves in an effort to prove medications are not always the right answer.

Being a Parent isn’t for The Thin Skinned

I admit that I am a sensitive person, I can easily have my feelings hurt and be caught crying in the bathroom alone. While I may be a sensitive person emotionally, as a parent I have quickly learned that you must have thick skin. I went into this parenting gig knowing that there would be days my kids may  not “like me” or may think I am the evil Queen of the land. When you become a parent, part of your job is to be this hated person, while remembering that your kids only think they hate you in this moment because they are not getting what they want.

Yesterday, the kids and I went sliding outback. We had hours of fun, laughing so hard I cried, snowball to the face, going down our huge backyard hill face first on a sled and enjoying the new snow tube I had purchased for this school vacation week of fun. The time was wonderful, but the happy times went away once my middle child was forced to ask, rather than demand, use of a sled his sister was on. The middle child proceed to cry as he got all upset and worked up about Mama requiring him to ask not demand to use a sled his sister was on. You would think having to ask is the end of the world, he went from tears to anger and quickly that went into a larger fit of rage with words that a 10 year old should never say.

I immediately told my middle that he was grounded and his reply was even more volatile to me where his siblings sat in shock as they wouldn’t dare speak to me that way, ever. I immediately came inside as I followed my angered son and found out that he felt I don’t care about him. My son felt like I didn’t care about him because I make him go outside on a 50 degree day in the sunshine to interact and have fun with the siblings and me. My son felt I don’t care about him because I refuse to let him demand his way. My son felt I didn’t care about him because he couldn’t sit in front of electronics all day long because “video games are all that matter!”

Being a Parent isn’t for The Thin Skinned

Being a Parent Isnt’ for the Thin Skinned

In this type of moment about 5 years ago, I would have burst into tears. My eyes would have been a watery mess, but I have grown in the last 5 years of parenting a child with autism and have learned that in the angered moment he just spews out words. I took the time to reply to my son telling him that it is okay that he is angry and it is fine to have that emotion, but it is never okay to say bad words, hit people or throw things around. He was entitled to feel like I don’t care, but I made darn sure I explained why I do care about him and that I do love him very much. My words started to hit his heart, as I watched his eyes go from anger to a bit of a softer tone.

I stood firm, even though he calmed I explained that when we do something naughty we have a consequence, that’s simply how life works for every human being. His consequence was pretty simple, as I am trying to teach him to be sorry for his actions. More so, I am trying to teach this son to acknowledge his actions that were wrong, bad or mean and in teaching him this I required that he say sorry, do something kind or anything similar to show he is sorry for hitting his sister and for saying a bad word two times. He wasn’t happy immediately, it’s not like he jumped up and started spewing out the I am sorry’s. No, not at all. This child doesn’t say sorry easily, if at all. This child is better at showing sorry through drawing of a photo, as he has done since he was little.

Eventually my son did what was asked of him, on his own. I waited patiently and continued on in the day with making polymer clay crafts with his siblings as he sat there watching us in a daze. My son is stubborn, but so am I. I have learned to stand firm with a compassionate, yet steady tone that doesn’t get too loud or intimidating (that type of tone only encourages more anger). When I stay firm, do not cry and explain that I do care about him and here’s your consequence because I do care about you, he seems to eventually get it. Autistic children can hang onto things for weeks, months and years allowing those negative feelings to become something larger, I have learned through parenting this child that I have to remain firm yet compassionate while I work to teach him the necessary skills and consequences of actions any parent is supposed to teach their child.


Day two of #schoolbreak we went sledding for couple hours and did #crafts with our #polymer clay! #childhood #momlife

A post shared by Brandy Ellen (@brandyellen1) on

Overall, we had a beautiful day but don’t ever forget that you are the parent and your job is not to befriend your kids to let them get away with bad behavior, regardless of how much of a point they make. Once you set a consequence stick with it, even if it takes that child hours to do what you have asked of them. Be strong, parents must always be compassionate yet strong! Cheers to raising your kids with a thick skin and unconditional love!

Real Mom Tips for Monitoring Electronic Usage

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An online friend came to me the other day asking about some tips on monitoring electronic usage. You see this is one of the biggest issues most parents face. We are raising children that have technology in front of them at all times. Within my household alone we have at least 4 tablets, 3 smartphones, 3 computers, a Wii game console, a PS3 and I am sure other items that I can’t recall while writing this article. The home is full of temptations to be online and with two work at home adults in the house, it’s easy to see that the kids want to be on electronics when the parents are always on theirs working. The desire to be on technology is great, the desire that kids want to interact with game playing or get lost in something online makes sense, as this is the world they are being raised in. With that being said, you can respect your kids desires for electronics while still working to monitor limits so they learn other life skills necessary to survive as an adult.

Today I wanted to share a few ideas I have implemented over the years as a means to monitor and track electronic usage. I am a bit more laid back than other parents I have spoken to, but these ideas have worked well for me – that is when I remain consistent with implementation. Once you get off the bandwagon and let electronic time become more lax, getting back on track is harder and will take time. Give yourself some credit, it’s not easy being a parent, we all get off track.

Real Mom Tips from ParentInfluence Blog

A Chore for Electronic Time

This is a great way to get the house clean while allowing your kid a little fun. Assign electronic time based upon what chore(s) were completed. It’s quite common within our house for us to make a deal with the kids, especially my middle child who is autistic. Let’s say he wants to be on YouTube, the PS3 or some other electronic device. We try our best to assign a chore; basically it’s handled like this: if you take the trash bags down to dumpster you can have half hour on an electronic device of your choice. This never works out peacefully; you see it’s rare for any of the kids to immediately agree upon this “deal”. How I prefer to keep the peace and handle my heart rate staying steady is to tell them they can have ‘x’ amount of time on electronics when said chore is completed. I repeat that line a few times then walk away. If they come to me to ask again, I repeat that line again. It gets old, I tell you, but it works. Leave your kid alone to make the decision themselves, be certain to shut off all electronics, set them out of reach, etc. so that the kid quickly learns they have no choice but to do a chore or sit and do nothing. Within half an hour, most of my kids will step up and start doing whatever chore was assigned.


Children doing chores ???? #momlife #childhood

A photo posted by Brandy Ellen (@brandyellen1) on

Siblings: Encourage them to Play a Game Together

In our household we are Minecraft fanatics, yes even I am caught getting addicted to that game. One thing I like to do every so often is allow electronic time so as long as my three kiddos are paying something together. You see, this encourages team work and communication, of course it also encourages sibling rivalry but they need to work through this! Whether it is Minecraft or a new Beyblade game my sons play together over a WiFi connection on their tablets, I like to take moments to encourage teamwork by allowing electronic time only if they do something together. I truly believe this works fantastically for developing communication, teamwork and leadership skills.

Set a Schedule

This idea of setting a schedule has been something discussed within our household but we haven’t quite mastered nor tried to implement it yet. I have seen this work well for many families and with us having a child on the autism spectrum, routine is necessary. Print out a calendar template or purchase an annual calendar. Assign specific dates and times to be devoted strictly to electronic time. When you start to use a schedule, there are less meltdowns and arguments because your kids soon get used to being on that routine. When your household has a steady routine, with or without a kid on the spectrum, they simply start to thrive. It’s also not a bad idea to have your kid help you color code this schedule of electronic usage; kids tend to respect and appreciate a routine more when involved in the planning stages.


Nothing like some #beyblades before school. #childhood

A photo posted by Brandy Ellen (@brandyellen1) on

Be the Example

Last, but certainly not least, as I mentioned my boyfriend and I both work from home full time which means we are often on our computers to get work done and provide customer service for our membership sites. It’s difficult for us to walk away from work at times and even when I walk away from work it’s hard for me to not check messages from my smartphone. I am an avid promoter of being the example for your kids. These kids look up to you first and foremost, so it’s time to start learning how to let go of your own electronic addiction as a means to show your kids that life still functions without electronic devices. If you learn to monitor your own electronic usage by putting that smartphone down and sitting to enjoy a board game, have a little chat and be certain to have a family meal together without electronics at least once per day, you will soon find that the kids start to enjoy being around you without electronics and in turn develop their own sense of balance with electronic usage.

You Can Implement Change Anytime

If you have found yourself off track today with monitoring electronic usage, I truly hope that these ideas work well to help you gain control of the household again while creating a peaceful environment full of less meltdowns and more happiness.

Signs I should Have Seen For Autism

It was 2006. I gave birth to my second child. This was my first born boy. My other child was a girl and age 4. The first born child was easily reaching all milestones, talking ridiculously well at age 2 and advanced in so many ways. I knew the first born daughter was advanced, so when it came to raising another child, I had no idea what the norm was. My son came into this world weighing 9lbs 5oz and being around 19 or 20” in length. My son nursed so frequently that I ultimately gave up on breast and turned to formula when he was around 8 weeks of age. The boy would eat 16oz before even being able to fall asleep for just a few hours at a time.

Life was hard. I walked around with little to no sleep most days for around four years. The struggle was real.

Looking Back – Signs of Autism

While I am not sure if the lack of sleeping was a sign of autism, I know that my son had other characteristics of autism that went overlooked. For example, my first born son needed to have a specific colored bottle for each type of drink. I am uncertain of the exact colors that were for each drink, but he had to have one color cup for juice, one for milk and one for water. If you handed him let’s say the red with juice in it, but the red was normally for water, he would have a total meltdown. He would throw himself down after tossing his cup and proceed to be immensely angry. This was a huge part of his life, often easily angered. We had no idea what to do.

Mom Influence - Signs I should Have Seen For Autism

Mental Health Questions

Since bipolar and other mental health issues run heavily in my family, I simply presumed he had a mood disorder. That’s all that made sense to me, for I had no experience with autism, only mood disorders as I watched my sister grow up being bipolar. Most of the signs my son exhibited to me, were that of someone who was bipolar. Funny thing is, he was actually diagnosed ADHD, Bipolar then finally around age 8 we received a high functioning autistic diagnosis.

Signs of Autism In My Opinion

  • The need to have a specific cup for specific drinks at all times – highly routine driven.
  • Hated Loud Songs, like Happy Birthday song to him, assuming this is part of autism? To this day you cannot sing him Happy Birthday for he hates it with a passion and he’s now 10.
  • Toilet training didn’t occur fully until he was around age 4 years 3 months, that’s only because the pediatrician said it’s been long enough of waiting, let him go diaper free.
  • A delay in fine motor skills. To this day my son is 10 and still has a fine motor skill delay. We had him attending Occupational Therapy once a week for years to work on this.
  • Inability to have empathy without being logical told how to be empathetic. This means he has learned to have empathy but it’s a difficult road to get him to continue to have this concept mastered.
  • A huge love of animals, his dog Jenny sleeps with him every night. Having Jenny the pug sleep beside him was really the first time he started sleeping fully through the night on a regular basis. To this day, my son loves animals, insects, etc more than anything else beyond YouTube!
  • The absolute need for routine, it’s better now that he’s older, but for most of his life he couldn’t have unexpected events happen. For instance, you could go tell him to get his coat on because we were going to head to the store if it wasn’t planned, he would have a meltdown.

My memory may fail me often, so each of these examples are just a few that I recall having to deal with and some days still deal with as signs of autism.


Just a boy waiting for his Dunkin donuts #breakfast #holidaybreak

A photo posted by Brandy Ellen (@brandyellen1) on

Not Every Child with Autism is the Same

There are many different signs of autism and the autism spectrum is long, it even includes some mood disorders. So let’s say bipolar is something you are figuring out, this happens to fall closely within the autistic spectrum from what one family counselor told us years ago. You see, my son had many signs of autism but not nearly enough to get a full proper diagnosis until we met with a psychologist whose son has Asperger’s. She knew almost immediately upon meeting my son that he was on the spectrum. The way he rocked when in the room with her, the ticks he has when excited about something and his way of speaking with lack of eye contact. Those are all signs he had back around age 8 when we met with a psychiatrist who specialized in this area of mental health.

Keep on Fighting – Your Child Matters

If you are struggling with some of the things I had struggled with and you see a sign of autism in your child, my advice to you is to continue fighting. Do not take medications for your child thinking it will fix it. Trust me – my son was placed on some heavy duty anti-psychotic drugs and others from ages 4 up until age 8 when we walked away from medications completely and simply made lifestyle changes. The medications have left this boy with everlasting side effects that I won’t disclose as that’s his personal medical information. The road was rough, but we continued to meet new counselors and psychiatrists until finally we had an answer and a way to move forward that made sense!

Keep fighting for your child, you are the only one who can influence what happens in their life and it is your job to continue the long, sleepless night battle until you feel resolve.