Sister-in-law’s Opinion Saves Window of Time for Autistic Child

EIP (Early Intervention Program) was a Godsend for Jonathan.

Since I was still not absolutely convinced with the second opinion, I sought a third which had the same results.

That second opinion came about from another doctor’s hour long observation of Jonathan and was the first I heard of EIP.  Though still in denial, I was finally becoming one of the converted. I had decided to take my sister in-law’s advice by bringing Jonathan to a doctor mentioned on a radio talk show.

Two months later Jonathan was in an EIP.

It was the original opinion of the first specialist that Jonathan had autistic characteristics. They told me to bring him back in a year. Sister in-law Anna nearly went through the roof upon being informed of that advice.

Anna said: “You can’t wait a year, it could ruin his entire life.”

Early diagnosis of any issues could change Jonathan’s life forever. The best opportunity for intensive therapy is during the most important “window of time” for development…the first four years.

Anna’s continued pleading with me to have Jonathan checked out by a specialist and said that it wouldn’t hurt him, even if he didn’t have autism.

At the time, Jonathan was literally fixated on Duke Nukem and Archie, and Pokemon. He also went through loving, then hating Barney and so forth. Although this was one of many clues to autism, I decided to prove Anna wrong and brought Jonathan, kicking and screaming, across a busy street to the specialist I found.

Anna was right.

Thank God I was able to get out of my own way, for Jonathan’s sake.

Your pride and denial can get in the way.  What delays have you encountered by being stubborn?

Is “humble pie” on your menu?  What are you doing to “Get out of your own way” to help others?

Your story is important to me. Please leave your comments below.

Stay strong. I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here are some recommendations that will give you tips and strategies to help you to take action with your special needs loved one.

Get help by downloading a video presentation about ending delay and moving forward with developmental disabilities of a loved one.  Click this link:


Rain Man and a View of an Invisible Developmental Disability

The year was 1988 and it was called Rain Man.

The movie Rain Man.

Dustin Hoffman was cast as Tom Cruise’s long lost brother who had autism.

Although Rain Man portrayed many visually striking and engaging scenes (displaying such characteristics as rocking, screaming and head banging), autism ranges from very low functioning and severe to high functioning autism such as Aspergers syndrome.

Part of Rain Man’s appeal was Hoffman’s character as adult with autism. Children also show prevalent behavioral characteristics of autism such as shown in the movie.

Autism can be diagnosed in childhood, usually between the ages of 24 – 48 months of age, and is known as the “invisible disability”.  Even as autistic children age, they can look very normal and are beautiful children.  Their behavior is what gets attention as “odd” and peculiar.

Also, differences in the way the child interacts, socializes and communicates with people will become apparent over time.

From the various workshops and medical information I’ve been exposed to, I have learned that autism is a developmental disorder, which is thought to be genetically linked. Early treatment is critical in order to foster as normal development as possible.

In Rain Man, the contrast between Cruise’s character’s lifestyle before and after being thrust into the role of caregiver of an autistic brother is something to behold. As the movie shows, there is much responsibility Cruise’s character takes on.

A willing and deliberate decision must be made to care for anyone stricken with a disability. Autism, as a developmental disability, has its own characteristics that must be understood in order for one to provide the most effective help and means to cope.

What experience have you had with autism?

Can you relate to the struggles of developmental disabilities?

Share your story now by leaving a comment below.

Let me know your story.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Get tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand autism.

To download a video presentation about the nature of autism click this link:


Stories From the Heart: Mason and Zeus

When Mason was born I would have never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be a Mom walking down the mall with a beautiful autistic boy attached to his best friend and protector. A god sent gorgeous eighty-pound golden retriever service dog, meticulously trained for our son by National Service Dogs.

Mason developed just like any other child until he was eighteen months old. He was a great baby. Hit all his milestones and started cooing and talking early. Then he started to regress. He no longer would talk, look us in the eye, or respond when we yelled at him and he seemed deaf. He also developed a scary habit of bolting out of the house or yard and had (and still has) no sense of danger. He is also extremely fast.

We sought the help of the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Mason was diagnosed with Autism and we were unsure of what to do. How could we keep Mason safe and provide a out going life for our family? A sympathetic mom in the waiting room told me about a show she had seen where an organization called National Service Dogs was training dogs for children with Autism. So I went straight home and hit the net.

I was convinced that Mason had to have one of these dogs. Little did I know that we wouldn’t be gaining a dog, but that our son would be receiving his best and only friend. So we applied for a service dog and were accepted. We started fundraising and then just before Christmas they emailed me and said that an anonymous donor had paid for Mason’s dog. How do you express gratitude to someone who is gracious enough to give to a child a future and his only hope for safety? A child that they did not even know.

It was the best Christmas gift our family has ever or will ever receive. It gave Roy and I a renewed hope for mankind and let us know that there are still people in the world that care for others more than they do about themselves.

Then we were introduced to Zeus, a wonderful, gentle, huge golden retriever. My husband and I spent the week bonding and learning how to work our new angel. He was a great help, gentle and very forgiving of these two new masters that forgot the commands and were so unsure of them selves. By the end of the week we knew the commands inside out and backwards and had made a new family with the other new families and NSD’s staff and volunteers.

Tears flowed as we said our good byes and headed back home to introduce our son to his new companion. Our son shocked us with his reaction to Zeus. Mason whom at the time was completely non-verbal snuggled into Zeus as if he had been waiting all along for us to bring home this dog for him.

Mason had earned his ticket to freedom. He new if I took out Zeus Jacket he was going out and he loved it. In the first month we were given our life back. We went out to parks and shopping and even camping. Our daughter was thrilled with her new found freedom as well. Unless we could get a sitter for Mason, we had literally been stuck inside our house were Mason was safe.

Zeus seemed to blend into our family like he had always been apart of us. Then over the next few months amazing things started happening. Zeus was getting the idea that Mason was his boy.

The first event occurred when I came into the Kitchen one day I noticed Zeus lurking in the hallway to the laundry room like he had done something wrong. I called him to me and he wouldn’t come. I tried to pull him out of the hallway but he wouldn’t move. Then I heard a sound in the Laundry room.  There was Mason sitting stuck in the washing machine full of water.

We were getting out of the van to go to church when I heard this little voice say, “There’s my puppy dog”. I turned to my daughter and said “Hayley, Zeus is not your dog”. She said “Mom I didn’t say that. It was Mason”.  I couldn’t believe it Mason was talking! He still has a hard time with speech but before Zeus, he had no speech at all.

One day Mason, Zeus, and I were walking in the mall. A gentleman was looking at Mason and Zeus, laughing really hard. I looked over to see Mason on all fours walking next to and just like his best buddy Zeus.

Another time, while shopping, I stopped to look at something. I guess I took to long because when I went to gather up Mason and Zeus their they were lying next to me on the floor of Wal-Mart, Mason with his head on Zeus, and both fast a sleep.

One time I was downstairs when Zeus ran down and barked at me, so I followed him, only to find Mason out in the garage. Or another time Zeus was barking around the house out in the back yard so I stopped weeding to find Mason gone. We opened the gate and Zeus rounded the corner of the street to show us were Mason was.

Going out to eat at large restaurants would have been too much for Mason before Zeus but now he loves to go out. If it gets too much he crawls down on the floor with Zeus and he feels better. He loves going to amusement parks and zoos now. All would have been too overwhelming before.

Zeus also goes to school with Mason. The teachers and Mason’s aide wonder what they did without Zeus, and claim that Mason is much calmer with Zeus there.

Zeus has given Mason and our family a whole new life. Don’t get me wrong it is not always easy to travel with an eighty pound golden and we have had a few issues regarding public awareness, but know that we would never go back. Zeus is our extra set of eye’s and hands. He has brought quality back to our lives.

For this I am eternally grateful to: Zeus’s donor Kevin, Cathy for raising Zeus, our anonymous donor for funding Zeus, and also to Chris, Heather, Wade, Sharon, Danielle, Allison and all the other people whom give of themselves with National Service Dogs.

In my opinion National Service Dogs is not an organization; it is a group of angels that are working on earth.

Thank you NSD. We love you!

By Roxanne Davis

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Overlooking the Obvious Signs of Autistic Behavior

Life gets busy having 6 children in the family and can seem out of control, at times, when 2 out of those 6 have developmental disabilities.

In fact, I was so consumed with the needs of my three oldest children (then 3, 4 and 5) I didn’t originally suspect anything out of the ordinary with Jonathan who was later diagnosed with autism.

In the beginning, before Jonathan was diagnosed, I really didn’t see anything different about his behavior…or maybe I just didn’t want to.

You know how kids are at a young age. They can display some weird behavior, yet be perfectly healthy, which is the reasoning that initially threw me off the trail so to speak.

Jonathan would spin around in circles, stare into space, avoid crowds, lack parallel play, line up objects, lack of eye contact, take steps downstairs one at a time, be fascinated with game shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and watch the same movie repeatedly.

Looking back it all seemed “normal”. In fact, I thought he was extraordinarily bright since he began reading at the age of 2 1/2, when he read the word “recycle” off of a truck.

Even mishaps give a clue yet I chalked it up as an “accident” when Jonathan was so fascinated with the computer that he became mesmerized by it and ended up falling off the computer table on two different times, which resulted in stitches both times.

Sometimes, against all logic, we refuse to investigate or even believe what is happening right in front of us.

How did you finally overcome the denial that something was just not right?

When did you first come to realize that something was amiss?

Please share your story with me, what you did and what happened.

To share your story, leave a comment below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand the clues to young children who are developmentally disabled.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and detect developmental disabilities early, click this link:


Early Intervention Yields Improved Autistic Lifestyle

The autism diagnosis is official.

What do you do now?

Which therapy path is best, what does it involve and how long will it take to see results?

Research your options, get involved, take note of small success (as well as setbacks) and never give up. There is no “silver pill” when it comes to autism or other disabilities of this nature.

During my son Jonathan’s early intervention process, I tried everything I could to try and help him.

Surprisingly, DAVID gave long lasting effects.

Light and sound therapy, in the form of a machine called DAVID, was the first thing I tried. Flashing lights and pulsing tones from DAVID help integrate both sides of the brain. While using this technique we saw great improvement in Jonathan’s behavior and even did a six-week at home study.

The results were excellent and we continued to use this therapy for two years. During this time we observed Jonathan’s communication, comprehension, behaviors, physical characteristics and social interaction.

The effects even lasted after we stopped using DAVID. Only due to the increased complexity of our daily lives did we discontinued using DAVID. It was just one more process to try to implement and we believe in it to this day.

Jonathan’s autism improved with intensive therapy and good education. Although his autism will never go away, it is a big part of his charm.  Similar to someone that has multiple cowlicks, freckles or other unique trait you must work with it to make the most of it.

Concerning therapy for autism, it is important to try new things as long as they are researched carefully. Be sensible too.  Keep your financial house in order or you could literally lose your real house (roof over your head). You wouldn’t believe the horror stories I heard out there including stories of parents becoming homeless with their children.

Simply put, at the end of the day, there is only so much you can do for someone with autism.  Yes, do remain creative and do strive for lifestyle improvements for your autistic loved one but maintain a healthy dose of realism.

Of course, I believe it is very important to explore your options and try some of the tested and true interventions such as nutrition and biomedical, along with behavioral, recreational and social. The list goes on and on.

What interventions have you tried related to autism?

Have you found one, or several methods, more effective?

Share your story about attempts to find the best therapy for your autistic loved one.

Share that story now by leaving a comment below.

Hearing about new and improved autism therapy is wonderful.

Let me know what you have been up to.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Autism therapy has grown over the years.  For tips, strategies, and tools you need to stay informed about autism therapy, download this video presentation:



Rebel with a Cause: Focusing on the Problem, Not the Person

It is quite common for children to play the role of rebel while growing up.

You’ve heard of the “Terrible Two’s” and may have experienced strong opposition from a teen on any and every issue that happened to come up.

Now imagine a defiant special needs child acting out in this manner who may not fully comprehend the consequences of their attitude or actions. Given the fact that some special needs children are mentally disabled, to one degree or another, you have a compounded problem on your hands.

Strong defiance is what comes to mind when I think of my youngest son, especially when he was younger (under 18). At 19, he’s finally turning a corner and becoming more thoughtful in his thoughts and actions.

Nonetheless, it’s been a long tedious battle.

Despite what one may think, defiance isn’t always about you as a person.

Very often I witnessed my own two special needs children unwittingly challenging a situation (not a person) that only lead to frustration.

For instance, one time when he was younger Alex didn’t want to hold on to my arm in the pool and soon discovered the pool was much deeper than he thought which lead to him struggling to jump up for air.

That memory scares him to this day.

Another time Alex decided to go his own way in the mall when the rest of our family was headed in the opposite direction.

He got lost for several minutes and learned that he better stay close to us rather than wondering off. Yes, I was watching him keeping tabs on all 6 kids with only one set of eyes proved too difficult at that particular moment when they were are darting around.

Yet another episode of “now you see them now you don’t” took place when all 6 kids and I were on an outing on our local (LRT) short for Light Rapid Transit across the city.  When running to get on the train two kids were stranded since the doors shut quickly. Fortunately, they had phones in the cars to call the station headquarters.  Station personnel found and kept the other two kids safe until we could come back on the return train.

So you see, these enlightening events provided opportunity in the midst of aggravation.

Clearly, my youngest child truly has a mind and direction of his own and he is just beginning to understand what has made him the character he is.

Up to a point, as a Mom, I’ve had to “roll with it” while keeping order at the same time.

What it comes down to is loving your children despite some of their errant behavior knowing that you are helping them overcome their shortcomings.

What peculiar circumstances have your special needs loved ones found themselves in?

How did you make the best of the situation?

Share your story with me now below in the comments section.

I’d love to hear from you!

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Get tips, strategies, and tools you’ll need to help understand and cope with a defiant special needs person.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and ways to cope with defiant special needs persons, click this link:


Autism and The Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy

There are no words to express the sorrow we at Autism Today feel for the families of Newton Connecticut. A loss on an unimaginable scale has taken place and we grieve along with everyone touched by this tragedy. It is essential that we understand how to help our children through this time and that we educate the community with solid information about autism as well.

It has been reported that the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School had autism. In the weeks and months to come there will be much more information about his condition, but today it has never been more important to understand that autism / Asperger’s is not a mental health condition. Autism is a neurological condition that now affects 1 in 88 of us. As a community, we can help other understand that and decrease the stigma of violence a lack of empathy that may be attached to autism through coverage of this terrible event. Please talk with your friends, family, and neighbors about autism and what it is and isn’t.

If you have a child with autism who has heard about the shooting, what should you do? I believe the best thing we can do for our children is assure them they are safe, allow them to ask questions, and remember that your child looks to you for answers and stability. Keep your answers simple and direct and allow them to lead the conversation without over stimulating them with too many facts at once. Limit their exposure to news events for a while to decrease anxiety. Many children, both with and without autism see news events as “happening now” even though the event is simply being replayed. Finally, take care of yourself. As a caregiver for an autistic child your ability to cope and provide positive guidance will ultimately depend on how well you take care of yourself and your own anxiety.

We wish you and your family the best during this very difficult time and we welcome you to call us if you need support or help in finding resources you can use.

Karen Simmons and the Autism Today Family

This Child I Know… Delaying Only Denies Help

It is often difficult for parents to see what’s really happening with their child.

In our office, nine out of ten people calling about “A child they know” are the relatives.

Hinting to parents in a round-about way by talking of “This child I know…” may be the best approach so parents don’t get put off and defensive.

I’ve talked to some families that couldn’t admit their child’s disability at all.

When they finally did see it, it was too late for the best possible outcome for the child.  They asked for support and were refused.  After all, they hadn’t needed it for so many years, why did they need it now?

You don’t have to let your family fall into that trap.

As a parent, I am continuously learning to cope, accommodate and adapt to situations in order to improve the quality of our kids lives.  This is especially important to remember when dealing with all other special needs families.

People might assume our family has dealt well with autism so well that we can be used as examples of success.

Nothing is as it seems.

It took my own husband years to realize the undeniable truth of our son’s autism and to this day when Jonny goes places he will say “Did Jonny fit in?” meaning, are you sure he still has autism.

He does acknowledge Jonny’s differences during special needs team meetings, since he knows it wouldn’t look good if he didn’t.   He also tends to favor and protect him over the rest of the kids, which makes the rest of the kids feel bad.

A few of years ago, Jonny was right next to Jim and I.  I turned to Jim, right in front of Jonny, and said “Jonathan thinks he doesn’t have to do as much work as the rest of the family because he has autism”.  I was hoping Jim would pick up the cue and say “of course he does”.

Instead, he looked at Jonathan and said “Honey, you’re no different than anyone else in this family, you don’t have autism!”, and shushed me with his finger so I wouldn’t contradict him.  I couldn’t believe my ears!

For all Jonny’s life I’d been telling Jonny and everyone else about his differences to hopefully improve his life.  Jonny knows he has autism and is somewhat proud of his accomplishments despite the teasing and ridicule from others at times.  Along with his good times, Jonny has been hurt by the down side of his disability. A loved one afflicted by a disability can be like having a death in the family. No one ever really gets over it.

I’ve heard divorcees say the same thing.  A long term marriage that has been split apart is like a death too, especially if kids are involved. In that case, you have years of family events and holidays where the ex-spouse is likely to show up.  Naturally, this can agitate old emotional wounds.

No matter what initiates the grieving process, denial is a funny thing.

The denial process begins with guilt and ends with acceptance.

It never ends though. Instead it repeats itself over and over with each new experience.

Denial is very strong for most parents because having a child with a disability is felt like a loss.

One can choose to look at the good side of any situation, but no one can deny that there is a certain level of disappointment in learning that the child you thought you’d get was not the one you actually got.

Ego is also involved to some degree.

Even though admitting a disability is hard on the parent’s ego, the damage done to the child is irreversible if it isn’t admitted.

Acceptance and admission of the truth is the first step to set the family in motion for the best possible outcome.

How long did it take you to accept a “lifelong” disability of your loved one?

Do you have a disability that others refused to acknowledge?

What did you do to break the chains of denial and move forward with an accepting attitude?

From denial to acceptance, I want to you to share your story.

Share your unique story now by commenting below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here are recommend tips, strategies, and tools to help you understand and cope with emotional dynamics surrounding disabilities

To download a video presentation that will help you cope with disabilities click this link:


“Humble Pie” Moments Moderate Footloose and Fancy Free Meanderings

When Alex wanted to do anything that’s exactly what he would do.   Alex loved attention for attention’s sake. He just had to have the spotlight with all eyes on him. Alex would get jealous of any attention we gave to Jonathan (who had autism).

The other day we were talking about how Alex is different and how he would compare to Jonathan. Alex would say things like “Was I funny when I was a little kid Mom? “ I replied “No Alex, you were more intense.”

For example, there was the time he got lost in the mall because he wanted to go his own way. Also, Alex would open the door when the car was moving not understanding the danger. He also got carried away wanting to swim with an overly confident attitude and slid into the deep end of the pool. Having already been standing next to him, he was “rescued”, much to his chagrin.

Alex certainly has come a long way since those days and is becoming much more humble.

Have you experienced an overzealous special needs person?

What did you do to handle the situation?

Please share your story with me, what you did and how it worked.

To share your story, leave a comment below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of


P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand and cope with overzealous special needs persons.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and simple solutions to special needs persons, click this link:


Stories From the Heart: Santa Claus’ Love & Compassion Is Not Just For the Kids

I have a mentally disabled son who for some unknown reason just had to go see Santa Claus one year. The day came when I could no longer put this man-child of 19 off; he just had to see Santa Claus.

At that time I did not have good clothes to wear, and my size was also something that would get embarrassing looks. When we got there it was obvious that because of his size, and his age, my son would not be permitted to go up the ramp, much less sit in Santa’s lap.

We stood back and watched other children go up to Santa. All of a sudden, this man-child started waving and yelling, “Hi, Santa,” with a great big smile.

The man in the red suit stood up immediately with children still waiting to sit on his lap. He hurried down the ramp to where this odd-looking couple (my son and I) were standing. He reached way out to shake my son’s hand. My son stretched very hard to reach Santa and he did manage to touch the tip of his glove and shake hands.

This man in the red suit grabbed my son’s hand and said, “Santa loves you.” My son’s face lit up and his smile was radiant when he heard what this special and compassionate man had said.

Santa reached in this pocket and gave my son a small plastic ring as a gift. My son put the ring in his pocket and reached out for another. I don’t know what the man in the red suit thought, but he did not hesitate to give him another ring.

I asked my son “What are you doing?” He replied, “This one’s for Donnie.” You see, he was reaching the second time for his twin brother, who is just a little more mentally disabled than he.

Yes, my friend, there is a Santa Claus and my son Davy is convinced of it.

By Richard G. Halcombe, Sr.

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

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