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 AutismToday.com


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 AutismToday.com


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 AutismToday.com


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 AutismToday.com


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 AutismToday.com


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.

Idioms Infuse Insanity and Frustration Into Autistic World

“It’s raining cats and dogs!”

“He’s having a hay day”

“Let’s toast the bride!”


Toast the bride…are you serious?

Being autistic can throw one for a loop, metaphorically speaking, when it comes to everyday communications that the rest of us take for granted.

Idioms like the quotes above are second nature, even funny, to us yet can be confusing and frustrating to the autistic.

They might look up looking for falling cats and dogs, or really think you’re going to toast the bride like a piece of bread gets “toasted.”

What appears to be an obvious joke and other “humorous” events can be a serious issue for an autistic. Imagine for a moment if someone told you, with a grim look on their face, that they really were going to “toast” the bride. That would certainly be cause for alarm to the average law abiding citizen and no doubt put you on edge at the very least.

Beyond lack of comprehending slight-of-language, an autistic may also lack a sense of reality, especially in situations concerning safety.

Many times, people don’t recognize a child as having autism until the child behaves strangely and/or misses obvious social cues. Complicating matters, autistics may have a strong reaction to external stimuli such as sound, sight or touch.

Jonathan couldn’t stand crowds when he was younger.  We thought it was because of the loud noises, as he always covered his ears.  We were at a party and all he could do during the entire two hour event was continually run in and out of the room in a circle saying “e….x….i….t….” out the door.

Of course, this behavior made perfect sense to Jonathan.

What events or circumstances have you observed in everyday life that caused an autistic confusion?

What safeguards or procedures have you put in place to help an autistic stay safe?

How have you explained to an autistic, after they are confused, what something like “It’s raining cats and dogs out there” really means?

Share your story with me by leaving your comment below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com


P.S. Here are tips, strategies, and tools you need to aid your understanding of an autistic’s perception on reality.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the unique perception of autistics, click this link:


Stories From the Heart: December Is For Crying

I couldn’t control my sobbing. Weeks before Christmas, I was on the floor of my bedroom closet crying harder than I had ever before. Although he was there, my husband was unable to console me. There was something wrong with our son. Or maybe there was something wrong with us. Either way, Jonathan was two and a half years old and out of control.

Earlier that day, we were at a birthday gathering for the one year old daughter of friends. Jonathan could not stay in one place. He wasn’t just active. He could not stop moving, and as he moved he dumped things and hurt people. When he shoved the birthday girl, Julia, to the floor and walked over her, we took him home.

I don’t know why I went into the closet to cry. Maybe I thought he wouldn’t hear me in there. Maybe I just wanted to hide.

About a week before Christmas, I attended a baby shower for a mom in my playgroup. As I walked back to my car with my friend Arlene, I just broke down. “How come everyone in playgroup is having a second baby and I can’t even handle one? Life is so hard! We can’t go anywhere, things are so stressful and miserable at home and I think I made a mistake by having a baby in the first place. Our pediatrician has already dismissed our concerns and everyone tells us ‘he is just being a boy’ or ‘he needs a good spanking.’ What am I doing wrong?” Arlene didn’t have any answers, but she did stand in the street with me for an hour just listening.

A few days later, Arlene called me. She had overheard two women talking about their children and thought their situations sounded like mine. She asked them for advice and although mutual friends told her it wasn’t her place to do so, she nervously passed along the name and phone number of a center that could evaluate Jonathan.

I didn’t even have to think about what to do. I immediately called my husband at work and told him that I was going to have Jonathan evaluated. Next I called the center and set up an initial meeting.

On December 27th, Becky, our new case manager, came to my home to meet me and Jonathan. She watched as he dumped toys from their containers onto the floor without stopping to play with anything. She took notice that he did not talk except for very few words and seemed not to hear me when I talked to him or called his name. She told me that she thought Jonathan would benefit from a full evaluation and we set the date for January 7.

Because of his young age, Jonathan’s evaluation consisted of him being lead through a number of activities by a play facilitator while he was observed by a psychologist, clinical social worker, educational specialist, speech-language pathologist my husband and me.

For over two hours I watched him, wondering if what he was doing was normal. I saw the specialists scribbling notes and I felt my stomach tightening into a knot. When the evaluation team had gathered the information they needed, we took Jonathan to lunch. At 2:00p.m., Vinny and I were back at the center listening to the evaluation team recount what they observed that morning.

Although everyone started with something positive about Jonathan, it didn’t take long to get to his deficiencies and the list was long. I wasn’t surprised. I was prepared to hear their recommendations and do whatever I needed to for my son. However, I was not prepared for what they said. I felt like a boulder had fallen from the sky, crushing me under its weight and affecting my ability to hear, think and breathe.

“Autism? Did you say that he has Autism?” “Not Autism. We said that he possibly has PDD, which is on the Autism spectrum and he should be evaluated by the TEACCH center to rule that out.

“So you think he has PDD? “We think he might?” “How do I get an evaluation?’ “Well, there is a two year waiting list.” I couldn’t comprehend the words in my ears or the thoughts in my head. My son maybe has something called PDD which is a kind of Autism, but not really Autism, and the people I need to see about this can’t help me for another two years. I started firing off questions. “What does this mean? Will he learn? Will he talk? Will he go to school? How do we fix this?” “We don’t know what his future holds. Some children make progress, but there is no way to know how much progress any child will make. There is no cure for Autism.”

“But he doesn’t have Autism. He only maybe has this thing like Autism.” There was silence. I sat there with a sickness in my stomach and tears sitting in the corners of my eyes. I waited to hear what I needed to do next. The next five years brought both tears and triumphs. Jonathan underwent 21 additional evaluations. He attended a special preschool and spent hundreds of hours in various therapies.

Vinny and I mourned the life we thought Jonathan would have, and began to shape the life he could have. We found ways to teach him skills that most children acquire naturally and we learned to appreciate all of his accomplishments. We discovered that he is funny and incredibly smart. At the age of eight, Jonathan was formally diagnosed with high functioning mild Autism.

By that time, the label didn’t matter. Jonathan was blossoming in a typical first grade class. He still had challenges, but what child doesn’t? This December, six years after my crying jag in the closet, I found myself crying over my son again. His school put on a production of “Bah Humbug”, their version of “A Christmas Carol”. The whole school was a part of it, and Jonathan’s grade played street urchins in the chorus.

I sat in the auditorium watching my beautiful child, with his hat askew on his head, shuffle across stage singing “Life Was Meant to Live” and realized that at one time I could not imagine Jonathan being able to do this. I felt my emotions rising into my throat. I knew my family could not control everything that happened in our lives, and we were certainly living differently than we planned, but in spite of the Autism, we were living a good and happy life.

Then the tears came. Not loud forceful sobs, but silent, joyful tears slowly sliding from my eyes.

By Lisa A. Simone

Gifted and Special Needs Siblings Struggle with Rivalry

They say it takes about 3 to 4 weeks to form a new habit.

For many, the biggest challenge to lasting change is how one relates to their peer group and family.

Anyone who’s ever dieted knows quite well that old patterns die hard.

Even though they mean well, a peer group and your own family may interfere with your new habits and progress of your lifestyle.

The key is being proactive.

Being proud parents of 6 kids, who are unique in their own way, we emphasized that acceptance of each other based on distinct gifts, talents and personalities was a necessity for harmony and balance in the family.  We also realized that as parents, we’ve got to get the family on the same page in order to do the most good.  So, we enrolled in a parenting workshop for parents of special needs children.

Naturally, there is a parental instinct to protect those who cannot protect themselves such as Jonathan (Autistic) and Alex (CP). That instinct, when acted upon consistently may appear to others as favoritism.

To alleviate the tension we’ve written social stories for Jonathan around his relationships with his siblings and in turn, his siblings are a tremendous help. They become our eyes and ears when we’re not around.

All of our kids, including Jonathan, say we favor Jonathan.

With this feedback we began including the other children in our plans and strategies to be supportive to special needs yet balance our time with all the children. This is a delicate balance, though, as we don’t want them to become overburdened and resentful of their special needs siblings.

There were bumps along the way yet we made it a habit to ensure Jonathan and Alex got what they needed from the family as the family shared time with each other growing strong through a supportive foundation.

How has your family adapted to the support required by a special needs individual?

What have you done to stay on track with your individual interests as care giver to a disabled individual?

Tell me what you specifically 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 AutismToday.com


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

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


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