Wednesday, January 31, 2018

TEST post 2 302pm 1/31/2018




TEST POST 301PM 1/31



Thursday, January 25, 2018



Monday, November 20, 2017

My AUTISM Review of the "Night of Too Many Stars" Event

Hey guys,

So I had the honor of attending HBO's Night of Too Many Stars event at the Theater at Madison Square Garden this past Saturday night.

This was a 2 hour benefit / telethon hosted by Jon Stewart to support the organization Next for Autism.  

NEXT for AUTISM is a non-profit organization that transforms the national landscape of services for people with autism by strategically designing, launching and supporting innovative programs.

If you didn't get a chance to watch the show you can watch it on HBO GO and HBO Now.

You can also view the entire 2+ hour event for free on youtube below or HERE.  HBO put the whole thing up for free.  

Why was I in the audience you ask?

I got a free "press" ticket from a friend of mine who works at HBO and has been a long time Autism Daddy supporter and follower.  

What follows is my unbiased review.

However, let me say straight away that I am not going to review the comedy of this event.  I'm a huge John Stewart fan... and don't mind raunchy foul mouthed comedy.  And because this was on HBO, at 8pm on a Sunday night, I expected and was looking forward to lots of F bombs and MF-ers.  

And that is just what I got.  I had no problem with the comedy. 

I personally thought the show was fabulous and hilarious.  

If you want to read a good review of the comedy of the show, read Vulture's great article "The Highs and Lows of Night of Too Many Stars, Jon Stewart’s Autism Benefit Show" for a complete blow by blow of the 2 hour show.

I'm here, however, to review/recap the autism related portions of the show.  And I thought that these were equally fabulous.  

Jon Stewart started the night off by explaining what's different about the organization Next for Autism.  

He explained that while many organizations engage in advocacy or fund scientific research, NEXT For AUTISM addresses the needs of people with autism and their families across the country, right now. They create and support exceptional educational, clinical, and vocational programs, all cutting-edge, all with an eye towards affecting fundamental shifts in current approaches to autism services.

And then throughout the night they showed several films that captured stories of autism families and individuals and how Next helps them.  

My favorites of these films were:  

Felicia Johnson, a mom of a son with autism, Josiah.  She explained how she lost her home, her husband, and then her son was diagnosed with autism.  Then an organization DAMAR Services - gave a helping hand. 

Former private investigator Dennis Debbaudt discusses how his son with autism shaped his life and how that lead to formulating and training criminal justice professionals, police, and emergency responders on how to respond to autism.

And then there was Carly Fleischmann.  When I first heard that Carly was going to be on the show I googled her to see what she's been up to lately.  

I had seen her famous interview with Channing Tatum, but I didn't know that she had since gone on to interview a bunch of other celebreities and has her own web talk show, Speechless with Carly Fleischmann.

So I assumed that they would show a film about Carly and maybe she would be in the audience.  They did show a film about Carly.  This film.

And while this film was playing I'm sitting in my seat at the Theater watching them wheel out a talk show desk and chair.  

And then I realize that Carly is going to do a live interview with someone.  

And then out walks Carly and Stephen Colbert, and my first thought was "Way to go Carly!"  

And then my next thought was "wow, interviewing someone in her home has got to be way different than interviewing someone on live television in front of an audience of 2000 people!"

And then the film ended, the lights went up, and there was Carly interviewing Stephen Colbert.

And all went ok for a moment, but then Carly's
 autism kinda took over, or actually Carly's OCD took over and she got distracted by the hundreds of pieced of paper confetti that littered the stage (because of an America's Got Talent spoof comedy bit earlier in the night).  And the next thing you know Carly is down on the floor distracted by the paper

And one of her aides came out to try and redirect her...

but the damage was done, and Carly couldn't be redirected.  

So Stephen Colbert calmly motioned to the band, "The Roots" to start playing which they did.  And the HBO team quickly regrouped and went to the next celebrity filmed piece.

Entertainment Weekly has a good article on the whole incident and the amazing way that it was handled by everyone involved.  

From that article:
Fleischmann’s interview was cut short when she became distracted by golden confetti on the stage due to her OCD, prompting Stewart to talk about the challenges of doing talk show segments live, and to joke that it used to take three weeks to film one episode of The Daily Show. 

“It also shows you something really important because she is a brilliant interviewer and a really funny person, and people with autism have challenges and obstacles to get through,” Stewart said. He went on to take the blame for the way the segment went, calling himself an “a—hole” for shooting the golden confetti out onto the stage earlier in the show. “She’s awesome and she’s super-funny and smart,” he added. 

Colbert also approached Fleischmann in the audience later to explain further and promise to do the interview at another time. 

“I wanted you to know that Carly’s distraction had nothing to do with her autism and has everything to do with her OCD,” Colbert said. “And I really want to do this interview with Carly. I got a peek at her questions and honest to god this was going to be a real interview and we’re going to do it in the future.” 

Colbert said the questions Fleischman wrote were “hilarious” and then joked, “No matter what happened, at least you didn’t bring out Sean Spicer” — a reference to Colbert’s poorly received stunt when hosting the Emmys in September.

The whole thing was handled extremely well by everyone involved.  

And, as the dad of a kid with severe autism it was, honestly, my favorite moment of the night.

Why, you ask?

Well, of course in my heart of hearts I was rooting for Carly to do well.  

And while it would have been much better television to see Carly conduct a funny interview with Stephen Colbert, I was sort of happy that the world got to see that, even the kids who have these miraculous amazing stories still struggle mightily every day.

The last autism moment of the night was the big finale.  The big musical number with  Jodi DiPiazza, a young woman with autism and the Actionplay Chorus, a choir of kids on the spectrum, singing "Rise Up" with British singer/ actress Cynthia Erivo 

It was truly magical.

And that moment when all the parents came out and stood just behind their kids on stage is when I kinda lost it, but there really wasn't a dry eye in the house.

That's it.  That's my review / recap.  

So happy and honored that I was able to attend.

What can I say?  A great autism event which already has raised over 2 million dollars, and the money keeps rolling in... and all for a great and important cause!

If you'd like to donate you can donate online at or text Text STARS to 50555 to give $25

Thanks...  Autism Daddy, over and out!


-- If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to  This way I can make a little money to help pay for my son's after school & weekend therapies.  This blogging thing has been awesome & life changing for me... but I must admit that it's taking up a lot more time than I ever thought... so if I can make a few bucks it'll make it easier for me to justify....Love you all! Thanks!!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Becoming a "Typical" Teen at Just the Right Time

I'm starting to write this post at 9:30pm on a chilly Wednesday night.  I'm sitting on my couch in my underwear eating frozen pizza while watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and writing this.

I am home alone.  The king is with his mom tonight.  I had him Mon & Tues nights this week, she has him Wed & Thur nights and then we alternate the weekends.  

4 months into our separation (read about it here) & living apart and I'm still not entirely used to this.  When he's not with me, and I'm not busy, things just feel a bit odd, especially during the week.  I get home from work, and feel like I'm supposed to be doing something!

I wrote about it a bit a few weeks ago on my Autism Daddy Facebook page:

Some mornings when he's not with me, I wake up in a jolt and think "is the seizure monitor on!  did i miss something!"

However, this post isn't about me.  It's about him.  And as I said in that Facebook post, he is handling everything extremely well.

I say that with happiness & pride, but I also with a sense of fear and dread.  I'll explain that in a bit.

But you're probably wondering: what's this blog title about him becoming a typical teen all about? ...

Before I begin that story I should mention that I recently re-arranged his bedroom and got him a new tv up with a DVD player & a Roku connected to it.  It is slightly more age appropriate for a 14 year old.

Ok, so here is the typical teen story.  Since the separation when the king is with me he's been his usual easy going self.  He's been very affectionate with me, which is normal for him.  

However, at some point every evening he grabs his ipad, then takes me by the hand leads me to his bedroom, takes my hand to put it on his tv.  

I put his tv on and start one of his favorite shows.  He then takes me by the hand, leads me out of his room... and then closes the door in my face.

He kicks me out of his room!!

So, I go downstairs to watch tv or eat dinner, all the while watching him on his seizure camera.  And he is lying on his bed with his hand down his pants, while watching a show on the tv and youtube videos on his ipad at the same time.  

Now does that sounds like a typical 14 year old or what?  He wants nothing to do with his lame middle aged dad, he just wants to sit in his room all day doing his thing!

There was one night a few weeks ago the NY Yankees were still in the playoffs when I watched the entire game downstairs while he watched his stuff upstairs.  I would, of course, check on him, and he was pleasant and happy to see me, but I could tell he would rather I leave!

What a typical punk ass teenager!  Now here's some things that are not like a typical 14 year old.  

The show he's watching on the tv?  Dora the Explorer  

The youtube videos he's watching? Sesame Street videos.

And when his show ends or he gets stuck on some other non Sesame youtube video he needs dad to come up and reset the tv & the ipad.

However, the behavior, and the aloofness is just like a typical teen.

And in my mind it couldn't have come at a better time.  I was worried about how he was going to handle the separation, and how he was going to handle living half the week in one place, and half the week in another.  

And maybe him wanting to be more independent, more on his own is a defense mechanism.  Maybe that is his way of dealing with this crazy new normal.  

And if he wanted to stay in his room all evening and looked unhappy or angry I'd be concerned.  However, it's not like that.  He happily hangs with me for a few hours each evening, and then he happily retreats to his room to be alone for a few hours.  

So I am thrilled!

So what's that sense of fear & dread I mentioned earlier?

Well, I've been living this autism lifestyle long enough to know that the bad times don't last forever, and the good times don't last forever.  The other shoe always drops.

So, as easy as the king has made the transition of this separation on his mom and me, I fear for when he goes thru a rough patch... whether that be a rough patch with his behaviors, or a rough patch with his seizures.

I wrote in my separation blog post  

Maybe in a weird way our kid having autism and epilepsy kept us together longer than we would have if we had typical kid(s).
I honestly think that the reason that this is happening now is that the king is finally in such a good place with his health and his personality, and his school situation.
He is in such a good place that we both have had a chance to breathe for the first time in YEARS.  And we are looking around and realizing that we have a lot less in common than we did years ago.

However, what that makes me think about is: what would it have been like being a 50/50 parent years back when he was extremely self injurious?  Or when he was having multiple seizures per day?  Would I or she be able to handle that by ourselves for half the week?  

Why am I looking backwards you ask?  Well that's my way of looking forward.   If (or when) he hits one of those rough patches again, will we be able to handle it solo?  He's 14 now.  He's already bigger than his mom, and he's getting closer to my size every month.   How will we navigate that?

I'm going to stop the fear & dread there.  I don't want this blog post to focus on the what ifs & the negatives.

I want to end with the happiness & pride.  

So let me end it by saying that I am so proud with how he has handled this whole transition.

And I am so happy that he became a typical teen who wants more independence at just the right time...  

However, as happy as I am that he's entertaining himself in his room, there's some nights when I have to be that overbearing dad who wants to crash the party.  

So I will sit on his bed with him watching Dora on the TV and Sesame on the ipad whether he likes it or not.

My dream is for him to some day say, "cmon dad, you're embarrassing me.  Get the hell out of my room, and go downstairs and watch your shows and leave me alone!"

Ahhh.... A dad can dream can't he?  


Friday, November 3, 2017

I Dropped the Ball Last Weekend!!!!

I dropped the ball last weekend. For the first time since wife and I got separated over the summer I feel like I dropped the ball with something with regards to the king.

Last Saturday was a special-needs Halloween party that we have taken the king to for the past five or six years.

And for the last three - four years we used it as an excuse to get my mother and sister and her husband and kids together. We would all go to the Halloween party together and then go out to dinner or they would come back to our house for dinner.

And this year I completely missed the email announcement as to when the party was.

As I was bringing the king to his Saturday special-needs swim last weekend one of the moms said “will we see you at the Halloween party?”

And my reaction was “oh shit that’s today”

The party was from 11 AM to 3 PM and the King has back to back activities from 1030am till 12:45pm.

So after his music therapy I took him to the Halloween party without a costume and without any other family in tow.

He had an OK time but it was definitely a quieter outing then in years past and that gave me a sense of sadness and guilt.

And let me take a step back and say that it’s not like the king always had a completely amazing time at these Halloween parties. He had some good years and some ok years.

However, as I said before it was just a good excuse to get the family together revolving around a fun activity.  And because I dropped the ball we had no plans after the Halloween party and so the king & I spent a quiet late afternoon/ evening at home alone.  

The king seemed totally fine & happy about this.  He was content to watch tv and/or play on his iPad for hours, but I felt guilty. 

So, basically, for the first time since the separation I feel like I dropped the ball. And my brain tells me it’s not gonna be the last time....

That's all I've got for today.  Just a quickie blog post. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

5 Lessons I Learned in my 1st Year as an SLP -- A Guest Post From My Niece Francesca

Howdy, folks, ol' Autism Daddy here. Remember way back in January when I introduced you to my niece Francesca? She wrote a guest post for me called "Tales From a New SLP: A Guest Post from My Niece Francesca" where she gave y'all a bit of her backstory as to why she wanted to become a Speech Language Pathologist working with kids with autism.

Well, now she's got a year of full time work experience under her belt and she's back with her second guest blog post for me:

Take it away Francesca!

5 Lessons I Learned in my First Year as a Speech Language Pathologist

Hi again everyone! My name is Francesca and as you may remember from my previous post, I am Autism Daddy’s niece. Thank you all so much for your positive feedback on my last post! I am so excited to be writing another entry for you today.

I just recently finished my first year as an “official” speech therapist and undoubtedly, this year has been the most education year yet. Since I am mainly working in early intervention (birth to three years old) I have had the opportunity to communicate with parents much more frequently than I had in the past.

This has been eye opening. As a therapist who doesn’t yet have children, I look at special services through a different lens than parents do. In having many conversations with parents, I have learned that too many feel alone, confused, and often have to fight long battles for their child - especially at the early intervention level.

This post is geared toward you, parents and caregivers. I hear and acknowledge your struggles.

Below I, talk about some of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year. I share this information with you in hopes it will provide insight and a little comfort for those who need it :)

1. If you are concerned with your child’s speech, get them evaluated.

This is one of those things that specifically relates to my experience in early intervention, but I think it’s definitely worth mentioning.

There have been countless times that I have started working with a child who is two a half/three years old and is barely communicating at all. In my initial interview, I always ask when parents/caregivers noticed their child may have a speech delay, and usually parents say around their first birthday but were told by professionals that they shouldn’t jump the gun or worry.

Ok, yes, there is totally the possibility that your child just needs a little more time to develop. But mom, dad… you know your kid better than anyone. If you have a gut feeling that your child may need some help, get some help. Ask for an evaluation or a referral.

It could turn out that your child doesn’t need services at all, but if they do, at least they are starting as soon as they can.
I can imagine how incredibly stressful evaluations can be for parents. Sometimes they are quick and easy and other time it seems like days before its over. Just know that this is a preliminary step to getting them what they need. Any services that are provided are only to benefit and never hurt your child.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Trust your instincts mom and dad. Get an evaluation. Or at the very least, call your doctor and ask if they could help you get a screening. If your child does need therapy, it’s okay. Take a deep breath and know that therapists are there to help and to provide you with techniques and activities to use at home.

2. Sensory needs are REAL.

In my facility, I work very closely with other paraprofessionals, specifically physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs). On more than one occasion, I have heard that occupational therapists find it difficult to explain to skeptical parents why a 2-year-old child would needs services.

Very generally speaking, occupational therapy focuses on fine motor activities, such as drawing a line, holding a pencil, grasping items, building strength in extremities, etc., and sensory integration. Most parents are very aware of the fine motor aspect, but I would argue that sensory needs are equally as important. Research has shown that children may behave in deconstructive ways when they are disoriented, disorganized, and over-stimulated.

I have had multiple experiences with parents who have told me “I’m not worried about OT” and want to focus exclusively on speech and language because that is the tangible issue.

But…it is immensely important to determine WHY a child is having difficulty with speech and language.

If your child is having difficulty controlling the sensory needs of their body, they may not be able to focus enough to comprehend and express language.

I love love love my occupational therapists. For my children who have sensory needs (which is many of them,) I request that they have OT before coming to see me.

Why? Because it is AMAZING how much more productive our sessions can be once the OT has helped them organize and orient their bodies.

I could go on for days about how important sensory integration is. But instead I’ll let the professionals speak for themselves.

The amazing OTs I work with recommend THIS WEBSITE entitled “A Sensory Life.” It is written by occupational therapist Angie Voss. She provides free resources and also mentions specific sensory behaviors and reasons why your child may be exhibiting them. She has also written a book, which is available in PDF form, entitled Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Occupational therapy, specifically sensory integration, can be critical to your child’s holistic development. Sometimes these sensory needs are very obvious, other times they are very subtle. Either way, my advice is to keep calm and trust your OT.

3. Don’t dread the diagnosis

This one is WAY easier said than done, I know.

Coming from an early intervention (EI) standpoint, I noticed that many of the parents I work with are afraid of their child needing services beyond 3-years-old for a couple of reasons

One, because I’m sure there is always the hope that your child’s needs will resolve before school starts

Two, parents may not want their child to be “labeled”.

So a little background…

Children who receive services through early intervention are part of a family oriented system. The child’s parents make the goals, monitor progress, voice concerns, etc. all on their own.

When a child who receives early intervention services turns three years old and begins preschool, there is a transition from a “family” system to an “educational” system and new formal document (an Individual Education Plan or IEP) is created to reflect this. This document will typically state a “diagnosis” and goals that have been made by evaluators to help remediate a child’s difficulties.

These diagnoses are very general. In Westchester county, there are only 13 diagnoses covered under the IDEA (individual with disabilities education act) that can appear on an IEP.

These words on a formal document tend to make parents very nervous, especially when the IEP is first being created.

Parents – I totally understand and I feel your struggle. But just know that these diagnoses are more to help a child receive the services they need then a representation of your child’s disposition.

Diagnoses are not set in stone and can certainly be changed, revised, and revoked if necessary.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Diagnoses, no matter how heavy they are, do not define your child. As therapists, diagnoses are good information to know generally what a child may present with. But we are trained to treat their symptoms, not their diagnosis. Children are unique and their individual needs differ greatly, even just day-to-day.

4. Carryover is essential.

No matter the age of your child, there should be some type of communication between a child’s parents and educational team. This is a fact I cannot stress enough!

Children are like a sponge! They are constantly soaking up information and absorbing it to memory. It is absolutely essential that they are practicing learned skills at home for optimal carryover.

I would love to think that I am so incredible that I am able to see a child twice a week for 45-minutes and make a huge life changing difference, but realistically, my job is to introduce tasks and provide you with tools and language in order to help you help your child.

If your child’s educational team is not communicating with you on a semi-regular basis, reach out.

Ask how you can help with your child’s goals.

Tell them the positives and negatives of what your child is doing at home.

Send in a journal or send a text.

I try to communicate with families at least once a month if not more, but sometimes I forget too, we’re only human! Parents, you should feel free to call, email, text, or use whatever method is agreed upon by both parties, to ask about your child’s progress.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: The main goal of therapy is for your child to perform tasks that are practiced in sessions and have them complete these tasks independently at home. The quickest way for that outcome to be achieved is for him or her to practice at home as well. We should all be communicating with each other to make sure we are on the same page. I recommend talking to your child’s education team and deciding on an appropriate time to check in every two weeks/every month.

5. Different methods work for different children.

Sometimes I feel like there is more controversy in therapy than there is in politics.

I never discuss politics, religion, or the effectiveness of oral motor therapy for speech disorders. ☺ LOL

This is a joke, but really!

As therapists, we know parents do incredible research to find the method you feel would be the most beneficial to your child. I definitely take parents wants and needs into consideration, but there should be flexibility and open-mindedness on both ends. Sometimes theses research based approaches sound great on paper but may not integrate well with your child.

For example, I am PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets) trained. I took the course, I drank the Kool Aid, and I use it all the time. But it is never my only approach because I believe there is value in variety.  

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Have an open line of communication with your therapist. Tell them about what you’ve researched and ask them their opinion. Tell them this is something you want to try, but also be flexible with your expectations.  

At the end of the day, the goal is to meet each child’s needs.

To do this, we all work together, through good times, bad times, and in between to reach our goals and make progress. And in those tough times, try to remember that even the smallest victories are still victories :)



-- If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to  This way I can make a little money to help pay for my son's after school & weekend therapies.  This blogging thing has been awesome & life changing for me... but I must admit that it's taking up a lot more time than I ever thought... so if I can make a few bucks it'll make it easier for me to justify....Love you all! Thanks!!


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