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 :)

________________________________________________________________________________

THE END







-- If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to http://www.amazon.com/?tag=a050ef-20  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!!



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Wifey And I Have Separated...





I spoke at 3 different autism events back in July. At each of them I did my presentation “Top 20 Things Nobody Ever Told Me After My Kid Was Diagnosed”. This is the presentation that I've been doing around the country the past few years. And all three speeches went extremely well, but it was really, really difficult for me to get through them these last three times. The reason? Well, number 2 on my Top 20 list is that “Your Marriage Can Survive & Get Stronger” and then I list 11 tips to a strong autism marriage. And unfortunately this part of the presentation isn't true anymore. You see wifey and I have separated. Yep, you read that right. After 20 years of marriage, after 14 years of raising a kid, and after 12+ years of being autism parents, we have separated, and are working with a mediator on a divorce agreement. So, if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t written much lately, now you know why. I’ve been dealing with this. You don't need to all the details. It’s none of your business anyway. :-) Just know that no one cheated on the other, no physical or mental abuse. Let’s just say that we drifted apart. That’s the official story. Again, I won’t give you all the details, but I gotta tell you that I didn’t see it coming. It came as a shock to me. I have written tons of things on this blog and on my FB page saying what a great autism mom wifey is. And all of that is still completely and utterly true. I have also written lots of things on this blog & FB page about how great our marriage is. And I thought that was true…it was true for me... but I wasn’t seeing things clearly.

Wifey wasn’t happy. And according to her she hasn’t been happy for a long time. 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.

And I was fine with the status quo, wifey was not. This process really started back in the winter, but it became more “official” a few weeks ago when we started living separately. We have a 50/50 custody schedule with the king. So he’ll live with me half the time and wifey half the time. That's pretty much it. That's really all I have to say about this situation right now. And I'm only posting this now because I have more speaking gigs coming up, and after speaking at the events in July I realized how much my blog/ page means to people. And how my brutal honesty resonates with people. And for the past few months I haven't posted much because I wasn't ready to let you all in on this new reality in my life. There was one part of me that wasn’t ready because a lot of our family & friends read the blog, and a lot of them don’t know yet. However, we are now living separately, so I think it’s time to let people know. There was another part of me that was embarrassed to let you into this new part of my life because I spent so much time writing about what a great marriage I had.

However, after speaking at those three events in July i had so many people come up to me afterwards and tell me how much my writing means to them and how me talking about the difficult times makes them feel less alone. And those people coming up to me made me realize two things 

 1) that I was somewhat being a phony by still talking about how great my marriage is in my presentation
2) That It's my brutal honesty that got me here with the blog/page. So if I'm going to continue the blog/page honestly then I need to bring you all along for this new ride of my life moving forward. And I know that lots of you will have questions. I'll answer the ones I feel like answering right now: 1) What about the king? How is he handling / gonna handle all of this?
That's the huge unknown. We've been talking to him about this for a while now. We assume he's grasping it and we are watching for signs of regression and aggression. And we will continue to watch for them now that he’s living in 2 places.
He's been pretty easy going and malleable lately. In a weird way this may be the best thing for him. The reason I say that is I think wifey and I will work extremely hard to make sure he has a great time when he is living with each of us. Maybe we've gotten lazy & complacent when it comes to engaging the king (I'm more guilty of this than wifey). However, now that we are living separately I see us both really going overboard making sure he's engaged and busy when he's living with each of us… I can't speak for wifey but for me maybe that's partially out of sense of guilt, and partially out of a sense of competition with wifey. Regardless of the reasons, the king will reap the benefits. 2) You said you were shocked by this separation. Where do you stand now? Yes. I was shocked. I keep using the term “blindsided”. However after going to a few sessions of marriage counseling and a few sessions of individual therapy I've learned that in cases where there's no adultery or abuse one side is usually blindsided by the other. So yes I was angry for a while. It took me a few months to come to grips with what wifey wanted / needed. However, I've turned a corner and am excited to start this new chapter in my journey. 3) Do you guys still love each other? How amicable can things be. We are trying to be as amicable as possible. As I mentioned earlier it took me longer to get on board because I didn’t see it coming. I had my good weeks and bad weeks. However, for the king’s sake we will be amicable. I'd say that we still love each other. Yes. However maybe we’re not in love with each other anymore. Look, we are both 47 years old, We've been married 20 years and have been “together” for 24 years. That's a long ride. Maybe it's just taken its course. ---------- So that’s all I’m gonna say right now. Maybe I’ll give out more dribs & drabs of details moving forward, but i felt this was important to do now because I want to keep writing about my reality. And moving forward, my reality is going to be me only being with the king half the time. I want to write about how that feels. I want to write about being a part time single parent half the week. I want to write about how it feels to live alone the other half. I want to write about how it feels to be out to dinner with friends and have no one to check in with, no one to rush home to. I want to write about the ups and downs. I want to write about it all. So I’m hoping that this blog post will open up the floodgates and get me writing & blogging & Facebooking again. And the last thing that I will say is please do not bash wifey in the comments. I will not tolerate that. There is no bad guy here. It takes two to tango. You don’t know what our marriage was like. I know on the blog I may come off as a superstar, but if you read between the lines, and read everything I write, you can easily see that I’m no picnic to live with. I can be extremely intense. I have lots of self doubt. I've written about how I went on antidepressants back in 2009. However, I probably should have been on them as far back as my 20s, way before the king was born.

So as much as I felt blindsided and as unhappy as I was with how it all went down, let’s just say that wifey had her reasons... So please no wifey bashing in the comments. And also please don’t ask a lot of questions in the comments. This is all I want to say right now. So please don’t ask additional questions because I’m not going to answer them.
We’re going to have family & friends & coworkers reading this and gathering this news for the first time, so this is how I wish to present it at this time. THANKS FOR READING AND THANKS AS ALWAYS FOR YOUR SUPPORT! THE END -- If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to http://www.amazon.com/?tag=a050ef-20  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!!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Evolution Of Sesame's Julia



As many of you know I started this blog in 2011 and for a long time I was anonymous.

I came out in September of 2015 in a post called "My Name is Frank.  I am Autism Daddy.  I work at Sesame Street"  In that post I explained that I work at Sesame Street and revealed my true identity because I wanted to promote Sesame Street's autism initiative which I worked on.

Then on October 21, 2015, on the day of our launch I wrote a post called "Sesame Street & Autism -My 2 Worlds Collide in an Amazing Way" where I explained more about Sesame's autism initiative and walked you through all the different resources and videos that were available.

A day later, on I posted this on my Autism Daddy Facebook page, and I felt it was important for me to re-post and say again


Today I'm going to continue to focus on Sesame Street's autism campaign #seeamazing that I am proud to say that I had a SMALL hand in developing.
Because I have this amazing Autism Daddy platform with 124k followers I wrote that blog post yesterday to use my pulpit to help promote the crap out of the initiative. And the feedback from y'all has been overwhelmingly positive.
However, I've seen some comments and shares that make it seem like I was the one leading & spearheading this whole autism initiative. And nothing could be farther from the truth.
Small is the key word above folks... I had a small hand in it. The hard work & research that went into this initiative dates back 3 years.
And along the way between the tons of folks here at Sesame Workshop from all different departments, to the puppeteers, and writers & composers, and web designers, and artists, and animators, and the amazing filmmakers we hired, and all the kids and families that we featured there were literally HUNDREDS of people who worked on this initiative and played an important role in shaping it.
I worked mainly on the video production side of things, and would give my opinion and feedback as an autism dad on other elements when asked. So I am humbly here to say that I am just a small cog in the wheel.
A small cog that has an audience of 124k people, but still a small cog...:)
So thanks for all the thanks! I will take them all in, and then try to pass them on to the appropriate people...




Ok, so then in March of 2016, I wrote another post called "Sesame Street & Autism: 13 New Videos & an Emmy Nomination" when Sesame premiered some more autism content.  


And that brings us to today.  Well yesterday actually.  Yesterday "60 Minutes" ran a story about Sesame Street and revealed the big news that we employees have been keeping a secret for 10+ months:  that the autistic muppet character we introduced in October of 2015 was made into a physical muppet and would be joining the cast next month!!



You see,  Julia was introduced to the world back then only as an online digital storybook called "We're Amazing 123".  



The book was beautifully written by Leslie Kimmelman, herself an autism mom.   Go like Leslie's Facebook page here and checkout her website here.

The book was one of many things we released in October 2015.  I worked mostly on the films that were released during that launch.  However, the media ate up the story of a new autistic muppet character and that was the lead in so much of the press coverage.  However, many autism parents quickly dug thru our autism website and checked out all the resources.  And while we got overwhelmingly positive reviews the one comment Sesame heard again and again from autism parents was that Julia just being in a storybook was not enough.  Autism parents wanted to see her on the show.












Fast forward to March of 2016 and we introduced an animation featuring Julia.  This time Julia was voiced by a little girl on the spectrum.  This got lots of positive feedback as well, but parents still wanted to see an actual Julia muppet.



So when script writing began for Season 47 a script introducing Julia was thrown into the mix.  The script was assigned to Christine Ferraro, an accomplished Sesame writer for over 20 years.  Chrissy is also an autism sister.  She wrote the script, and as you can expect it went thru rounds and rounds of drafts and revisions and many autism experts weighed in on everything.

While the script was being written the search was on to find a puppeteer to play Julia.    Sesame was hoping to find someone with a close connection to autism.  The search stopped in Arizona where Sesame found Stacey Gordon, a local puppet maker and puppeteer.  Stacey is also an autism mom of a 14 year old son on the spectrum.  

And in April of last year the street story for the "Meet Julia" episode was shot.  

That Julia episode will air simultaneously on PBS & HBO on April 10th. 


You can also view it here!!



I am extremely proud and happy with how the episode turned out.  However, I will tell you that I had very little to do with the production of this episode.  I can't take any credit for how great it is.  :) My job doesn't really entail working on the US show.  So, while I worked on earlier parts of Sesame's autism initiative I did not work on the "Meet Julia" episode. 

However, after the episode was shot in April, I was given a small amount of money to produce 6 short online only segments featuring Julia with Abby & Elmo, as a way of introducing the world to Miss Julia in advance of the show airing.  We tapped Christine Ferraro again to write them and in June of last year we shot these 6 short inserts.  These segments were released to the world last night.

I've put several of my favorites below.


Play Peek-A-Boo with Elmo & Julia
Meet Julia, the newest friend on Sesame Street. Julia has autism. She also has a stuffed bunny named Fluffster! She and Elmo are different in some ways, but they have lots in common too. Elmo brings his doll David to play with Julia and Fluffster, and the four buddies play peek-a-boo.



Abby Cadabby & Julia Sing Sunny Days
Meet Julia, the newest friend on Sesame Street. Julia has autism. She’s also a really good singer and can remember all the words to lots of songs… like the favorite Sesame Street song, “Sunny Days.” Abby’s happy to join in!



Butterfly Flapping Fun | Julia & Abby Cadabby
Meet Julia, the newest friend on Sesame Street. Julia has autism, and when she’s excited, sometimes she flaps her arms. Abby flaps her wings when she’s excited. Together, they’re the perfect pair to pretend to be butterflies…and then watch a real butterfly that lands in the garden!



Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with Julia & Elmo
Meet Julia, the newest friend on Sesame Street. Julia has autism. She also likes to sing and look up at the night sky. She and Elmo stargaze as they sing “Twinkle, Twinkle”and their star grows brighter and brighter.




So that's it in a nutshell.  That's the evolution of the Julia character.   You can see all of the autism content, the new stuff and the stuff from last year at www.sesamestreet.org/autism   

As for the Julia muppet, you, the autism community, the autism moms and dads, were a HUGE reason why she graduated from a storybook character to an actual muppet on the show!

I hope seeing Julia on the show makes you happy and proud.   A lot of work, effort, and care went into bringing her to life.  While everything you see on screen might seem simple, every line that she spoke, every characteristic that Julia has, and every way that autism is described was discussed and debated and thought through by lots of different people.

And as we are all well aware, if you've met one kid with autism, then you've met one kid with autism.   So Julia is one kid with autism.   The character doesn't perfectly represent my kid with autism.  However, I can see pieces of my son in Julia and more importantly, the way the other muppets and humans interact with Julia and treat her with respect and as just one of the gang is exactly how I would want my kid to be treated.  

I think that's the most important take away from this whole initiative.

Ok, that's all I got.  Autism Daddy... OVER AND OUT!

THE END






-- If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to http://www.amazon.com/?tag=a050ef-20  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!!



Friday, January 13, 2017

Getting Back To Our Lives & Living Our Dreams







This might be a weird post and I might take a lot of flack for it.  However I just had to get it out because it's something I've been thinking about for a long time. 

The King is now 13 years old and we love the school he's in.   And he can be in that school conceivably for the next eight or nine years.  

And, knock on wood, his seizures are on a somewhat predictable schedule that we can manage, and his behaviors have been in check. 

So basically everything at our house with regards to the king has been pretty mellow for the past year or so.   So, in a weird way this past few months has felt like wifey and I getting back to our lives and living out our dreams. 

And unfortunately, the king isn't much part of any of this. 

What do I mean by all of this?  What is getting back to our lives mean, and what does living out our dreams mean?

Well, let me talk about wifey first, and then I'll talk about me.

Wifey, has been a stay at home mom since the king was born.  I don't think that was always going to be the plan.  I think she would have gone back to work at some point had we had a "typical" child.  

However, the king was diagnosed quite early and when he was in early intervention our house was a revolving door of therapists and teachers.  There was one stretch where he had almost 40 hours a week of therapy.   So working then wasn't possible.

And as he got older he was quite a challenge behaviorally, and she would get frequent calls from his school to come in for this or pick him up because of that...so her working then didn't seem realistic.

And then just as we seemed to feel like we understood the autism world, he entered the epilepsy world when he had his first seizure in 2012 at the age of 9.... and she had lots of new doctor appointments to manage for the epilepsy, with still some crazy autism behaviors to deal with... remember his breath holding?

All this to say that the idea of wifey having a job throughout all these years just didn't seem feasible.  I wrote more about this HERE.  

However, fast forward to now, and things are going pretty well around here lately, and we NEVER get calls from the school anymore.   So, it's really been kinda boring for her during the day... 

and of course boring is great, but still boring. 

 So for the past few months, for the first time in a long time, she's been trying to figure out what she wants to do with her days while the king is in school.

She's thinking about getting a part time job.  She is thinking about getting back to her life.  

What kind of job?  How many hours?  How many days?  All of that is unknown.  And there's no timetable for this.  

And we know full well that the king could have a set back next week with regards to epilepsy or autism or something else (god-forbid) and this concept of her having time / energy for a part time job could go completely out the window.

However, just the idea that right now things are settled enough in our lives for her to even entertain the idea of getting a job is HUGE!  It might not seem huge to many of y'all, but it is HUGE for us.

So that's how she's thinking about getting back to her life...
Now, how is wifey living her dreams, you ask?

Well she has been rehearsing for the past year and now has three gigs under her belt as the lead singer of a rock 'n' roll cover band / bar band. 

It's something that she's always wanted to do but never pulled it off. And it is been great for her mentally and spiritually. 

She's the lead singer and she's accompanied by four middle-age dads. That's right my wife leaves me once a week to go rehearse with four other men.  Am I the best husband or what?  :-)

They've been rehearsing one weekend night per week, and now that they have 40+ songs under their belt they've been booking a few gigs at bars in our local area.  And gigs at bars generally run from 10pm - 1am, just FYI... :-)

All of this has been a great outlet for her and a great release for her.  And because of it she's exposed the king to a lot more different types of music because whenever she has a free moment she's singing / rehearsing... in the car, in the kitchen, in the living room, etc.

So that's wifey's story...

And me? How am I getting back to my life?









Well, as many of you know I work for Sesame Street and in my blog post when I announced that I worked at Sesame (read HERE) I mentioned how I used to travel internationally before the king was diagnosed with autism. 

I really enjoyed traveling and working on Sesame Street's international co-productions around the world.   However, due to his extreme needs I stopped traveling internationally in 2006.  It just didn't seem feasible to be half way around the world.  If there was an emergency, what would I do?

However, at the end of January I will be making my first international trip for Sesame Street in 11 years!  I will be traveling to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to work with the local production team there as they begin production on the second season of Iftah Ya Simsim, our Arabic Sesame Street co-production.

This was not an easy decision for me.  It's the threat of seizures now that scares the sh-t out of me, but this opportunity presented itself, I was asked if I was interested in doing it, and wifey and I had a sit down to discuss it.

And she, with the help of a few co-workers, convinced me to put my toe back in those waters. 

I can't live in fear, I can't always continue to wait for the other shoe to drop.  Odds are, nothing will happen during my time away.  

As one of my co-workers put it in an email to me.

"If you can swing being away that long in terms of your son, then Frank, you should do it. There won’t be an opportunity like this ...kind of ever. In looking back, you won’t remember that week as any different from any other in your life. But you will if you are in Abu Dhabi. 

That’s how I look at these kinds of risks when I am confronted by them: will the experience contribute to my, I don’t know, knowledge of the world; the richness of my life? If yes, then I do what I can to overcome the unknown and do it."

So I said yes, and will be somewhat getting back to my life working on Sesame Street international co-productions.  I will be leaving for Abu Dhabi on January 30th and returning on February 8th.  

And I am extremely excited about the work, but I am also extremely freaked out about the flying, and the being away from home for 9 freaking days.  

My saving grace?  When I used to travel years back, there was no social media, there wasn't really Facetime or Skype either.  So, I like the fact that I can be reached on my iPhone at a moment's notice... and I already told wifey that I want to have a video call with the king each morning at about 7:45am before he gets on the school bus.  I picked that time because that is literally the only time during the week that we will both be awake  at the same time (7:45am in NY = 4:45pm in UAE).

Anyway, I'm excited to be going, and excited to be taking all of you with me as well...excited to be writing blog posts, and posting pics & video on my AD FB page from Abu Dhabi!

So that's how I I'm getting back to my life..but how am I living out my dreams?









This public speaking as Autism Daddy is me, in a weird way living out my dreams.  

When I was High School I was in school plays.  When I was in college I was a disc jockey on our radio station, and hosted several programs on our college tv station.

After I graduated, I almost took a stand-up comedy course, and had fleeting thoughts of pursuing that. 

However, my career, first at MTV, then at Sesame Street has become a "behind the scenes" career.

The idea of writing this blog, and now especially me going around the country and speaking as Autism Daddy has scratched that itch that I used to have for performing on stage, or on screen.

Now, I never envisioned that I'd be talking about autism...but I'm just dealing with the hand that I was dealt and the comedic material I have in front of me. 

I try to make my presentations really fun and funny, somewhat like a stand-up comic would... and I get that same excitement before I take the stage at an autism conference that I used to get before a play in High School...

So, in a weird way, you could say that thanks to my son having autism...I am living out my dreams!  (But as you know I'd trade it all in a heartbeat.  I'd love to be living a more typical life...)

Ok, so that's the story for wifey and me.... So what about your son you ask?

Well, for better or worse, he's just kinda going with the flow you could say.  On paper, you could say that he's pretty easy to parent these days.  During a typical school week he is out of the house from 8am - 4pm.  Wifey takes him to special needs activities after school on 3 of those weekdays.  On Saturdays he's got special needs swim & music.  But besides all that, he's just a tv / ipad junkie, and then he sleeps about 12 hours a night these days from about 7pm - 7am.

So, because of all of that sleep time, and because of the fact that he's fairly mellow and goes with the flow these days, wifey and I have a lot of time on our hands... time to be in rock bands, time to write blog posts, time to travel, etc.  

And sometimes, when wifey or I are off living our dreams (which normally we're not doing together by the way) I think that maybe we're being too selfish... that we should be engaging our son more... but he really does present as a lazy teenager who doesn't want to do anything.

And if he's gonna sleep 12 hours a day, and be ok with us living our dreams why shouldn't we take advantage of the situation...?

...especially because we pretty much know this good stretch is not gonna last forever...

Sometimes I feel like we are racing against time...and time is not on our side.  Maybe that's a morbid way of thinking but I feel that as the king gets older it's going to be more and more difficult for the wife and I to be selfish... I mean, in 9 years we're going to be caring for a 6 foot tall adult who's not in school anymore!

So, when the king needs more of our attention he knows that we will be there for him... but for know, while he's giving this the opportunity, I feel that wifey and I should cram in as much life & dreams as possible.  

She should rock out!  I should travel!  Maybe once in a while she & I can do some of this together!  And maybe at some point his majesty will be at a place where he enjoys this stuff too, and can join us!  I look forward to the day when I drag my 21 year old to a bar at 10pm at night to watch his mom sing (and I can buy him a beer)!

Anyway, I'm going to end it there.  This post is all over the place.  Hope it makes sense...  and hope I don't take too much heat...  (actually I don't care) :-)

THE END









-- If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to http://www.amazon.com/?tag=a050ef-20  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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