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By Shannon Penrod

Everyday Autism Miracles

Mondays at 4pm PST of http://www.toginet.com

If you know me or follow my story at all, you know that my son is in the process of recovering from Autism.  Jem was diagnosed with Autism 5 years, 25 days, and approximately 4 hour and 15 minutes ago.  But who’s counting?  On that very first day when he was diagnosed I felt so many emotions.  I was relieved because I figured that now we had a name for it we could help him.  I was overwhelmed because I didn’t know what that help was and I was terrified to the core of my being that I was going to let my little guy down somehow.  I promised myself that I would do everything that I could for him and that somehow, someday I would try to help other parents who faced this devastating diagnosis.  A lot of water has meandered under the bridge in the last five years but all in all everything has turned out great.  My child is a walking, talking miracle thanks to the intensive ABA therapy he has received from The Center for Autism and Related Disorders

As for me, for the last year I have been busy hosting a radio show about Autism called Everyday Autism Miracles.  The show is focused on the positive things that are happening in the world of Autism.  This week Everyday Autism Miracles is moving to its new time slot:  Mondays at 7pm EST, 6pm Central, 5pm Mountain time, and 4pm Pacific time.  The move was necessary to make room for my new gig as the host of Skills Live.  

Back in September I was invited to see the unveiling of a new tool in the fight against Autism.  It was an amazing program called SKILLS developed by The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, the same people who gave me back my child.  I saw SKILLS and fell in love.  When I tell you that it was a life changing moment, I’m not kidding.  I saw clearly, for the first time, the answer to a problem that had been dogging me for years: “How on earth are we ever going to get the help my child has received to all of the children with Autism?”  SKILLS answered that question for me.  It gave me hope.  It made me shake for hours, I was so excited.  I had to pull the car over and call my husband, I was that inspired.

To now get to work on this project, well it’s beyond my wildest dreams.  Early this Spring I will begin hosting a live webcast every weekday morning; helping parents, teachers and caregivers to get the very most out of this revolutionary new tool.  I’m pretty sure that makes me the luckiest person on the planet.  For now, while we are in the pre-production phase, I continue to be in awe of the amazing minds that are working tirelessly to recover our kids from Autism.  It is beyond humbling to work with these brilliant people.

Everyday Autism Miracles will continue on in its new time slot.  Right now we are finishing up a series on what to do when your child is first diagnosed.  Free podcasts of all of the shows are available on the show page and on iTunes.  If you or someone you know loves a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder I hope you’ll encourage them to tune in.  There’s more hope than ever.  I also hope you’ll check out SKILLS to see exactly why I’m so excited.  You can even take advantage of a free trial opportunity to do a wonderful ELearning program that effectively teaches you everything you need to know about ABA therapy in order to be a knowledgeable member of your child’s team on the road to recovery.  The free trial is almost up so check it out today.

This is the beginning of a new chapter for me.  I am excited and grateful.  It has not escaped me that as this journey begins as another is winding to a close.  The truth is I couldn’t even consider doing this job if Jem weren’t doing so well.  It has been an amazing five year journey.  There is a moment at the end of  To Kill a Mockingbird where Harper Lee narrates about getting ready to go to the Halloween Program at her school.  She is speaking of her brother Jem, whom my son is named after and she says, “Thus began our longest journey together.”  I have thought of that line so often over these five years.   I can honestly say that it has been a privilege and an honor to have shared this path with my son and husband.  Now with light at the end of the tunnel so clearly in sight there is nothing to do but look forward.   And I do.

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By Shannon Penrod

Tonight, in my household, we sat as a family and watched as the last rescue worker was safely brought to the surface.  My seven year old son sat riveted as we waited to see the capsule emerge from the tube.  We talked about what it must have felt like to be in that little cage and marveled at Manuel Gonzalez’s courage.  Who among us would willing take that journey?  We cheered and sighed with relief when Gonzalez finally erupted from the beaten up cage that had performed beyond all hopes.  Even in our living room there were hugs, I can’t begin to imagine the celebration in Chile.

Watching with my child I could not help but be reminded of watching the first moon landing with my parents.  As I watched my son’s reaction, I too felt that overwhelming hope that only comes when humanity works in unison to create something that defies logic. 

As Anderson Cooper detailed all of the events that had taken place since August 5th, all for the purpose of rescuing these 33 workers, I was proud of all humanity.  Countries and companies worked together for the sole purpose of total success.  There was a plan A, a plan B and a plan C, because failure wasn’t an option.  Plan B is what ultimately worked. 

How lovely that no one’s ego insisted that plan A was the one and only way.  How truly spectacular that plan C was still at work in case plan B didn’t work.  What if we attacked all of the world’s problems with such dogged tenacity, willingness to cooperate and unwillingness to surrender.  Could we end world hunger?  Cure cancer? Stop hatred, injustice and prejudice? Will we ever know if we don’t try?

I am so grateful to the individuals that made this amazing rescue possible.  They have given all of us an amazing example of what is possible when we put our minds to it.  I am glad to have shared this wonderful moment in history with my child.  I know that he will remember it for the rest of his life.  I am thrilled to have planted in his brain an image of what is possible when his fellow earthlings are focused on humanity.

Shannon Penrod is the host of Everyday Autism Miracles on Toginet Radio.  She is also an author and the mother of Jem Miller a seven year old recovering from Autism.

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by Shannon Penrod

People ask me almost every day what the warning signs of Autism are.  I can be on the phone with my credit card company and as soon as they know that I do a radio show about Autism or that I am a mom of a child recovering from Autism they start asking about symptoms.  Waitresses ask me, people in line at Disneyland ask me, friends of friends call me – they all have the same question – How do you know when to be worried?  It’s a really good question.  And while there is no easy answer, there are some guidelines that can help you to know whether you should seek out a qualified medical opinion.

It’s important to note that if you have concerns you should talk to your Doctor as soon as possible.  Early intervention is one of the most important keys to helping children with autism  lead happy and successful lives.  So if you have concerns, don’t hesitate to get a qualified opinion.

Here are some symptoms that can be warning signs for Autism and should warrant a discussion with a qualified physician.  Not everyone who displays these symptoms will have Autism, but theses symptoms need to be addressed.

1. A child  over the age of a year displays little of no eye contact.

If your child cannot make eye contact or struggles to make and keep eye contact they should be seen immediately.

2. The child shows a delay or lack of speech for their age.  By one year of age they should be cooing, by 16 months they should be able to use at least one word to identify an object and by two years of age they should be  able to use two words together without repeating what someone else has said.    If the child is not demonstrating these skills they should be seen immediately.

3. The child does not respond appropriately to social cues.  The child  does not respond when you call their name, they show no interest in playing, they do not point at things to show  you something, they do not wave good-bye etc. these are all symptoms that require further inquiry.

4. The child loses any skill at any age.  If a child is talking and stops talking, or even if their language seems to diminish this is a cause for immediate concern.

I can not say enough that it is best to follow your instincts.  If  you feel that there is a disconnect in communication with your child take them to a qualified physician who can recognize the signs of Autism.  I keep saying “qualified” because the vast majority of parents that I meet with a child on the Autism Spectrum report that at least one doctor told them everything was okay before they were ultimately diagnosed with Autism.  That was certainly our case.  Because our son was speaking in full sentences I stopped worrying about Autism.  Then when his language began to slowly deteriorate my concern spiked.  Our pediatrician patted my hand and told me I was overreacting, that our son would soon be speaking in paragraphs.  She was wrong and we lost six months.  By the time our son was diagnosed he was considered non-verbal and we had lost more than six months of precious time when he could have been gaining skills instead of losing them.

Make sure that your pediatrician is knowledgeable and if you aren’t sure don’t waste time – get a second opinion.  Remember that time is of the essence when diagnosing Autism.

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by Shannon Penrod

It’s happened to all of us.  We mean well, but sometimes things come out of our mouths that are criminally stupid.  The worst is when the utterer doesn’t even realize the gaffe they have made, so they just keep on.  It’s so bad that it sometimes becomes funny.  Sometimes it’s hard to laugh about it in the moment, but later a really bad faux pas can provide an element of humor. 

Like the school official who at a reception the night before my son’s first ever day of preschool decided to tell me in great detail why they make all employees at the school clear a finger print check. She gleefully told me the change had come after that one custodian years ago kidnapped that poor unfortunate child…. No, I’m not kidding. Picture me listening to this and having a complete mental breakdown.  Who tells a mother such a story on the night before the first time she is ever going to let her kid out of her site?  And she wasn’t trying to upset me at all, she was trying to put me at ease by telling me how it couldn’t happen, because everyone had been finger printed.  Because we all know that only people with a prior record ever work at schools, and once having been finger printed no one would ever dream of committing a crime.  I don’t think I slept for a year.  But I can laugh about it now.

A friend of mine recently lost her brother to a particular kind of cancer.  It was a bad situation, made worse by the good friend who called repeatedly to give their condolences by repeatedly and graphically talking about how there was no more painful death than this particular kind of cancer.  Even after my friend asked him to stop, he kept on saying, “Jeez, I feel so bad, you have no idea how excruciating that death is…”  What do you say to that?  Thank you, I feel so much better now that you’ve put it that way?”

Of course with Autism there is a never ending list of stupid things that people say to us.  Like the Doctor, yes, I said DOCTOR who insisted that there was no gluten in white bread.  I patiently explained to the Doctor that gluten is found in all wheat products.  She nodded and told me there was no wheat in white bread.  To which my husband said, “What do you think they make white bread out of?  White?”  Needless to say, we never went back to that Doctor.

Then there was the woman who when I told her my son had Autism asked me if he could play the piano.  At the time he had not yet started lessons, so I told her he didn’t, but asked why she wanted to know.  She blithely replied “Well with Autism some of them are idiots so they can play the piano real good.”  There were so many things wrong with the statement that I didn’t even know where to begin.  I started to explain the term idiot-savant to her and then decided that life was too short to waste on her.

I think it’s better to laugh at the stupid things say than to get angry about it, which is why I am doing a show tomorrow with the topic “Stupid Things that People Have Said to Me About Autism.”  Have a story you want to share? Call in at 877.864.4869 between 11am and Noon PACIFIC time.  If you just want to listen you can do so  by going to www.toginet.com tomorrow at that time or you can download the free podcast starting on Saturday by going to www.toginet.com/shows/everydayautismmiracles or by going to iTunes and entering Everyday Autism Miracles in the search box.  It should be worth a laugh.  I hope you call in or listen in.

Shannon Penrod is the host of Everyday Autism Miracles on Toginet Radio.  The show airs every Friday at 11am Pacific time at www.toginet.com.  Free podcasts of the show are available at www.toginet.com/shows/everydayautismmiracles and on iTunes.

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by Shannon Penrod

In case you didn’t know April is Autism Awareness Month.  For me every month is Autism Awareness Month, because I am one of the millions of parents worldwide who is raising a child with an autism diagnosis.  It’s an interesting  journey that is frequently made tougher by a lack of information among the public.  So here are the five things I wish everyone knew about Autism:

1.  One size does not fit all with Autism.  In fact, it is better to think of it as “Autisms” instead of “Autism”.  Children on the Autism Spectrum have a wide variety of symptoms, sensitivities and capabilities.  Try not to assume that the label Autism means they are capable or incapable of doing anything.  Some children with Autism can’t bear to be touched, others require frequent touching to stay engaged.  Don’t assume, ask questions and be willing to look at those diagnosed with Autism as individuals with individual needs.

2. Autism is not the result of bad parenting.  I’m sorry I even have to say that, but I do.  There are still people who think that Autism is caused by bad parenting, it’s not.  However, it is true that superlative parenting, via ABA Therapy is helpful in diminishing or eradicating  Autism behaviors. Currently most insurance companies don’t pay for ABA Therapy, even with the new Health Care Bill, which is why it is so important that individual states pass legislation to make insurance companies accountable.

3. Autism is treatable and in some cases it is possible to recover from Autism.  There have been countless cases of children diagnosed with Autism at an early age who, after extensive early intervention, later tested as being neurotypical.  There are video tapes of many of these children that clearly show autistic behaviors at an early age and their progress has been scientifically documented.  It’s not a rumor, a false hope, snake oil or urban legend.  There is hope and studies clearly show that the earlier the intervention the greater the possibilities in outcome.  So if you have or know a child that you have concerns about you should not take a “wait and see” approach.

4. It is no longer politically correct to refer to children as being “Autistic”, the correct term is that they “have Autism” or “have an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis”.  You can even say that they are “on the Spectrum”. Stop and consider that we would never refer to a child with Cerebral Palsy as “Palsic”, or a child with Leukemia as “Leukimic”, we simply say they have the disorder, it should be the same with Autism.

5.  Children on the Autism Spectrum and their parents need your help.  There are charities raising money for research and to fund treatments, if you can give generously.  I highly recommend Autism Speaks and ACT Today.  If you know a child with Autism, ask the family what kind of assistance they could use.  It could be something as simple as a regular play date that could make a difference in a child’s life.  These children are worth the effort, please offer them what you can.

Shannon Penrod is the host of Everyday Autism Miracles on Toginet Radio.  The live talk radio show airs every Friday at 2pm EST on www.toginet.com  Free Podcasts of the shows can be downloaded at www.toginet.com/shows/everydayautismmiracles and on iTunes.

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