Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Why We Pursued Guardianship of our Son with Autism

Last Thursday morning, my husband, Dominic and I went to our county's Probate Court and had Dominic's Guardianship Hearing. My husband and I are Co-Guardians, and we were granted "Partial Guardianship," which means Dominic can make some of his own decisions (future educational and vocational placement options, what to wear and how he wants to spend his free time), but my husband and I will make his medical, health care, legal, contractual and major financial decisions. The subject of Guardianship in the disability "world" has been and continues to be a controversial and divisive topic.  I was a panelist for an Autism Conference this past summer and presented on what it's like to have a child with Autism. Towards the end of my presentation, I mentioned that Dominic had just turned 18 and that we were going through the Guardianship process. When the attendees could ask questions, the first person that went up to the microphone started telling me that I wasn't giving Dominic enough of a say in his future. Let's just say she was very angry and combative. I was caught so off-guard, that I really didn't know how to respond. Later on, after the Autism Conference was over, and I had time to think about that interaction, this woman doesn't know Dominic. She doesn't know what he is and isn't capable of. She was making a generalization, based on probably her own experiences. Deciding which route, you want to go with your individual with a disability, when they turn 18, is a very personal decision. Many, many factors go into deciding what is right for your adult with disabilities. In Michigan, there are two types of "Guardianship for an Adult with a Developmental Disability," one is "Partial" and the other is "Plenary or Full." I had heard that if the Judge grants "Full Guardianship," it is basically impossible to reverse. Part of the process before the Hearing was that a behavioral psychologist from Community Mental Health had to administer some tests on Dominic, which we did about three weeks before his Hearing. We were able to see a copy of her report before the Hearing which I appreciated.  The day after his Hearing, I was talking to some business colleagues of mine, and I was telling them that Dominic's Hearing was the day before. One of my colleagues knew about Guardianship, because she has a brother with a disability. The other colleague asked me what it was. I told her that seeking Guardianship of an adult with a Developmental Disability is a way to protect them from possibly being taken advantage of. In the eyes of the law, when Dominic turned 18, he is responsible for making his own decisions. Unfortunately, there are people out there that are appointed a Guardian or Co-Guardian of an adult with Developmental Disabilities that don't have the persons best interests in mind. I have thought from time-to-time about going to law school and becoming a lawyer for those with disabilities based on all the different experiences I have had. Who knows? Maybe one day I may just do that!!! 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

An Important Anniversary


When Dominic was first diagnosed with Autism at 2 1/2, I truly had no idea what would happen when he turned 18 (which is now just 8 short months away). Would he go to college? would he live in a residential facility? would he have a job? It is so hard to predict the future for any of your children, but especially for those with higher support needs. Today, marks the one-year Anniversary of Dominic's baking business, "Baked Goods By Dominic." I have spent the past few days thinking about that. I read recently that just 32% of adults with Autism have paying jobs. That means there are 68% that are not employed. That is a HUGE number. I have told more than one person since Dominic's business started, it's not like someone was going to knock on our front door when Dominic turns 18 and say, "hey, I'm here to offer Dominic a job!"  We had to create an opportunity for him.  Living in Michigan, he can be in the school district until he is 26. We had a choice to make this year. He could wait until he "aged" out of the school system or have him "graduate" with his typically-developing peers in June of 2022. My husband and I discussed it and decided that we wanted him to graduate with his typically-developing peers in June. Dominic first started special education services in the school system when he was three. Putting my "baby" on the school bus that first day was very difficult.  

To my knowledge, he has never been bullied.  I like to say that he travels around in his protective "bubble" at school. When we go places in town, we almost always run into someone that says, "hey Dominic!" He has had amazing teachers, parapros, therapists, etc. and I am personal friends with many of them. Each and every one of them has had a part in getting Dominic to the point he is now. In the Fall of 2021, he started working at a local business doing custodial work. He is able to tell the hubby and I every day when he hops off the bus what he did.  It has been amazing to watch how much confidence he has in himself when he can tell us. When Dominic turns 18, we will seek full guardianship of him. As much as we had hoped he could make his own decisions, we also have to be realistic. My husband and I have to do what is in his best interests. Dominic's business just hit 150 orders. When we first started out a year ago, it reminded me of when Dominic was first diagnosed with Autism at 2 1/2, I had no idea what the future would hold for the business. When my dad unexpectedly passed away three weeks after the business started, it was devastating, even more so because we couldn't travel from Michigan to Maryland for the funeral because of COVID.  In early 2021, I started a Facebook page for Dominic's business. He now has a huge on-line "community" that supports him and our family 100%. I use the Facebook page to talk not only about his business, but what it's like to raise a child with differing needs. It's like what I use this blog for! I have already had parents reach out to me and want their children to work for Dominic. I have parents who have children newly diagnosed with Autism tell me that Dominic's business is an "inspiration" to them and gives them hope for their children. It makes my heart so full to hear that! As for the business, it is no longer a matter of "if" we will have a brick-and-mortar business, but "when!"

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Focus on the Positive

Dominic starts his senior year of high school this coming Tuesday. Living near a large university, we have received a handful of brochures and letters in the mail addressed to Dominic asking him to consider going to their college. I came to terms with the diagnosis of  his Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a long time ago (like two weeks after the diagnosis), but I have to admit a small part of me was sad.  If Dominic was a "typical" incoming senior, we would be making an appointment with a professional photographer for senior pictures, visiting possible colleges for him to go to and he would probably be driving a car to school everyday.  Instead, I decided that I wanted Lauren to take his senior pictures, we will not be visiting colleges and he won't be driving himself to school everyday.  When Dominic was first diagnosed with ASD, I truly had no idea what to expect. I have said it before and I'll say it again, my only frame of reference of ASD was the movie, "Rainman." No one on my side of the family or my husband's has Autism.  It wasn't that long ago that doctors automatically told parents to put their children with ASD into institutions. I follow a handful of ASD blogs on Facebook and yes, some children and adults need to be in residential facilities for their safety and the safety of their family members/caregivers. I originally started writing this blog over ten years ago, because I had experienced a ton of grief and needed a way to get it out. I wanted people that read my blog to know that even if you have been through a lot, you can still come out the other side and be okay.  I have written about the losses of family members, my own health issues, Lauren going to college, having a stepson and many other topics.  For the past few years, I have written a lot about Dominic. With the current statistic of 1 in 54 having Autism, you are bound to know someone with ASD. I have always wanted my blog to have a "positive" spin. I know that I personally don't like to read blogs that don't give any hope at all. Yes, raising a child with different challenges isn't always rainbows and unicorns, but there are many things that Dominic has accomplished that I never thought possible when he was diagnosed with Autism at 2 1/2. 

I had given up on potty-training Dominic because I thought it was impossible. It took a long time and he was over age nine, but it did eventually happen! I never thought Dominic would be able to read, but he has read 22 books to Lauren (it's something we started during the Pandemic and we have no intentions on stopping). I have always wanted Dominic to altar serve in our church. If you have ever been to a Catholic Mass, you know that you can hear a pin drop. When Dominic was very young, we didn't take him to church at all. As he got older, we would sit in the glass hallway because he couldn't sit still. Dominic worked very hard with his private speech therapist to be able to be quiet in church. We would have to promise him elevator rides as a reward. We then sat in the chapel area in the very back of the church and then eventually made it to the front of the church. Dominic altar served for the first time in our church about a month ago. It's hard to put into words the emotions I felt watching him.

Last November, we started a Michigan Cottage Food Business called "Baked Goods By Dominic." Yes, we started a business during the Pandemic!! My dad unexpectedly passed away about a week before Christmas. We were not able to attend his funeral and it was one of the worst experiences I have ever been through in my life. My dad and I had gotten very close, especially after my mom's passing a little over three years ago. It took until about the middle of January, to start the business back up. We were on television twice and on the front page of the local newspaper. 

Fabulous opportunities keep coming our way. Yesterday, Dominic delivered his 127th order! This past year, our family has experienced the losses of family and close friends. Just yesterday, we found out a gal we know from church passed away. She is just a few months older than my husband. We had just saw her at church a week ago. While her loss will leave a huge hole, I am trying to focus on the positive memories I have of her. She always greeted us with a smile at church and she went out of her way to be friendly to both Lauren and Dominic. Life has a way of being very unpredictable, doesn't it? Even though Dominic will not be a "typical" incoming senior, he has accomplished so much! I try to find something positive in each and every day. That's the way I live my life, how about you?

Monday, June 7, 2021

It's Time to Leave the "Protective Bubble"

This Friday is Dominic's last day of 11th grade. He did part of 10th grade and all of 11th grade "virtually." While "virtual learning" has been good in some ways, there definitely has been one huge disadvantage. He has had seven seizures since March of 2020. All of Dominic's seizures, except the very first one, have been caused by anxiety/stress/change of routine. Each time he has had a seizure, I have had to call his Pediatric Neurologist and we discuss his medications. At Dominic's most recent in-person appointment, the Pediatric Neurologist basically said Dominic was at the top limits on his two current anti-seizure medications and she was very concerned about adding a third, especially since he was continuing to have seizures.  After some discussion, since Dominic also has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, we decided to treat the anxiety with a low dose of the generic version of Zoloft. Thank goodness he hasn't had any side effects and he has had only one very small seizure since he's been on the generic version of Zoloft, so I would say it's a success! We did have the option of sending Dominic back in person a few months ago, but given he had not gotten the COVID-19 Vaccine yet, the hubby and I decided it would be better and less disruptive to let him continue the remainder of 11th grade "virtually." During this Pandemic, we added another day of private speech therapy,  private drawing classes with an awesome artist

 and started a Michigan Cottage Food Business, Baked Goods By Dominic

He has had no disruption of his private music therapy, since we have a piano at our house. In Dominic's "dream" world, he would spend 24/7 inside our house and never go out.  He really needs to be around other kids his age, although I am pretty sure Dominic would disagree! Since March of 2020, he has been able to do countless puzzles, 

Legos and his calendars. We were given the choice a few weeks ago of sending Dominic to an "optional" Summer Program at his high school. My initial response was no, only because I didn't know what the Program would be like or how many kids would be in his class. Once I found out that it would be structured, a small class and working on skills we have been working on at home, my husband and decided together it would be really good for him. The Superintendent of our school district sent an e-mail very recently that said in-person classes would resume for all students in the Fall of 2021, unless you have a medical exemption, so in retrospect, we definitely made the right decision. This morning, I got up 15 minutes before school started and Dominic woke up 10 minutes before. He didn't have time for me to write his schedule, have breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth or give him his medications before school started (these are things he ALWAYS does before school). He did his first class in his pajamas! On top of that, the hubby is having his oil changed in his car and we had to go pick him up at the car place shortly after the first class ended! I told Dominic to put on his flip-flops and bring his breakfast with him in the car. I had some anxiety, actually ALOT of anxiety (I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder) that throwing all these changes at him (with basically no warning) would fluster him, cause a meltdown and/or he would have a seizure.  It has been like walking a tightrope since March of 2020 because of the Epilepsy.  I was pleasantly surprised - he had no trouble at all!! He handled it like a pro! This morning, after we got back from the car place, Dominic had just enough time for me to write his schedule down, take his medications, brush his teeth and get dressed before his second class. I went back in forth in my head as to whether this morning would be a good time to tell him about the Summer Program since his morning routine had not been "typical" at all. Since I had already put it off for a while, I decided to take a chance. Dominic is really into calendars, so I took the June calendar off of our fridge and told him to get the July and August calendars. I then told him I wanted to talk to him about something. I had written down all the Summer Program dates on a separate sheet of paper. He watched me write down every date for the Summer Program onto the June, July and August calendars and I also told him some of the kids that would be in the Summer Program. He knows three of them, so I am anticipating the transition to be smooth. Since March of 2020, it's like Dominic has been in a "protective bubble." He has gone for walks and to church. That has been it. I knew at some point this time would come - he would need leave the "bubble" and return to school. I can say with 100% certainty that both Dominic and I are ready!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Living with Congestive Heart Failure

Both of my parents passed away of Congestive Heart Failure, my mom almost three years ago and my dad almost four months ago. So, I guess you could say it runs in the family.   I never thought in a million years that I would be diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, but I was. It will be ten years on November 21 of this year. It was interesting how I was diagnosed. I had routinely been giving blood at the local American Red Cross and the nurse noticed an irregular heartbeat when taking my pulse. She said, "has anyone ever told you that?" I was like, "no, I don't think so." Around this same time, I noticed that I was having shortness of breath, but attributed that to possibly walking too fast during my daily walks. I reached out to my regular doctor, told her my concerns and she ordered a stress test. It involves walking/running on a treadmill. When I had my appointment at the local hospital, they had to stop my stress test because I was breathing really, really hard. The technician stopped the test immediately, because of that. I started to get a little concerned, when they said, "hey, do you have time for a cardiac catherization?" I was like, "let me check with my husband, he's expecting me back home soon." Once I called my husband (he was watching the kids) and told him what was going on, he told me to go ahead and do the cardiac catherization since they had an open appointment. Okay, now I'm going to get a little graphic here. They put you flat on your back and put a catheter through your groin and up into the heart to see what the heck is going on. I was pretty chill, because I was positive they would just tell me I was stressed out (2011, up until that point was an extremely stressful year). After the cardiac catherization, I had to rest a bit. I will never forget what the cardiologist told me when he came in the room to tell me the results. He said, "Mrs. Blatnik, you have Congestive Heart Failure." Pardon me?? The next question immediately out of my mouth was, "so, what is the worst case scenario?" His matter-of-fact response was, "heart transplant." It was at about this point, I began to feel like I was in a really bad dream. Shortly, after the cardiologist left, my husband, Lauren and Dominic came into the room. I think they were all surprised that what was supposed to be a stress test, ending up with me lying in a hospital bed!! Shortly after my family visited and left, my blood pressure took a dangerous turn. I remember feeling a little dizzy and me pushing the button for the nurse, because I was thinking something odd was going on.  The next thing I know, a bunch of doctors and nurses ran into the room, trying to get my blood pressure stabilized. It was like 30/10 or something around there.  I think they gave me a medication to bring it back up (I don't remember) and I started to feel better and my blood pressure went back up. I was kept overnight in the hospital, because of that little episode and I went home the next day. All I kept thinking in my head was that I would need a heart transplant and/or be hooked up to an oxygen tank for the rest of my life, I was just 48 at the time. Luckily, the cardiologist has me on a "cocktail" of medications that keep everything in check. I make sure to NEVER miss the medications and I go yearly to the cardiologist. When I tell people that I have Congestive Heart Failure, typically a look of shock is next. Once I tell them it is managed mostly by medications, I see them relax.  I have an echocardiogram coming up on September 27. Since my dad's passing in December of 2020, I definitely have been thinking more about my own diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure. What if that nurse hadn't noticed my irregular heartbeat that day in 2011 when I donated blood? She literally saved my life. I like to think she was my "guardian angel," because I only saw her that one time and never again. Neither of my parent's Congestive Heart Failure diagnoses came soon enough for them to be treated for it. I am very blessed that I was and I don't ever take a day for granted. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Why The Pandemic Has Been the Best Time to Start a Business for My Son with Autism

This month marks the one-year "anniversary" of Dominic being home full-time from school. When the Pandemic started, I guess I was VERY optimistic and thought it would only last a few weeks. Little did I know, that almost a year later, the Pandemic would still be raging on. It has been of a bit of a "learning curve" having Dominic here and my husband working from home (the hubby likes to call it a "preview" of what it will be like when he retires)!!  We have worked out a good system, so one of us is always home with Dominic. He can't be left alone because of his Complex Partial Epilepsy.  He has had six seizures since the Pandemic started, the most recent one was the beginning of January. Since we have had LOTS of extra time in our schedule, in June of 2020, we went from once-a-week private speech therapy to twice-a-week. It has been a pretty seamless transition from in-person to "virtual" learning with her. His private speech therapist has moved away from worksheets and started to concentrate heavily on "work/life skills." It was her suggestion to start to have Dominic bake for her and then she would pay him for his finished baked product. We really wanted him to make that connection. I started to wonder if we could bake for other people and make it into a "business." I started to comb the Internet for information and found that Michigan has something called a "Cottage Food Law." I did some research and then sat on the information for a while. It was several pages of Rules and Regulations (very overwhelming and intimidating at first). I began to think long-term and after finding a free on-line workshop on running a "Cottage Food" business and registering for it (the workshop wasn't until December), I decided to move forward. I already had tons of recipes at my disposal on my food blog, so I knew that I wouldn't need to be continually testing out new recipes! I then began to think that we probably should come up with a name and a logo. This is where an artist friend of mine, that I had used for classes for the disability ministry came into the picture. I asked him if he could start private art lessons with Dominic (even though Dominic had showed ZERO interest at previous art events with the disability ministry).  Dominic started his weekly private art lessons in August of 2020 and except for a few times, he has been going steadily every week! It has been AMAZING to watch his self-confidence grow!!  A few months into the lessons, I asked if Dominic could start designing a logo for the business. My artist friend agreed and we let Dominic make all the decisions about what it would look like, the colors, etc.  I even ordered a shirt with the logo on it for Dominic and one for his sister!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyways, we got our first order at the end of November and little by little, we started to get orders. In the second week of December, a few days after the on-line workshop about running a "Cottage Food Business," my dad (who lived back in Maryland) went into the hospital with what we all thought was a minor infection. It turned out he was in end-stage Congestive Heart Failure and my beloved dad passed away on December 17. I was devastated by his passing and it took me until a week or so into January before I felt like I could re-start the business.   

A few weeks ago, we filed the name "Baked Goods By Dominic" with the local county clerk's office  AND opened a bank account!!! Our family has had an outpouring of support and Dominic just delivered his 22nd order a few days ago. I have mentioned it before, but my maternal great-grandfather owned and operated a bakery in Butler, Missouri. He is the shorter gentleman standing at the far end of the counter. Pretty cool to have this picture, isn't it? 

I love that this baking business has started for several reasons. One is that I had stopped baking, because my life pre-Pandemic had gotten very, very busy. This Pandemic has forced me to slow down and resume my passion for baking!! The second reason is that Dominic is learning both "life" and "work" skills. One of his favorite things to do when we go on a delivery is to hold my phone and help me "navigate" with Google Maps. The third reason is that my ultimate goal for this business is for Dominic to have his own bakery (like my great-grandfather had), but employ ONLY those with special needs. It's a great (and realistic) goal to have, don't you think?!?!?!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Never Giving Up Hope

I have mentioned before that when we first received Dominic's diagnosis of Autism at age 2 1/2 , my first thought was him as an adult sorting paperclips into boxes. I thought he would never talk. I knew nothing at all about Autism. I did grow up with a neighbor named Tommy who had intellectual disabilities and he would visit our home frequently.  This was the 1970's when those with disabilities were separated in school and many parents were told to institutionalize their children. Looking back, Tommy's parents went against that thinking. They let him walk around the neighborhood unsupervised. I never asked Tommy if he had Autism, we accepted him the way he was.  Speaking of acceptance, it took me about two weeks to come to terms with Dominic's diagnosis of Autism. In my own opinion, I think that is very important to do because you really can't move forward until you have done that. After the diagnosis of Autism, Dominic subsequently received diagnoses of ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Complex Partial Epilepsy. In a lot of ways, when Dominic received that diagnosis of Autism, I was actually relieved.  I found it much more stressful before we got the diagnosis. We knew something wasn't right, but didn't know what it was. Dominic turned 16 at the end of July and in a little over a year and half and he will be an adult.  Now that I have been on this Autism "journey" with Dominic for almost 14 years, I can say with complete transparency that he has surpassed many of the expectations that I had for him!! Dominic's speech is delayed and most likely always will be. When Dominic was able to say two or three word sentences, I felt like jumping up and down!!  This past Friday, Lauren asked Dominic what he wanted for Christmas. He responded back with, "Legos and puzzles." This was the very first time that he ever told us that!! Woohoo!!!! Given that he is almost 16 1/2 we have been waiting a LONG time to hear that!!!! When you have a child/adult with learning differences and speech delays, when they are able to tell you spontaneously, unscripted and unprompted what they want, you want to shout it from the rooftops! I belong to several Facebook pages that have to do with Autism. Earlier this week, on one of my favorite Facebook pages, I saw a post about a 4-year old boy that saw one of his favorite Disney characters and spoke for the first time. Another parent saw that post and said, "thanks for giving me hope!' Since I was so excited that Dominic had told us when he wanted for Christmas, I posted it on their Facebook page. A different mom wrote back to my post saying that she would give anything to hear what Dominic said to us and that her son is 16 as well. I wrote back to that mom and told her I was sending her a "virtual" hug and to never give up hope!!!! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Doing the "Right" Thing

While this Pandemic in some ways has been good (like doing our daily walks), I have definitely noticed Dominic becoming more agitated at things that typically wouldn't have bothered him so much, pre-Pandemic. It has got to be SO hard to be a teenager with limited language and be in puberty. Everyone goes through puberty, whether you are typically-developing or not. When Lauren was a teenager, she would go to her room, shut the door and get some alone time. Dominic doesn't do that during the day. He only uses his room to sleep. We have worked really hard with the private speech therapist on how to manage his emotions. He used to go in our living room and hit the bay windows with the palms of his hands. Definitely not the best way to express how he is feeling. Slowly, he transitioned from hitting the wall to throwing a pillow on the ground. Last night, our evening was going well until he looked at his "schedule" from school. Dominic's teacher is awesome. She puts a daily schedule on-line for the entire week. It is very detailed with the times of all of his classes and the subjects. I print it out on Monday mornings and attach it to a clipboard. As he completes each class, we check it off. It also lists homework. Well, out of the blue, after we had eaten dinner, he picked up the clipboard, took a look at Tuesday's schedule and noticed that he hadn't done the homework. I told him we could do it the next day. He wanted me to cross it off, even though he hadn't done it yet. I told him doing that would be "cheating." Dominic didn't like that explanation too much and he ran over to one of the decorative posts in our family room and yanked it hard. I raised my voice and told him not to do that and to go to his room to cool off. He ran upstairs and immediately came back down. I told him that he could get his school computer back out and do it. He kept shaking his head and continued to tell me no. He then threw a pillow on the ground.  This side of Dominic is a side most people don't see. The hubby had been observing the ongoing interchange between Dominic and I and finally said, "why don't you just stop talking about it?" I told him that Dominic was the one that kept talking about it and that he wanted me to cross off the homework even though he hadn't done it. I guess that would have been the easiest thing to do, but honesty is one of those traits that I strongly believe in. Both Dominic and I were standing our "ground."  By this time, Dominic was REALLY frustrated. His face was red and he was doing a lot of grumbling. After another few minutes went by, he went over and took his computer out of the case and turned it on. I said, "do you want to do your homework now, so you can cross it off your schedule?" He told me he did.  As he completed each assignment, we crossed it off. After he finished, he logged the computer back off and put it back in the case. I think Dominic had mentally exhausted himself, so he went to bed early.  I felt that it was extremely important I didn't give in and let him think that type of behavior is okay, because it's not. It was mentally exhausting for me too (I was hoping he didn't have an Epileptic seizure, which are sometimes brought on by stress), but I am really glad I stood my "ground." I knew in the end that Dominic would do the right thing and he did!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Why It's Important for Dominic to "Pay it Forward"

About two years ago, Dominic's private speech therapist starting teaching him the process of when you do chores, you get an allowance. You then save up that money and buy something that you really want. In Dominic's case, it has been Legos.  If you have a child/adult that likes Legos, you know how expensive they are! Sometimes, it has taken Dominic three months to save up enough money (he gets $5.00/week).  About a month or so ago, I took a look around our house and I felt like we were living in a Lego factory. They were literally everywhere!! I couldn't walk anywhere in our family room without stepping on one. If you have ever stepped on a Lego piece with the arch of your foot, you know that doesn't feel too good! I knew that we needed to take a break for a while from buying them.  Dominic's private speech therapist gave us the option of taking part of his allowance to our local bank and have him deposit it into his bank account, but I want Dominic to get the full experience of filling out the deposit slip and waiting his turn in line to see the bank teller.  At our bank, you have to make an appointment to go into the lobby. Dominic could make his deposit at the drive-thru, but it isn't quite the same as doing it in person. A few weeks ago on a Saturday, I started the discussion with Dominic about how we are lucky to have food on the table and a roof over our heads. I explained to him that not everyone has that.  I then asked him if he would be willing to donate part of his allowance once a month to church. Without hesitation, he said yes. I had him grab the glass jar that we keep his money in that he has earned from his allowance. I told him that he could decide anywhere from $5.00 to $15.00 to give to church. He picked $15.00. Dominic keeps a ledger in a notebook of what date he gets his allowance and the amount, so he always has a running "tally" of how much he has. We subtracted the $15.00 from the grand total.  I then found an envelope, wrote a note, tucked it into the envelope and put the $15.00 in it.  As many are with Autism, Dominic is very visual. He watched every single part of the process. We typically go to the 5:00 p.m. Mass at our church. I made sure I had the envelope in my purse and when we got inside, I had him put the envelope in the offering box mounted on the wall.

 Dominic has watched me for years filling out a check and putting it in an envelope, taking it to church and putting it in the collection basket.   According to, there are three ways to instill enduring financial values in children, "teach them how to save, teach them how to spend and them how to give."  Dominic turned 16 at the end of July. He has his Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting a little less than two weeks from today. At last year's IEP, we started the discussion of Dominic working on his vocational skills with the ultimate goal of getting a job, so I know we will be resuming that conversation this year. The skills that Dominic has learned from getting an allowance will apply to when he starts earning his own money at a job. The hubby and I will make sure that he continues to donate once a month to church. We feel it is extremely important for Dominic to "pay it forward." Dominic has been working very hard since the end of July baking and cooking different foods. This afternoon, it was Apple Crumb Muffins. Every time I mention to my husband that what he is eating is something Dominic made, he says, "he has a future in the restaurant industry!" The muffins were the eighth thing Dominic has made since I started keeping a "journal" of what he has made (another great idea from his private speech therapist). I think they look pretty yummy, don't you? If you are wondering why Dominic's grin was so wide, it was because I told him he could have TWO muffins!!!!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

An "Anniversary" Worth Celebrating

Yesterday was a HUGE milestone. Do you want to know what it was?!?!?! Well, I will tell you! It was five years almost to the day that Dominic has been going to his barber, Vince. Dominic was 11 when he went to Vince for the first time.

He just turned 16 in July. Vince has watched Dominic grow from a boy into a man.

In case you were wondering, both Vince and Dominic had on their respective masks during the haircut. They removed it briefly for the picture! So, for those of you without sensory sensitivities, getting a haircut can be challenging because of the bright lights; the noise of the hairdryers, people and the clippers; having someone touching their head and lastly, the smell of chemicals. For most of us, those things wouldn't bother us or we block it out. For those with Autism or sensory sensitivities, it can be very difficult.  Before Michigan lifted the restrictions for getting a haircut, I asked Dominic a bunch of times if he wanted me to cut his hair. It was always a resounding NO.  I think he remembers all the years I cut his hair where it literally looked like I put a bowl on his head and cut.  It was never a thought in my head of going to a different barbershop after the restrictions were lifted. When my husband and Dominic walk through the doors of the barbershop they are treated like family. Throughout these five years, Dominic has formed a trust with Vince.  That is so incredibly important for someone on the Autism Spectrum. Dominic is very intuitive and he knows if someone feels uncomfortable around him. From day one, Vince has treated Dominic with respect, patience and compassion. Vince carries on a conversation with Dominic and even if Dominic doesn't respond back, Vince just keeps right on clipping. If you find a barber that is as wonderful as Vince, consider yourself very lucky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We sure do!!!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Going Outside the "Comfort Zone"

Before this Pandemic took over, Dominic was pretty "set" in his ways. Trying anything new and out of his "comfort zone" was not anything at all on his radar screen. As are many on the Autism Spectrum, changes in Dominic's routine are not always easily accepted. Since we are living in a different world now, I have used this time with Dominic to not only work on his social skills, but to also try new things.  When the opportunity to sign Dominic up for a "virtual" music camp in June arose, I really had no expectations that he would be engaged and participate. We had tried this particular camp in-person and it was too overwhelming for him and I never signed him up for it again. Much to my surprise, he LOVED it!! The camp had just the right mix of breaks and participation. Based on that positive reaction, I signed him up for another camp similar to the one he did in June. The "Showcase" is this coming Wednesday night and Dominic will be singing, "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.  Dominic has been in the choir at school for several years, but there has been more than one time he hasn't sung, like not at all. I am hopeful when he does go back to school in-person, he will have gained the confidence to sing every time he is on stage! Since just about every activity has moved on-line, when I saw on Facebook that the Food Network along with some other sponsors were offering free cooking classes, I signed Dominic up for three. He made Chicken Barbeque "Pizza," with Rachael Ray; Chicken Parm with Angel Hair Pasta with Andrew Zimmern and yesterday, he decorated a cake with Buddy Valastro

Typically, when we decorate a cake, I only let Dominic do the "sprinkles." I have learned these past several months, to loosen the tight control I have on Dominic. That grip was real tight at the beginning of the Pandemic because he had three seizures within the first month. Since he has been seizure free for over three months, little-by-little, I am making progress and loosening that tight control. A huge lesson that I have learned having Dominic with me during this time of the Pandemic is that he has to learn to adapt to this world, the world isn't going to adapt for him. Speaking of going outside Dominic's "comfort zone," I asked an artist friend of mine if he would be willing to give Dominic private art lessons. Those start this coming Wednesday.  I will keep you updated!!!!

Why We Pursued Guardianship of our Son with Autism

Last Thursday morning, my husband, Dominic and I went to our county's Probate Court and had Dominic's Guardianship Hearing. My husba...