Friday, September 8, 2017

To The Parent Whose Child Just Received an Autism Diagnosis

Image is a blue background with white letters which read:
"Dear Parent, It'll be okay. I promise. Here are some tips.
Love, The Gonzo Mama." Pink lips in the shape of a "kiss"
appear in the lower right corner.
Hello, readers. I've recently been giving this topic a lot of thought, as I've been going through the diagnosis process with Bravo, and thinking about how different it feels, this time around.

When Curlytop was diagnosed, it wasn't news to us, because we knew who she was, and she had been with us for over eight years. We'd been asking and asking for someone to please, see what we are seeing, and give this kid a diagnosis, so we could arm her with the empowering language and identity she would need, as she grows to adulthood. Self-identification ("I'm autistic") is such an important part of self-advocacy ("so I may need accommodation"), and we wanted to ensure she was equipped with that personal toolbox.

And now, we have Bravo. Going through the diagnosis process was different, but just as important. Autism "looks different" in girls, you know? So, it's often easier to spot in boys, and the assessments and observations go more smoothly, and it's really just "yes, it's autism," or "no, it's not." In any event, we already knew Bravo was autistic, so the diagnosis was just a formality, just like in Curlytop's case.

Even though I knew I was autistic, I wasn't diagnosed in childhood, so I had no idea what an "autistic childhood" should or would look like, when Curlytop was diagnosed. I just kind of muddled through childhood and adolescence as the weird girl who didn't understand relationships and friendships, who was always writing or had her nose in a book so she didn't have to talk to people, and had a really overwhelming obsession with numbers and counting things like the number of steps from English class to History class, the number of seconds it took to evacuate the building during fire drills, and the number of tiles in the Science room.

I didn't have an autistic childhood. I had a really difficult, painful, tumultuous adolescence, and when I learned in adulthood that it was autism, it all made sense. It was freeing, liberating, and soothing. Everything I knew about myself fell into place.

How much easier would it have been, had I been able to -- and encouraged to -- identify as autistic in my youth? A large part of me wants to believe I would have mastered self-advocacy much earlier, and I would have felt safer, more comfortable, and less like an outcast. Of course, I'll never know, but I want every autistic kid to have the opportunity to learn self-love, self-identity, and self-advocacy.

Our job, as parents, is to provide those opportunities.

When Curlytop was diagnosed, because I didn't have a model for autistic childhood, I was easily influenced by marketing, false-advocacy, and pressure from healthcare professionals. It took me a full year to gain stable footing as an independent parent and advocate for my child (and myself!), and that footing actually didn't come from parenting communities or "Autism Awareness" campaigns or healthcare providers.

It came from my growing network and community of autistic adults.

What sort of future do I hope for, for my daughter, and the children in my care? I hope for one in which they are fierce, are proud of who they are, are in possession of strong and healthy boundaries, and ask for and receive help when they need it. So, it only makes sense to start setting that future up for them by learning from people who are already living it.

If I could go back to that day of Curlytop's diagnosis, armed with the knowledge I have now, this is what I wish someone had said to me, and what I'm glad I know, this time around (some of these things I already knew, but it would have been great to receive affirmation):

1. Your child's diagnosis does not change who they are, or who you are. 

You've known your child since birth (or -- for families created through adoption, kinship care, guardianship, or foster care -- since placement). You know who your child is. You've been together for a while, and your relationship is not changed by a medical proclamation. Your child is still your child, and your job is still to make your child feel safe, secured, loved, and protected in the world, while helping them to develop into the most beautifully awesome version of themselves they were meant to be.

2. You don't have to change anything, right this minute. 

Really. It's true. Your child was autistic yesterday, and they will be autistic tomorrow, and for the rest of their lives. Taking a little time to research, ask questions, and listen to your child and your heart will not doom them to failure.

3. You DO need to decide one thing, right NOW.

Right now, before you do anything else, you need to decide what kind of parent you are going to be as your child grows to adulthood, and beyond.

Are you going to be the kind of parent who shares things like, "You might be an autism parent if..." memes, without considering if they are offensive or harmful to your child and the autistic community?

Are you going to be the kind of parent who compulsively "likes" and follows every single Facebook page or social media community that has "autism" in the name, without first learning what the page's or organization's views and positions are, and whether those positions are in opposition to the autistic community?

Are you going to be the kind of parent who shares "inspiring" videos about how a football team helped an autistic kid make his first touchdown, without first asking yourself if the video exploits the autistic individual, for the sole purpose of spotlighting the non-disabled people, just to make them feel good/seem hero-like?

Are you going to be the kind of parent who consents to and agrees to everything your child's healthcare provider suggests, without weighing the risks and benefits for your individual child?

Are you going to be the kind of parent who is supports and embraces the notion that autism "stole" your child?


Are you going to be the kind of parent who establishes healthy boundaries for your social media and real-life conversational sharing?

(Hint: Talking about your child's poop, "stimming," or other behaviors in any way that could be embarrassing or uncomfortable for your child is robbing them of their dignity, and, likely, their ability to feel they can trust you. I'm the first to admit I have been reckless in this regard, in the past, but I've found clarity and sense over time. This post is insightful, though it uses PFL (see point number 4, below), and has some excellent points for consideration.)

Are you going to be the kind of parent who thoughtfully considers the values of a community, social media group, or fan page, and the impact of those values on autistics, before joining or following?

Are you going to be the kind of parent who researches thoroughly every single so-called "advocacy" organization before supporting it, amplifying its messages, or using its symbols and slogans to show your advocacy for your child?

(For example, I always tell parents to stay far, far away from "the puzzle piece," "Autism Awareness," and other high-dollar advertising which have become synonymous with autism in general, but do very little to actually advocate for autistics, and, in fact, may harm autistics through words or policy.

Are you going to be the parent who doesn't rush to enroll their child in recommended therapies without researching the methods used, and the possible future implications, first? (See my post on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy, here.)

Are you going to be the parent who embraces everything that your child is, and helps them to become confident in their identity?

4. Learn how to talk about autism, and work through your own misconceptions. Get comfortable with the language, and get uncomfortable when people use language that doesn't respect your child.

This link has some really, really good information about five common language mistakes people make when talking about autistic children. It requires a download of a PDF, but I strongly suggest you not only download it, but also print it out for future use. Make copies to give to educators and service providers. The document is crafted by autistic voices, and when we talk about autism, those voices are the strongest -- and only -- authority on the subject.

Much debate has been seen among my blog comments and social media comments about person-first language (PFL) versus identity-first language (IFL) when talking to and about autistics.

Back when I was getting familiar with and comfortable with not only Curlytop's, but also my own, autism, I fell victim to the "PFL is always respectful, polite, and correct" dogma. However, after talking to actual autistics, I learned why a great majority of (but not all) autistics prefer IFL.

5. Decide, right now -- RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE -- whether you are going to be an "autism parent," OR "the parent of an autistic child."

It may seem like I'm trying to exaggerate what could be interpreted as a small issue of semantics, but the difference is huge.

If you identify as an "autism parent," the emphasis -- the priority -- is on you, and your identity.

When you're "the parent of autistic child," the emphasis -- and thus, the priority -- is on your child, and your child's identity.

It's staggering how such a small difference in wording can create such a huge difference in advocacy positions, attitudes, and effectiveness.

6. Your child needs to see you advocate for them.

Your child needs to see you fighting for them... so they learn they are worth fighting for. 

Your child needs to see you educating others about autism, autistic rights, acceptance, and inclusion... so they can learn to teach others the same.

Your child needs to see you changing the world for them... so they can change it for others.

PARENTS WHO HAVE AUTISTIC CHILDREN: What do YOU wish you had known, or done, when your child was diagnosed?

PARENTS WHOSE CHILD WAS RECENTLY DIAGNOSED: What questions, as the parent of a newly-diagnosed child, do you have?

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The First Day of School... Kind Of

We all got up this morning, with big plans.

Mine was to get the kids off to school, send Pumpkin off with Mr. Wright to take pictures of some house a million miles away, enjoy an adult beverage or six, and take a bubble bath. Maybe crawl back into bed. Whatever it ended up being, it was going to be gloriously kid-free. (See photo.)


So, I got the girls on the bus, and off to middle school:

And got the boys ready:

But I decided to take the boys to school, myself, rather than putting them on the bus, because Bravo had not yet been assigned to a teacher. 

Here we are, on the first day of school, and the kid DOESN'T HAVE A TEACHER, YET.

Let me back up a little...

Our district has a pre-K program available for kids who qualify for it. Basically, if their assessments show they're deficient by a certain percentage in one area, or a cumulative percentage over all areas, they're "in." Well, Bravo came to us with an IEP, so he was "in." He finished out the year with the pre-K program, and at the end of school, his teachers told him how much they would miss him, and how excited they were that he was now going to be a BIG KINDERGARTNER! Woot!

They may have also said something like I needed to fill out a packet for Kindergarten, if he was going to be in district when school started, but, you know, we're doing kinship care, and the plan is for him to go home, so back in June, I had no idea if he was going to be around when fall came, so I sort of filed the information in my "Think About It Later" file.

And there it stayed. Right up until Monday, when I was reminded that he still wasn't registered for school. Aw, firetruck...

So, on Monday, I packed the baby into the stroller, walked a couple blocks to the district office, and filled out the paperwork for him to be a BIG KINDERGARTNER, and turned it in (not without some struggle, because I don't have access to a lot of necessary documents, like his birth certificate, and so on). But, I got it done. 

Then, I was reminded that if I wanted him to attend the same school as his brother, I would need to "choice" him, and that was a completely different set of forms.

Let me back up a little further...

A few years ago, the boundary lines for our schools changed. Our house is in this weird little pocket that got changed from the school Curlytop and Snugglebug had been attending, to this other school. At that time, we sat down with the team, and determined it would be best for the girls to stay in the school they were already in, since their supports were already set up, we had a great working relationship with the team, and it was a familiar environment for them. So, we just had to "choice" them to the school they were already attending. And it was no big deal. 

So, when we got the boys, we "choiced" Alpha into the school Snugglebug was, and had been attending for years, because... one bus, convenience, and all that. (Curlytop had moved on to middle school by that time. Interestingly, she moved on to a middle school out of our boundary, because of the elementary school she had been "choiced" into. Snugglebug joined her, there, this year.)

Anyway, I filled out the choice forms, and was told we should have an approval by Tuesday, unless for some weird reason the superintendent decided to deny it. Good thing, since school starts on Wednesday, right?

Yesterday, I got the call that it had been approved, which was awesome. I asked who his teacher would be, and the district rep didn't know, but said the school should have that information for me. 

I was tied up yesterday for quite a while, and didn't get a chance to call the school until after everyone had already left the office, so I was a little anxious, knowing school would be starting today, and poor Bravo still didn't know who his teacher was.

So, this morning, I just drove the boys to school, and trotted into the office with Bravo. "Who's his teacher?" I asked.

"We don't have him assigned to a teacher, but we should have that information for you by tomorrow."

BY TOMORROW? I mean, this kid was sitting there, in the office, with his backpack on, and his shoes that weren't scuffed, yet, and his sweet little clean face, and all the other kids were heading off to their classrooms, and we would know tomorrow who his teacher was?

"So, what do I do? Do I just... take him home for today?"

I got a blank stare from the secretary. After a moment, she recovered, and said, "Kindergarten starts next week. You know that, right?"


Anyway, here's what my plans have been changed to, today:

I think he's a little disappointed. I am, too.

I swear, Southern Comfort, we will see each other again, soon.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Get Out of My Face with Your "Quiet Hands"

In case you're out of the loop, we have two amazing kiddos staying with us through kinship care right now. That's right -- two bonus boys: Alpha, 8, and Bravo, 5 (almost 6).

Anyway, I had to take Bravo into the school today to meet with the school psychologist for some cognitive testing, as his IEP review is due before his birthday next month. I haven't worked with this psychologist before, and he seems like a nice enough guy, but I'm pretty sure he hates me now, because... you know... I can never seem to hold my firetrucking tongue when it comes to the treatment and education of the kiddos in my care.

So, I'm filling out the ABAS-3 (Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, Third Edition) while Mr. Psychologist gets out some puzzle pieces to begin testing. He's working in tandem with the SLP (Speech & Language Pathologist), and they're tag-teaming... Mr. Psychologist performs one part of his test, and then Ms. SLP performs one part of hers, and so on.

Everything is going fine -- I'm working on one side of the table on the ABAS, Mr. Psychologist, Bravo, and Ms. SLP are working on the other side. Mr. Psychologist has killed the fan in the room because the noise is distracting to me, and it's all good, until I hear it: Bravo, "quiet hands," please.

They were in the middle of testing, and Mr. Psychologist had asked me not to intervene with the testing process, so I lifted my head, gave the psych a look (he was too engrossed in the testing to notice), and went back to the ABAS.

When he finished the test portion, I butted in before Ms. SLP could begin her portion.

"Is this a stopping point?" I asked.

"Sort of," he said.

"May I speak, frankly?" I asked.

"Errrr... of course..." he ventured.

"Okay. So, we're a house full of neurodiversity and neurodivergence. We don't subscribe to ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, its tactics, its goals, or its dictionary. We don't use phrases like, 'quiet hands.' We believe physical stimming is healthy and productive, and we don't force children to refrain from it, hide it, or minimize it."

There was a brief moment of uncomfortable silence, and Mr. Psychologist cleared his throat. "I understand that. That's great. I actually didn't even know that 'quiet hands' was an ABA thing."

Like, this guy wanted me to believe that he pursued an education in psychology -- presumably, with an emphasis on child development, at some point? -- to the point of receiving a degree, but had NEVER HEARD THE PHRASE "QUIET HANDS," IN THE CONTEXT OF ABA? I gave him the benefit of the doubt, in any event.

"Gentle redirection to return focus to the task at hand is fine," I said, "but I don't endorse attempts to restrict physical stims."

I let it go at that, but I wanted to scream, "BUT IT SERVES THE SAME PURPOSE, DOESN'T IT?! Does it even MATTER where you heard it, when what you want the child to do is stop his physical stimming?!""

Let me explain.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is compliance-based "therapy" popular with parents of autistic children, which includes goals such as "reducing inappropriate behavior," "increasing socially acceptable behaviors," and "increasing appropriate and effective communication." Its primary goal? To "fix" autistic children, "correcting" their behaviors, so they appear more neurotypical ("less autistic"), drawing less attention to themselves and their caregivers, so those caregivers and society at large can feel more comfortable around them.

If you're not grasping why ABA is harmful to autistics, try reading "Quiet Hands," by Julia Bascom.

Is that too artsy for you? Try this one from Amy Sequenzia, of the Autistic Women's Network.

Want to see what this compliance-based indoctrination looks like as it carries into adulthood? Read this post from Neurodivergent K.

Anyway, so I was trying to explain to Mr. Wright that the new school psychologist hates me, now, and I started telling him the story, and when I got to the part about hearing "quiet hands," he fell out of his chair, laughing.

Not because he thinks ABA is funny, but because he's been in IEP meetings with me, before.

He said, "Ohhhhhhhhhh, hell... QUIET HANDS? Did you lose your ever loving shit? Were you standing on your toes? Were you doing that? I can just see you, standing on your toes! You do that, you know!"

Well, no. I was sitting down, actually. Mostly, anyway. I may have been slightly out of my seat. Reaching across the table. With my hands ready to snap the guy's neck.

But mostly, I was sitting. Technically. Pretty much, anyway.

Mr. Wright asked what I hoped to gain from the exchange, and suggested that I simply wanted the guy to acknowledge that I am right about this issue. I thought about it, and replied, "No. I want people to earnestly consider the weight and implications of the ideals they hold dear, and I want them to come to the conclusion on their own that what they've learned or been taught may be wrong. I want them to realize they've got it all wrong, when it comes to the autistic community."

"In other words," he said, chuckling, "you want to be right?"

Well, yes. And, also, no.

See, I didn't come to enlightenment by nature. Nooooooo... I actually thought the "professionals" who were overseeing medical care for my children had all the knowledge, and I didn't really question their advice, until I hit a roadblock. ABA was one of many therapies suggested for Curlytop when she was diagnosed, and it wasn't available in our area for her. At first, I was devastated. Like, I didn't have the benefit of any type of interventions when I was growing up, so I wanted to make sure she had EVERYTHING that could possibly help her to succeed, so I went on a wild crusade to find an ABA provider, and did a ton of research to help find one.

It was that research that led to my enlightenment. I talked to actual autistics who had been subjected to ABA therapies as children, and learned that some of them had PTSD as a result of their experiences.

I thought about my own experiences, and my own struggles, and how difficult extended eye contact was -- and is -- for me, and how I always got poor grades in speech class because I couldn't look at my audience, and how I deal with that now (by simply saying to people, "Eye contact is really difficult for me. Please don't think I'm not listening to you if I'm not looking at you. I can actually listen better by NOT looking at you."), and how I'm actually existing pretty successfully in the world. I realized that if Curlytop doesn't get forced to initiate eye contact she doesn't feel comfortable with, it's going to be okay. She will be okay. She'll be better than okay... she'll feel safe, and comfortable, and accepted.

I thought about how I was always getting in trouble for having "fidgets" in class (my old-school favorite fidget was a retractable ballpoint pen with a button on top which I would click until my Spanish teacher took it away and gave me detention), and how we've come a long way in recognizing that fidget objects can be healthy devices which can help people concentrate.

I thought about how my fourth grade teacher called me out in front of the whole class for scrunching my nose like a rabbit, repeatedly, while I was silently reading, and how humiliated I was, and I was proud that my daughter felt safe enough to engage in her verbal "squawking" during times of stress and excitement, because we've never shamed her or tried to restrict it. It's just a really sweet, cute part of who she is.

And, just like that, ABA therapy was off the table for us, and for our children. We'd rather spend our time helping others to understand, accept, and embrace neurodiversity than spend it trying to mask the neurology and personalities of our children, who are amazing and perfect, as they are.

So, it's not so much that I want to be right about ABA as it is that I want others to consider that they may have it all wrong, when it comes to educating and serving autistic children. What if there's a better way? What if -- rather than trying to force them to be "less autistic" -- the best way to help them is to educate everyone else around them about neurodiversity? What if promoting autism ACCEPTANCE is superior to downplaying autism "SYMPTOMS/BEHAVIORS?"

Anywayyyyyyyyyy... I have to go back at 11am with Bravo tomorrow.

What do you want to bet that Mr. Psychologist will be all too keenly and freshly aware of my own personal hand-stimming (specifically, "clicking" my fingernails by placing my thumbnail under one fingernail, then pushing up and down, creating a satisfying series of  "clicks" as the nails pass over one another)?

Say "quiet hands" to me ONE firetrucking TIME... I dare you.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Stop Saying Autism Stole Your Child

I've found a great number of really awesome groups and Facebook pages for autistic people and parents of autistic children online, and I'm sure glad for the support and education I've received from them. In fact, I read back through some of my posts from when we were going through the diagnosis process for Curlytop, and realize how uneducated I was, and what an ableist jerk and self-centered parent I was during that time of diagnosis. In fact, I almost acted like the diagnosis changed who she was, and how I would parent her when, in fact, neither of those were true.

Remember that we lived nine years with Curlytop before we had a diagnosis, and that diagnosis simply gave us confirmation of what we already knew -- that she experiences the world differently, and her neurological biology is different than many other children's.

I'm willing to forgive myself for that ignorance, because now, I know better, so I can do better.

But... I've had to leave a number of parent groups, because the parents within them are still acting like ableist, mourning, hand-wringing, woe-is-me, clueless and callous people. Their children have been autistic their entire lives, and yet they're acting like it's the end of the world.

Just the other day, I had to block posts from a Facebook page purporting to be autism advocates, because they posted something along the lines of, "We all know autistic children have singular interests. Using a gif, comment with what your child is obsessed with!" 

The level of overly-broad brush stroking there was unbelievable, and the grossness of sharing your kid's "weirdness" (and making a fun little game out of it!) just turned my stomach. It wasn't even a page I followed, but a "suggested post" from Facebook.


The ones that really get me frothing at the mouth, though, are the parents who are still wailing that "autism stole my child from me."


Cancer may steal your child from you.
SIDS may steal your child from you.
A car accident may steal your child from you.
A predator may steal your child from you.
A non-custodial parent may steal your child from you.
Hell... A destructive cult may steal your child from you.

But, autism IS your child.

Autism is part of your child's biology, and identity.

Autism is something you'd better learn to LOVE, because that means loving your child.

By blaming and hating autism, you are, by extension, blaming and hating your child.

I get it... parenthood looks different to you than you expected. All those milestones your friends from Lamaze are sharing remind you that your child is different, and will reach those milestones in their own time. Or not.

But if you "mourn" that picture you imagined, you are missing the very real opportunity to love what is right in front of you -- your child, who is exactly who and where they are supposed to be, right this very minute, no matter what milestone they are working toward, or skipping.

I've "mommed" a lot of kids, and I'm here to tell you that parenting is HARD, whether your child is neurotypical, or not. If I "mourned" every time parenting looked differently than I imagined it, I would have been dressed in black for the last quarter of a century. (Okay, I did have my "goth" phase in the early 90s, but who didn't?)

On the real, though... you've been given the amazing gift of a perfectly complex and amazing child. Mourning your child's neurology is like getting a new car, and throwing a spoiled fit because it's the "wrong" color.

If life gave you an awesome car, I'd hope you'd drive it proudly, keep it well-maintained so it can perform its best, and cherish the hell out of it.

Your child is so much more valuable than a car!

If you really wanted a daughter, and your child was born male, would you spend years lamenting,, on social media and in "support" groups how much you're mourning for the daughter you didn't get? Would you let your child witness, for the entirety of their lives, how robbed you felt? That your daughter was "stolen" from you? Would you let them think -- for even a minute -- that you didn't celebrate who your child really is?

That is self-centered AF.

Be proud of your autistic child. Nurture them. Help them grow. Cherish the hell out of them.

And, for the love of God, get out of your mourning, and LIVE life with your child.

Your child hasn't been stolen, but you may be stealing your child's dignity and self-worth.

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Friday, October 7, 2016

When You Learn THIS About ADHD Meds, You'll Be PISSED

Big Pharma has a secret they don't want you to know
about what they're dosing your children with...
So, I have this fierce mama in my world, Mama B. She's a mom who knows her stuff. She's raised or is raising seven kids, including a profoundly disabled adult son, and is an adoptive mama to a child of trauma. She's the kind of mom who causes educators, administrators, medical professionals, and more to quake in their boots when she walks into a meeting, because you can bet the farm she's done her research. 

I say all this because it's important to understand that Mama B is not the type of woman to "go with the flow," or "take it on faith" when it comes to her children's education or health. 

Her young son, "T," was diagnosed with food dye sensitivity in preschool. For those not familiar with the effects of dye sensitivity, it can look like any number of these things:

Red dyes have been associated with aggressive, impulsive behavior in children, tantrums, meltdowns, hitting, kicking, physical aggression, and more. 

Yellow dyes have been linked to insomnia, restlessness, hyperactivity, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. 

Blue and green dyes have been linked to similar problems. 

Naturally, the ever-vigilant Mama B makes sure her son's allergy and sensitivity to dyes is noted with every medical professional he sees. 

When T was diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten and his medical professional suggested a regimen of daily medications, it wasn't a decision Mama B took lightly. She'd already researched the correlation between dyes and behavioral problems, and since removing dyes from T's diet, she had seen some improvement, but he still struggled with certain behaviors and had difficulty controlling himself, getting and staying organized, concentrating, sleeping, and more. 

In desperation, she and her family decided to give the meds a try.

That was seven years ago. Since then, T has received his daily dosage of ADHD medication, and the problems don't seem to be improving. If anything, they seem to be getting worse. 

I was at Occupational Therapy with my littles today when I began to receive a steady stream of frantic, outraged, angry text messages from Mama B. She was live-texting me from the doctor's office and pharmacy, and relaying to me the shitstorm that was going down, in real time.

See, Mama B found out today that the medication she's been giving to her son -- her dye-sensitive son -- every day for the last seven years CONTAINS RED DYE. 

How is this possible?

How is it that the very medication that is supposed to TREAT symptoms like these:

(This is a list of some ADHD symptoms; not all-inclusive. If this list sounds familiar, you're not imagining things... Check it against the list of food dye sensitivity symptoms, above.)

contains ingredients that can CAUSE the same symptoms?


Guess what... It gets worse. 

T's medication is called Vyvanse. It contains one or more of the following: D&C Red #28, D&C Yellow #10, FD&C Blue #1, FD&C Green #3, and FD&C Red #40.

No problem... Just switch him to another medication, right?

Not so easy. Guess what? They ALL pretty much contain artificial dyes:

STRATTERA: FD&C Blue No. 2, synthetic yellow iron oxide, titanium dioxide, red iron oxide, and edible black ink 

FOCALIN: FD&C Blue No. 1 #5516 aluminum lake (in the 2.5mg tablets); D&C Yellow Lake #10 (in the 5mg tablets)

FOCALIN XR: FD&C Blue #2 (in 5mg, 15mg, 25mg, 35mg, and 40mg doses); FDA/E172 yellow iron oxide (in 10mg, 15mg, 30mg, 35mg, and 40mg doses)
ADDERALLFD&C Blue #1 Aluminum Lake (7.5mg and 10mg doses); FD&C Yellow #6 Aluminum Lake (12.5mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg doses)

ADDERALL XR: FD&C Blue #2 (5mg, 10mg, 15mg); red iron oxide, yellow iron oxide (20mg, 25mg, 30mg)

RITALIND&C Yellow No. 10 (5-mg and 20-mg tablets), FD&C Green No. 3 (10-mg tablets), lactose (some children with milk/lactose intolerance may experience behavioral meltdowns when consuming)

CONCERTA: synthetic iron oxides, titanium dioxide, lactose 

(Note: Iron oxide and titanium oxide, while "natural," have shown suggested links to health problems like asthma, respiratory issues, and even cancer... and what the heck are "synthetic iron oxides?")

Are you as pissed as I am?

I flashed back to the dozens of phone calls I've received from Mama B over the past several years... Nearly in tears, she'd say, "He's so out of control of his emotions. He's completely melting down. It's like he had red dye today... I have no idea where he's getting it."

Imagine how she felt today when she learned he DID have red dye all those days... And every other day. And that SHE was the one giving it to him, because even though his dye sensitivity is noted in every single one of his medical charts, no medical professional ever brought it to her attention, or bothered to research the ingredients before prescribing. 

In fact, it was her pharmacist who uncovered this dirty little secret, after Mama B had repeatedly expressed her concerns over the medication. The discovery resulted in the pharmacist and her co-worker spending a ridiculous amount of time reading tiny print on bottles and computer screens, looking for a substitute that T could take without further health issues. Both of the pharmacy employees were shocked when reading all those ingredients, and even commented that dyes such as those listed are banned in other countries.

Y'all, Big Pharma sure has put one over on us parents. You have to admit, loading up ADHD meds with ingredients that have a documented history of side effects that are nearly identical to ADHD symptoms is borderline genius, if you want to make sure parents and doctors keep reassessing the symptoms, and upping or adjusting dosages when the meds don't give the "desired" results.

But, I'm sure that's not it... Poisoning kids, making them sick with the very thing they're supposed to be treated for... That would be criminal, right? I mean, that would be illegal, right?

But it's not. It's totally legal. 

Wake up, folks... Big Pharma does NOT have your health in mind. It doesn't care about your aging parents. It doesn't care about your children. 

It cares about its profit. That's it, plain and simple. Big Pharma is keeping your disabled child disabled, and they're happily pocketing your money while they do it. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Project 2,996: Remember Zandra Cooper Ploger

Photo source
This tribute is respectfully reposted from 2011.

Zandra Cooper Ploger, a 48-year old resident of Annandale, Virginia on September 11, 2001, was a manager at IBM for over 20 years. She was dedicated to her work, loved her two adult daughters, reading, and hosting parties. In fact, she was busy planning a birthday party for her new husband, Robert, who would turn 60 in December.

Zandra and Robert had married on May 12, 2001, but their busy work schedules - Robert was a computer systems analyst for several different companies - prevented the couple from honeymooning right away. When they boarded American Airlines Flight 77, they were headed to finally enjoy that honeymoon, in Hawaii. Zandra was looking forward to not thinking about work for two relaxing weeks, and enjoying a break with her new husband.
Photo source

Friends called her "Z," and she was known for her ability to organize and throw parties which brought together her many loved ones. She was a devoted mother, attending sporting activities and school events for her daughters, and even helping to orchestrate their high school graduation ceremonies. Described as a self-starter, Zandra didn't sit around, waiting for life and opportunities to come to her. Rather, she seized every moment and threw her ambition into exceeding the goals she set for herself, whether it was a work issue, or planning a social event.

Zandra's older daughter, Zena, was born with a heart condition, and Zandra carefully loved and comforted her child through childhood and into adulthood while avidly supporting the American Heart Association. She was the sort of mother who taught her children they could accomplish anything in their lives, and when her younger daughter, Erin, wanted to make a big move, Zandra supported her choice. Even though the distance would be difficult for the two, they maintained a strong bond. In fact, both of Zandra's daughters continued to look to their mother for advice and wisdom, even after they reached adulthood.

Max, Zandra's cat, was a source of joy for her, and by all accounts, she pampered him. Her daughter, Zena, related:
I just remember that when Erin and I were younger, my mom told us we could get a cat. On the trip to pick it up, we were thinking of a name. By the time we got there, she had named it and it was just her cat ever since. Max would cuddle up with her. He slept with her. She would spoon-feed him. He got groomed once a month. One time my husband came to visit and [he] was going to shoo the cat out of the chair and my mom said, ‘Let me get you another chair.’ She just loved this cat, and she showed him a lot of affection.
Photo source

Flight 77 was hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon at 09:37EDT, cutting short Zandra and Robert's much-awaited honeymoon.

Zandra leaves behind a legacy of love, friendship, laughter and inspiration to those who knew her. Please remember in your prayers Zandra, Robert, Zena, Erin, and all those whose lives were touched by this beautiful woman.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.

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Project 2,996: Remember Michael Theodoridis

This tribute is respectfully reposted from 9/11/09.

Michael Theodoridis, 32, and his wife, Rahma Salie, 28, were passengers on American Airlines Flight 11 on September 11, 2001. Rahma was seven months pregnant with their first child. The two were looking forward to being parents as they boarded the plane, intending to travel to California to attend a wedding.

Michael was of Greek descent and grew up in Switzerland. He graduated from Boston University and worked as a technical consultant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It was difficult to find information about Michael's life, but many online memorial comments helped me to understand the kind of man he was, and how desperately missed he will be:

It's nearly 8 years later and I still vividly remember the day shortly after 9/11 when it went from being a national tragedy to also being a more personal tragedy for me after I found out that Micky and Rahma were on Flight 11. Each summer when my second son has another birthday, I think about Micky's unborn child being the same age as I remember Micky congratulating me and telling me how excited he was about his future as a father.

I pray that they both rest in peace and be granted a place in Heaven. Amen.
- Abdullah Haydar


I never forget your kindness and always positive outlook on life. I had a great time working with/for you at i-cube in Cambridge.

On this 7th anniversary of the attacks, I pray Rahma's, your kid's and your souls are blessed and somewhere special.
- Rob Garcia

Sincere sympathy for the loss of my cousin Michael, rest in peace in God's hand. - John Pondelis

In a business culture full of people whom you forget and whom forget you the instant you part, both Micky and Rhama were anything but forgettable. I still remember Rhama asking me to do an imitation of her accent and it makes me laugh with the memory. Like someone else who commented on this site, it was also Michael's humour, patience and support that kept me going in a very difficult work situation. The world is a much colder place without these two stellar human beings.
- Colin Owens

I worked with Mickey on multiple projects in i-Cube (Stuttgart, Germany; Phoenix, AZ and later in NYC). He was a great friend of mine in addition to being a professional colleague. He was very funny and used to crack me up at difficult times. He worked very hard and managed to keep his sense of humor. He and Rahma were made for each other. It is sad that they could not be together longer. It's so sad! My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
- Jay Natarajan

America Cries
We see your sorrow-
and our hearts cry....
We can not erase your pain
but you do not have to face the anguish alone-for we-
-the American people-
are beside you.
We so desperately want to have the touch that brings you comfort,
the strength that gives you courage,
and the words to lighten your spirits.
And when we are left speechless
may the silence of our nation weave love into your hearts
to ease your sorrow.
May you find healing through our nation's strength as we-
-the American people-
face this difficult time together. Our hearts are with you.
- Teresa Jahn

Please light a candle for Michael, his family and those who loved him. Say a prayer for the father-to-be, husband, and friend who lost his life on September 11, 2001.

Never forget.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.

Project 2,996: Remember Rahma Salie

This tribute is respectfully reposted from 9/11/09.

Project 2,996 volunteer Asher Styrsky wrote the following tribute to Rahma Salie, wife of Michael Theodoridis, on Facebook. Since only Asher’s friends can see this wonderful tribute, Asher asked me to copy and post it here, where Rahma’s tribute can be joined with Michael’s.

Here is Asher’s tribute to Rahma:

For several years now, I've participated in Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. This year, my assignment failed to come thru via email, but fortunately I was contacted by another participant last minute who got me on track.

The name ... Rahma Salie.
Rahma was of Sri Lanken descent, and grew up in Japan. It seems she considered her Muslim faith to be a very important part of her life, for her husband Michael Theodoridis converted to Islam just before their marriage in 1998. Soon after, Rahma discovered she was pregnant. Seven months later, she and Michael left their home on the outskirts of Boston and boarded a plane headed to California where they intended to attend a wedding. Tragically, the lives of Rahma, Michael, and their unborn child were taken from them by radical jihadists in an event that would change history.

As I searched online for information on Rahma ... trying to learn as much as possible about her ... I discovered an online collection of photos from her life, including childhood gymnastics and pictures from her wedding. A beautiful human being ... (look on the right under 'Tribute' for more photos) Also, please note that a tribute has been put together for Rahma's husband, Michael here.
Having never met her, I have no way to know first hand the type of woman that Rahma Salie was. And so I must rely on the words of those who knew her.

Common words used to describe her ... effervescent, smiling, joy, and kind.

"Rahma was a beautiful person, always smiling, always caring. I had the pleasure of working with Rahma only for a short time, but she made a distinct impression on my life.
~ Pam Sheen, Kingston, Massachusetts"

"Mmissing you rahma! and remembering you. i never got a chance to tell you just how much of a role model you were to me. thank you."

"I met Rahma when I became a teacher at the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo in 1990. I'll always remember how welcome she made me feel. She was so friendly and warm. The following year I was lucky enough to be her International Relations teacher. We had lots of laughs in class. I was so proud when she majored in International Relations. When Rahma was killed she was seven months pregnant. My wife was seven months pregnant too. Our daughter is now five and a half years old and my love for her sometimes is a reminder of how lucky I am, and how Rahma and Mickey were robbed of their happiness. My deepest condolences to their parents.
~ Paul Doolan, Z├╝rich"

May we never forget the lives that were taken so suddenly on September 11, 2001.

Today, I hug my wife and children a little tighter, remembering the life and tragic death of Rahma Salie, killed at age 28.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.

Project 2,996: Remember Joseph DiPilato

This post was originally published on 9/11/09 on Citizen Gonzo. I've moved it here because I haven't blogged at Citizen Gonzo for a long, long time, and I get thousands more hits on this blog than on CG. I think Joseph deserves those thousands of views and more, don't you?

Electrician Joseph DiPilato, age 57, was working in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center when Tower 1 was struck on September 11, 2001. As he prepared to leave the building, he called his wife and childhood sweetheart, Maria, to tell her he was safe. He was last seen in an elevator, intending to evacuate.

Joseph was a romantic fellow who took his wife to dinner every Friday and held her hand as they spent summers strolling the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. He took pride in maintaining his backyard, patio and swimming pool. He coached and managed his sons' Little League team. He was, above all else, a husband and father.

Neighbors like Mrs. Phyllis Buono grew to appreciate the blooms Joseph planted and look forward to the seeing the flowers he would select each season. "He set that yard up like it was a resort," Mrs. Buono said. "In the spring the flower pots would explode with blossoms." Phyllis's husband, Mike Buono, enjoyed working on cars with Joseph.

Maria and Joseph grew up together in Little Italy, where Joseph's childhood friends gave him the nickname "Joey Brillo," a nod to his short, wiry hair.

I didn't know Joseph DiPilato, but I am touched by the words of those who did:

"He would do anything for me. He cared about me and I always came first," said his wife, Maria.

"We loved him more than anything and he's going to be missed by a lot of people," said his son, Joseph. "He just meant everything to us."

"I remember Brillo as a kid, a year older than me. He was the best basketball player in Columbus Park on Mulberry Street. He gave me great pointers on getting the ball through the hoop. Everyone in the neighborhood loved Brillo. He was a great role model in a tough neighborhood. A natural athlete, terrific sense of humor and a decent human being. A guy like him is surely missed by many,"
said childhood friend Anthony Venturato

And this, dated August 19, 2008, from his daughter-in-law, Andrea:

Dearest Dad,

It has been almost 7 years since you have been with us. We miss you tremendously. Something wonderful happened yesterday that I wanted to share. Your granddaughter Olivia typed in what she thought was her brothers name & brought up this website. As soon as she saw your picture she screamed with such excitement and said, "Mommy hurry come see Grandpa on the computer". It stopped me in my tracks & touched my heart more than you could ever know. All I could think about was how much you could not wait to be a grandfather. And little did we know on the last night that I was with you, I was already pregnant with your first grandchild. Leo & I would have given anything to be able to tell you in person you were going to finally be a Grandpa.

Olivia talks about her "Grandpa in heaven" all the time. She wishes she could have known you. You would be so blown away by Olivia. She has such a huge heart just as you did.

As Olivia & Joseph grow up they will know everything there is to know about their very special "Grandpa in heaven". We all miss you terribly!

All our Love to you in Heaven, Leo, Andrea, Olivia & Joseph

Please light a candle for Joseph, his family and those who loved him. Say a prayer for the father, husband, neighbor and friend who lost his life on September 11, 2001.

Never forget.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.

Project 2,996: Remember Deborah Merrick

Image from Project 2,996
Mr. Wright originally wrote this tribute for Deborah on 9/11/09. He posted it on a blog we set up for our business, but never ended up using. Therefore, it gets relatively no traffic. I wanted to move Deborah's tribute here, where thousands can stumble upon it and say a prayer in her memory.

Deborah Merrick
45 years old
Resident of New York
Worked for the Port Authority
Victim of World Trade Center Attack 9/11
Appears to have passed away subsequent to 9/11

I looked and searched for details of your death. I looked and searched for details of your life. Unfortunately, not much was to be found.

Forty-five years old is too young to die, but certainly there was time to live.

There must be a story there. There must be a story to tell.

I wonder: What if...?

What if your story is never told?

Then it occurs to me...

How many other stories never get told?

Deborah, I want to recognize you.

In the end, you are not a story. You are not a statistic. You are not a name. You are a person; you have a soul. You had a life and that life was cut short because of 9/11.

Deborah Merrick, we remember you by name. As we remember your death, we remember to celebrate life.

This tribute is part of Project 2,996, a cooperative online effort to keep alive the memories of the 2,996 victims of the 9/11/01 tragedy. See other participants, and their tributes to those lost, here.