Tag Archives: learning

Do I Like Living Alone?

I recently had a friend in a long-standing marriage comment that they wouldn’t mind living alone.  I was surprised.  Their comment had to do with everyone needing space, time alone.  Residing on your own provides that.

When my husband passed away in December 2015 I was thrown into living on my own for the first time in my life.  I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and we were married 34 years.   I don’t mind living alone.  There are benefits.   My friend’s comment got me thinking, do I like living alone or have I adjusted out of necessity?

When you are married or involved in a co-habitation relationship patterns develop as to who does what.  One person pays the bills, another handles correspondence.  One mows the lawn and snow blows, the other cleans the bathrooms and vacuums.  Cooking involves making foods that both people like and predominately follows the preference of the person cooking.  Decorating incorporates the likes and dislikes of both people.  Each person tolerates things they don’t particularly care for out of consideration for the other.  It is a cooperative living arrangement that also provides companionship and support.   Living Alone

When residing on your own there isn’t anyone there to help carry the load.  You must figure out how to juggle it all on your own.  When like me it is suddenly dropped in your lap it has a definite learning curve.  Sometimes things don’t get done in the time frame you would like.   The benefit is that there is no one is there to interfere with what you want or the schedule you keep.

I can eat dinner when I want, whether it is 6:30 pm, 9:30 pm, or anywhere between.  I can cook what I want the way I want.  I only have to consider my own palate and my own schedule.   If I don’t want the TV on, it isn’t.  If I want the radio blasting at 2:00 am while I clean house, it is.  There is no noise, no one talking as I read my book with my meals.   Pictures on the walls, knickknacks set out, and the arrangement of furniture can all be changed to the way I prefer.   This is a slow, gradual process.  The house is slowly becoming more “me.”  I have made subtle changes that most people probably wouldn’t even notice.   I’m sure they will become more prominent over time.

So that brings me back to my friend’s comment.  Do I like living alone?  Yes and no.  I think living alone has been a good experience for me.  I have learned to do things I  never did in the past.  The basics of life always handled by my husband such as taking a car in for maintenance, handling the banking, trading in my vehicle for a new one, applying for a mortgage modification, meeting with a financial advisor, paying bills, gathering information for yearly taxes, mowing and trimming the lawn, etc. now must be worked into my schedule.

My husband, Ron, handled a lot.  I’ve never even painted a wall or put windshield washer fluid into a vehicle.  He handled it all.  Ironically Ron taught our son and daughter to do house maintenance, yard maintenance, how to use the generator, power washer, electric drills, shop tools, and how to hook up the trailer and pull it.  He just never taught me.  Those were things he took care of and there was no need for me to know how.  Ron took care of me.  That is what he felt his position was and I accepted it for thirty-four years.  Good or bad it is what it is.  Now I move forward.

I think living on my own and learning new things has boosted my self-confidence.  I have to handle things and if I don’t know how I make inquiries to find someone that does.   I have dealt with a plumber, a heating and cooling person, camera repair, computer support, and resolved issues with a hot tub repair. I have ventured into the unknown and survived.

I also think living on my own has been good from an emotional standpoint.  Ron and I were very wrapped up in each other’s lives.  We were happiest when it was just the two of us and we spent probably 90 to 95% of our free time together throughout our entire marriage.  We attended festivals, events, shopped, did photography, traveled, ate meals, watched TV, and so on together.  We had a few things we each did on our own, but the majority was together.

Living Alone 2The reality is most couples are not as completely consumed in each others lives as we were.  They spend more time doing things on their own and socializing with others.  Living alone has allowed me to adjust to doing things on my own.  I am still learning how to involve others in my plans so I am not always a solo act.

I think this adjustment period is important.   If at some time in the future I become involved in a relationship in which the decision is made to reside together I will be better prepared for the reality that most couples do not spend the majority of their free time wrapped up in each other’s life.  It will most likely not be such an all encompassing relationship as I had in my marriage.  I will also know that I am making that decision because it is a person I want to spend time with, not because I am lonely and/or trying to recreate what I had in my past.

So now we are back to where we started.  Do I like living alone?  Yes and no.  It has been and will continue to be a growing experience.  I have adjusted.  I am comfortable and would consider myself happy on a day-to-day basis.  I don’t desire it in the long term.  I hope that in my future I find someone who is interested in residing together and enjoying the benefits of daily companionship.   In the meantime I will make the most of living alone and enjoy it.

 

 

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Happiness is…

love-is-side-by-sideI may be dating myself, but back in the 1970’s there were cute cartoon images, often portrayed by a little chubby couple, and quotes of “Love is…”  I was thinking of them the other day and it got me to wondering, what if we applied that formula to  happiness?  What makes a person happy?

I started jotting down things that make me happy.  There are so many simple things in life that bring pleasure.  I  suggest you make your own happy list.  You will realize how many wonderful things there are that bring joy to you every day.


Happiness is…

…a long weekend
…a cup of coffee and a good book
…a child’s laughter
…the smell of freshly mowed grasshappiness-is-a-family-vacation
…getting together with family
…a sunny day
…a day shooting pictures
…good friends
…the smell of lilacs
…a day scrapbooking
…time with grandchildren
…art fairs and craft shows
…children in costume yelling trick-or-treat
…singing and dancing to the radio
…planning a trip
…visiting somewhere you have never been
…traditions
…a warm summer day
…an old-fashioned country fair
… listening to a child’s viewpoint on life
…kettle korn popcorn and caramel apples
…time with your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, significant other
…the glow of a fireplace
…creating Easter baskets and watching the kids go through them
…the beauty of freshly fallen snow
…carnations
…watching a parade
…the sound of water along the shore
…snuggling under a warm blankethappiness-is-a-warm-blanket
…front porch sitting
…handwritten letters
…peanut butter on a spoon
…walking a nature trail
…relaxing in a hot tub
…the glow of a Christmas tree
…historical and cultural events
…memories
…discovering and learning about your ancestors
…doing RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness)
…unexpected surprises
…a feeling of accomplishment
…seeing my byline on writings
…writing, writing, writing

This isn’t the end.  The more I think, the more I realize a lot of things make me happy, bring a smile to my face.  I hope you have lots of things to put on your own “Happiness Is… ” list.

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Shedding Skin and Learning to Walk

Two steps forward, one step back.  The circle of life can make you feel as if you are repeating a vicious cycle and the only hope is that you will somehow break free of the rotation and get on the straight path to success.

Such is my life this past week, which I have spent shedding skin and learning to walk.  Sound strange doesn’t it?  On the 15th of November I had surgery, an ankle fusion.  It was a three-month, non-weight bearing recovery and when you are living alone that is enough of a challenge, not to mention isolation.  On the 10th of February I was told that my ankle is completely healed, I can’t hurt it.  The hard cast was removed and I am free to walk on it.walk-fly-crawl

I was warned that the foot would be very sensitive.  They weren’t kidding!  Walking is agony.  I am so glad I still have the medical cane from the original accident six  years ago…the kind that has four feet and stands on its own.  The ankle doesn’t hurt – the foot itself does.

How bad is the foot pain?  I hate shoes, they are generally the first thing I shed when I walk in the door.  However my tennis shoes provide padding, much needed padding.  I wore shoes inside my house all last weekend, and I am wearing tennis shoes to work this week.  Once I take the shoes off inside my house I haven’t been able to walk on the cane; I have had to use my knee cart.  Things are improving though.  This morning I was able to walk, barely, with my cane when barefoot.  Tonight barefoot meant the knee cart.  I am hoping by the weekend I will finally be able to make it up the stairs and into my own bed.

At least I have stopped leaving a dead-skin trail, sort of.  I had never been in a hard cast before, and after three months the leg and foot were extremely dry.  I felt like a crocodile that was shedding it’s skin.  I discovered moisturizing shaving cream was the best thing for washing it; better than a moisturizing soap.  I now treasure my 24-hour body cream more than I ever have.  I’m still slightly flaky, but not as bad — no comments from the peanut gallery please.

So I am now shedding my skin and learning to walk.  I haven’t bounced back as quickly as I had hoped, but I am seeing progress every day.  This morning I was able to walk out the front door and onto the porch by myself, but needed my bag carried.  I hope that after a few more days I’ll be able to carry my own things in and out of the house and start driving myself to work.  That is if they don’t kill me in physical therapy, which begins on Thursday.

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A Year Of Changes

learn-free-to-be-meIf you have been a reader for a while you know that my husband, Ron,  passed away December 7, 2015 and since that time I have been adjusting to living on my own.  In reflecting on myself now, plans for the future and introspection of the past I have learned a few things.

I am capable of living alone, and doing it comfortably.  When I met Ron I was 19 and living at home with my parents.  I got married,  moved in with Ron and had never lived alone.  I originally found the idea of living solo terrifying but had no choice.    What I have learned is that living on my own has its benefits.  I can set the thermostat where I want and it stays there.  I can blast the radio at 2 am if I chose without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.  I can eat what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else.  I can re-arrange and hang photos and other artwork on the walls, removing things that were never my choice to begin with and adding new items that appeal to me.   I can move, add,  eliminate or change anything I chose without wondering if another person is going to like the change.

learn-to-be-happy-aloneAlthough I never paid attention to our finances and had no interest in knowing about them, I am perfectly capable of paying bills, applying for mortgage modifications, listing property for sale, and making decisions on financial assets.   I’m not blindly doing what Ron told me to do as he was dying.  I’m evaluating my own circumstances and making a decision that I feel comfortable with.   My goal for the future is to learn how the stock market and investments work, to understand how to diversify and what everything means  so I can make informed choices.  Hopefully  I will get a grasp on this within the next decade.  I’m really walking in uncharted territory here.

I can now run a riding lawn mower, a weed wacker, call a plumber, take vehicles in for routine maintenance, find and hire repair persons for things such as air conditioning. However I have no intention of learning to run the snowblower.  That thing is just too big.  I’ll kill myself shoveling first.  I even look at the Harbor Freight and Tractor Repair sales flyers now in case there is something I need.  Okay, I’ll admit my big purchase this year was two tarps, but we all have to start somewhere.  learn-dance-in-the-rain

One big surprise, I like to cook.  I know that sounds funny after 34 years of marriage, but I thought I didn’t like cooking.  I have been cooking for myself for a year now and I realize  that I like it.  For the majority of our marriage Ron did all the cooking.  Over the years I told people didn’t like doing day-to-day rush home from work an cook a meal, but I liked doing the larger family meals.  I recently said those words to someone but later in the evening it occurred to me that the statement isn’t true.  I don’t mind cooking for myself at all.  I love grilling entire meals in the summer months.  So why the change in my thoughts?

learn-something-newWhat I have discovered is that it wasn’t the cooking I disliked, it was that Ron always had a criticism of some sort and tended to hover, questioning why I did things the way I did, telling me I should do things differently than I did.  Nothing was ever quite good enough, there was always a “why didn’t you…”  Basically, he thought I should cook just  like him.  After a while I tired of the negativity and simply walked away and left it to him.  He cooked, I cleaned up, and it worked.

Since Ron’s passing I have discovered that I enjoy cooking.  I like throwing foods together to see what I like, mixing different combinations.  If they are all watching from above there are three cooks in heaven that are probably surprised at what they see.

I would say Ron is probably shocked at the things I fix; that I enjoy the cooking and especially like grilling.  My Mother-in-Law is probably happy to see me not measuring, just dumping in many instances.  I learned early in my marriage that if you called her for a recipe she didn’t measure, it was  “till it looks right.”  My father was a great cook.  When he saw me go into the basement and gather an assortment of ingredients, throw them into a pot and end up with a soup he was probably going “hell ya, that’s the way to cook.”  One of my greatest memories is when he cleaned out the refrigerator and made “chili” with the leftovers.  How many people have eaten chili with spaghettio’s floating in it?  I have!learn-who-you-are

When it comes to traveling alone I have mixed feelings.  It is nice because if I want to wander around and/or make frequent stops to take pictures I can do that without any complaints.  Ron and I were both photographers and did that all the time, but the average person does not take pleasure in such activities or delays.

On the other hand, traveling alone can be lonely.   If taking in a tourist attraction, such as wandering a museum or park, you are always alone.  No one to talk with, share discoveries with.   You are always eating alone, and so I always dine with a book.  There is no one sharing your hotel room, no one to sleep with. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.  Let’s just leave it at that.

So learning about me happened by learning to live alone.  What a difference a year has made.  The good, the bad, the indifferent.  What have I learned? I had a fantastic marriage.  I will have a fantastic future.  Different than I planned, but that’s okay.  I have made decisions that a year ago I would not have made.  I have made changes in my life that a year ago I would not have made.  Life was different then.  I was different then.  I am happy with my life, and that is all that matters.  Whatever happens, whatever life throws in my direction, I am ready.  Bring it on!

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Learning to Live in a Language Based World

I am not a big fan of “Awareness” months, but I am going to make an exception.  I have a 9-year old grandson, Austin, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder.  When I was in college a few years back I was required to write a paper for an English and Culture class.   I chose to write about the difficulties people with Autism endure as they typically struggle with both social skills and communication.  Autism is a spectrum disorder, no two people are the same.  Each person is unique in which areas they are most challenged and to what degree.

Austin is doing well.  He is in a special needs class in second grade.  He is learning to read and has greatly expanded his ability to communicate and express needs since I wrote the paper.  What people need to understand is that although people with Autism have learning difficulties, they are intelligent people who are misunderstood and frequently have their abilities underestimated.  The trick is figuring out what needs to be done to communicate and get the message across to them.

I hope you will take the time to read the article I have posted below.  I would love to hear from those who deal with people who are autistic, people who themselves are autistic, or anyone who has read and learned about the struggles these people encounter in their every day lives.

Learning to Live
in a Language Based World

Imagine you need something but are unable to formulate the words to express your needs. How do you get someone’s attention? How do you communicate your wishes? This is the frustration a person with autism spectrum disorder deals with their entire life.

Cultures throughout the world are based on verbal communication and social interactions. A person with autism struggles to learn language, has difficulty holding a conversation, and lacks social skills. The inability to communicate can leave a person feeling lonely and isolated. An autistic person’s ability to live successfully in a language based world requires them to adjust to living outside their comfort zone. To help people with autism accomplish that goal, society needs to develop an understanding and compassion for the needs, feelings, frustrations and learning style of people with autism spectrum disorder.

As many as thirty percent (30%) of people with autism are unable to speak (Apps for Autism, 2011). Children with autism are found to have hyper-acute hearing that creates an inability to filter out and properly process ordinary everyday sounds. Buzzers, alarms, a dishwasher running, a lawn mower being used, and all the other miscellaneous sounds that the average brain filters out may sound as if they are on a super high volume and jumbled together to the autistic person.

The inability to properly process auditory input results in an inability to understand the meaning of words, an inability to express needs and wants, and a lack of social skills that leaves the autistic person feeling detached and unconnected to “normal” people (Notbohm, 2005). As Temple Grandin, who is autistic, said “There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to communicate” (Valentine, 2006, para. 11).

Ellen Notbohm, author of Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew, stated “The ability to communicate, whether through spoken language, pictures, signing/semaphore or assistive technology, is bedrock” (2005, pp. xvii-xviii). “Words are the essential building blocks of spoken communication…” (McGregor, 2008, para 2). A child who lacks social skills, including the ability to read body language and facial expressions, finds communicating and fitting into society very difficult. The autistic child often stands out in society as a social oddball (Notbohm, 2005).

Children with autism are considered social outcasts because they lack the ability to communicate verbally and display behaviors that help them cope within their environment. People make negative assumptions that a child with autism is unwilling to cooperate, temperamental, and lacking in intelligence. Autistic children are known for their “meltdowns”. A meltdown is an autistic child’s manner of communicating to the outside world that there is something wrong. The child can be hungry, thirsty, cold, tired, or any other range of things. The adult has to figure out what the trigger to the meltdown is because the child is unable to express their need. It is important to remember that behavior is a way of communicating, and that a child who lacks verbal skills is unable to tell you what is wrong (Notbohm, 2005).

As the grandmother of an autistic child I have witnessed meltdowns and how they can easily be remedied by analyzing what the trigger is. Meltdowns in public can be exceptionally frustrating when people who do not know the child feel free to make rude, insulting remarks about their behavior. When my grandson, Austin, was two years old I was trying to put him into his car seat and he was arching his back, crying and kicking. “All behavior is communication” and “all behavior happens for a reason” (Notbohm, 2005, pp. 21, 22).

Austin’s behavior was because he hadn’t said goodbye to grandpa, who had ridden to the park in a different vehicle. Austin’s behavior confused me; what upset me was a man parked beside us. As I lifted Austin out of the car during the meltdown the man said very clearly “what a spoiled brat.” Looking back I wish I had taken the time to express what I thought of his rude behavior and assuming comments about a child he did not know. The man’s behavior is best summed up by Temple Grandin, “Normal people have an incredible lack of empathy…they don’t have much empathy for the autistic kid who is screaming at the baseball game because he can’t stand the sensory overload. Or the autistic kid having a meltdown…I’m frustrated with the inability of normal people to have sensory empathy.” (Valentine, 2006, para. 24 ). A child who lacks the ability to communicate normally in a social situation needs understanding and assistance. They should not have to endure insults and rejection from adults.

It is important to create circumstances where the autistic child can practice social skills with success. “Social navigation is necessary at every turn in our lives: at home, at work, at school, in our travels about the community, in our shopping, recreation and worship.” (Notbohm, 2005, p. 71) It is important to understand that fitting into society socially requires a tremendous amount of effort from the person with autism. The autistic person must learn to cope with the demands of society while trying to understand what is expected of them and using what abilities they have to make those adjustments. (Notbohm, 2005).

In Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew the seventh item on the list is “Help me with social interactions” (Notbohm, 2005, p. xxviii). A child with autism may feel lonely and left out because they lack the social skills to enter a play situation or start a conversation. They may not be able to talk to the other children and are unable to read facial expressions, body language or emotions of others. It is easy to assume the child doesn’t want to participate in activities, but what they really need is guidance on how to join the fun.

The way to successfully teach a child with autism spectrum disorder is to focus on their positive abilities. The autistic child may lack the ability to process verbal information, but they are usually very good at paying attention and are visual learners (Gordon, 2007, para. 3). The sixth item listed in Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew is “Because Language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. Please show me how to do something rather than just telling me.” This is followed by the seventh item, “Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can’t do” (Notbohm, 2005, pp. xxvi, xxvii).

A child cannot learn and function well in an environment where they are made to feel that they are not good enough. Often peers, teachers, siblings, and relatives focus on what the child is not doing, rather than what the child’s strengths are (Notbohm, 2005). A computer can help an autistic person with both learning and social skills. The computer is not critical and has unlimited patience, allowing the child to repeat skills as needed until the task is mastered.

The Apple iPad and other tablet computers are offering special applications that allow people with autism to communicate. By using pictures or characters on the computer screen the autistic person is able to make selections and use the computer to “speak” on their behalf. The computer allows the autistic person to voice their thoughts and needs, helping them to function in society.

A 60 Minutes episode called Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad featured the utilization of computer applications for people with autism. The use of tablet computers was demonstrated by Joshua Hood, 27 years old, who was unable to communicate until he received the Apple iPad. Joshua is now able to go to a restaurant and use the picture apps on the iPad to order his own meal. Prior to receiving the iPad Joshua rarely looked at people, but the iPad has given him the ability to interact with others. His therapist, Tammy Taylor, said “He’s part of the community. I mean, communication is the essence of being human. And here he is, communicating fully now” (Apps for Autism, 2011).

The use of computer applications is allowing professionals to realize how intelligent people with autism are, people that were once considered to have below average intelligence. At the Beverly School in Toronto, Canada half the students are severely autistic. The impact of the iPad is demonstrated by its effect on the attention span and willingness of those children to socialize. Ten year old Nuno does not talk and was believed to have the intelligence of a toddler. An iPad vocabulary application was used to test Nuno. The school was amazed at Nuno’s vocabulary and learned that he has a love of classical music and opera (Apps for Autism, 2011).

Whether a person with autism is learning to communicate through the use of a computer or through traditional learning methods, it is important to understand the stages of their learning and the need to guide them in developing social skills. Speech and language deficiency are defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorder, but it is important to remember that each person is an individual, with their areas of difficulty and ability to learn unique to them. An awareness of whether the person is mindful of being spoken to, if they try to communicate in any form, and whether they are attempting to use speech is important. If they are talking, are they speaking naturally or are they echolalic? A child that is echolalic will repeat sounds or words that are spoken to them, which indicates that the child can perceive and articulate speech (Gordon, 2007, para. 5).

A child that is using echolalia to communicate can create the impression that they are understanding and using language in a comprehensive manner, when in reality they are not. Temple Grandin was teased as a teenager because when she talked she reused the same phrases, and kept talking without letting other people respond.

Some people with autism do not have a problem with the mechanics of language, but they do not understand the process of having a conversation (Hamilton, 2006). Echolalia are messages that are memorized from the world to compensate for language deficits. These can be groups of words they have heard people say, or phrases from TV shows or movies. The person with autism does not necessarily understand what they are saying, but they know that a specific set of words can be used to provide a reply, ask for something, protest, or deny requests (Notbohm, 2005). This was used by my grandson when he needed help. It started when Austin would need assistance on the computer, he would come up and rub a person’s hand or arm and say “sorry”. We would respond “what do you need?” and taught him to reply “help on the computer”. It wasn’t long before that memorized set of words was used for anything he needed help with, be it the computer, opening a door, or getting something from the refrigerator. “Help on the computer” was a set of words that got someone to come and give assistance.

Whether a person with autism is learning to speak, using a computer for communication, or exercising echolalia to converse, it is important to remember that “…having a means of functional communication, whatever it may be, is what’s truly essential, to any child, but even more so to the child with autism” (Notbohm, 2005, p. 42). It is also important to reward the autistic child’s efforts to communicate in a positive way. My daughter always asks Austin if he wants chicken nuggets, then she makes the decision on whether to get him just the nuggets or a happy meal. A few weeks ago she asked Austin if he wanted chicken nuggets and he said yes. When she pulled into the McDonald’s drive-thru from the backseat she heard “chicken nuggets, French fries, chocolate milk, trick-or-treat”. His statement was rewarded with a full happy meal, all the items he requested in the Halloween trick-or-treat bucket. Verbal interactions and positive results help the child learn not only the mechanics of speech, but also how to use them to function in society.

Understanding the way an autistic person processes information and the way they are best able to learn is imperative to helping them fit into their community. Whether the person is able to converse, speaks in echolalia, utilizes a computer application, or demonstrates coping behaviors, it is important to recognize and accept them as a growing, feeling, human being who is trying to adapt to the world around them. As Temple Grandin said, “normal people find it difficult to put themselves in an autistic person’s shoes and see the world from their perspective” (Valentine, 2006, para. 4). For a person with autism spectrum disorder to live successfully in a language based world, society must learn to recognize the needs, feelings and frustrations these people experience on a daily basis and make appropriate accommodations for them to function within their community.

References
*  Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad. (2011, October 23). 60 Minutes. New York, New York. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385686n&tag=contentmain;contentBody

*  Gordon, B. (2007, April 2). Speech and Language Problems in Autism Pectrum Disorders. Retrieved from Kennedy Krieger Institute: http://www.iancommunity.org/cs/articles/speech_and_language_problems

*  Hamilton, J. (2006, July 9). Autism Reveals Social Roots of Language. Retrieved from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5503688

*  McGregor, K. B. (2008, October 6). Learning Word Meanings. Retrieved from Kennedy Krieger Institute: http://ww.iancommunity.org/cs/articles/wordmeanings

*  Notbohm, E. (2005). Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew. Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons, Inc.

*  Valentine, V. a. (2006, July 9). Q&A: Temple Grandin on Autism & Language. Retrieved October 2011, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5488844

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