Saturday, July 28, 2012

Autistic teen terrified of dogs

My son Matthew is nonverbal and now 16 years old. He has always been afraid of dogs and sometimes the encounters are chaotic in nature with the result someone getting hurt in the process, although not from the dog, it is usually from Matthew.

For years we used to walk around the lake down the street but there was a busy street on one side and the actual lake on the other side so when a dog was coming around the sidewalk there was not a lot of room to move away. Also bicyclists used to be dangerous as Matthew did not know what to do when one was getting close to us and I had to guide him to the grass area or we would stop so they could get around us.

Since the lake closed down for renovations we have been walking around the park and doing trails and stairs. This presents problems when we come upon a dog or dogs that may not be on a leash or get close to Matt when on a leash. He goes on the attack towards me and digs his fingers into my skin and runs or pushes me into the woods or a ditch and one time I almost went down the stairs.

I get bruises and marks on my skin from his attacks. He also runs and I have to catch up to him to get a hold of his arm or hand. Now that he is taller at 5'6 or so and weighs about 105 pounds it is not as easy as when he was younger.

Also in the earlier years I would get all those autism awareness shirts for Matthew to wear on excursions and for the summer months. Whether or not those really helped during this trying times is still a mystery because we get the stares and nodding of the head like they know or understand.

This is the reason why we still live in the same duplex house for fourteen years. All the stores we go to have the same people working for a number of years and they are familiar with Matthew. It is basically the other customers that have no clue what this teen boy is all about.

Now we deal with his foot stomping and constant burping while in line and out and about in public. He eats like an animal, gorging on food like he has not eaten in days.

Matt is not toilet trained so he is wearing generic depends for men underwear. Due to the large amounts of water he is drinking this summer he needs changing every hour or you will find he wet the floor or bed.

A few months ago we went to tour an open house for an autism school for high functioning college students. This was for my other son Nicholas. Matthew spent the whole time touching his private part while we were walking and he was laughing the whole time. Most of those in attendance did not seem to have any previous experience with a severe teen on the autism spectrum. Nick wanted to know why I brought Matt with us - like there was another option available.

I wish there was some sort of therapy that taught those kids on the spectrum how to deal with their fear of dogs. I would think they would need to use dogs for this and that would never work. We would not be able to afford a dog for Matthew for therapy so that idea is out thinking that would protect him from other dogs and also from escaping the house and school grounds.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Some regrets and some planning for the future

When you are raising two sons that are fifteen months apart on opposite ends of the autism spectrum some of their issues or needs might not be addressed due to one taking precedence over the other.

My son Matthew turned 16 yesterday and gives me time to reflect on what we have endured and gone through since the diagnosis of autism at the age of two. Nicholas was diagnosed first and when Matthew was diagnosed I had assumed he would not be as severe as Nicholas. The opposite happened instead with Matthew still not toilet trained and nonverbal. I wish I had done somethings differently and pursued other treatment options. This was at a time that having two with autism in the same household was not common. Every time I had an assessment for therapy for Nicholas or Matthew they wanted to give services to both boys when clearly they had different deficits and symptoms.

For five years we had medical students coming on Sundays for an hour to learn about autism and spend time with Nicholas. This was my way for him to get some individual attention. For two years we had the same girl coming every week. The last year was a guy who would bring his girlfriend with him and talk about girls with Nicholas, which was inappropriate.

I had an adaptive skills trainer for six months come and help him learn some skills, but then opted not to continue with that due to the way the guys dressed and feeling uncomfortable with them in my home.

For a number of years I was a member of a DTT-NET egroup, although I hardly participated and more just absorbed all the information shared. DTT stands for Discrete Trial Training. We did not get the services other families did through the Regional Center. I should have pushed harder to get some therapy for Matthew to teach him to talk instead of them always focusing on pecs and sign language. Neither one of those worked for him.

Now at age 17 Nick is interested in basketball. One of the Sunday volunteers had younger siblings involved in sports and she would share all about those events. I was hoping to get Nick involved in sports or musical instruments. Maybe had I pushed he would have had another activity to meet his peers. We could not do these though because of Matthew and his therapy appointments and issues with behavior and eating.

Nick missed out on a lot and I tried to make it up to him by introducing him to Yugioh and Pokemon. I bought the gameboy for him even though he had no interest. That helped him in Elementary school as he had more in common with the other students. At the time all he talked about was Dinosaurs.

From third grade on Nick wanted to go to the LA Zoo High School Magnet. His fifth grade teacher told me he would be good in Drama. Nicholas has recently told me he no longer wants to do online school and want so go back to public school. Next year he will be a Junior so we will use that time to prepare. The computer desktop is a loaner through his school so we need to get a new one. He needs clothing and to work more on his personal hygiene and communication skills.

There is also the issue of which high school to attend. There are several within our home address that are known as his home school to choose from. We are considering an art academy. He spent his elementary school years drawing in note pads. We had at one time over 100 of them with his comic book drawings and his stories and characters.

Other families helped their students explore and take their art drawings to the next level. We had ideas to make cards or sell mini books on etsy or other similar sites. I think Nicholas just needed some nudging to get there but due to issues with Matthew I could never find the time or money to help explore this venue with Nicholas.

Recently the regional center coordinator had suggested that when he goes to College and takes art he may get some feedback from a teacher that would be beneficial. He is now open to drama classes. I just feel like all these ideas I had three years ago are now coming to light so we need to roll with it while the interest is there. I guess it is not too late.

I cannot plan out his life for him but have shared with him how his interests can be something to explore for career. He loves watching some food shows like Cake Boss and I suggested taking a year to go to cooking school - this is good for his future as he will learn a vital skill. The art is a fun hobby he needs to be open to and learn about other aspects and not just be limited to drawing. He wants to work at the Zoo or at an animal Sanctuary someday. At this point he needs to work on learning some office type skills and do internships or volunteer at organizations for animals or shelters to get that experience.

Matthew will be going to high school until he is 22 so the has many more years in the school system. Once he is toilet trained I want him to take part in the after school track program for special ed kids and then move on to Special Olympics. I do hope to take the one-year certificate course at the community college to learn to be a special education assistant. This will help Nicholas when he attends that college so we know the layout and system. Also will be something for me to fall back on.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Update on Autismfamily Adventures

It is time to get back into the blogging routine. Both teen sons are now in high school. Matthew turned 15 this past June and Nicholas turns 17 in March. Since Dec 1st of 2010 Matthew has been funded by the State of California through the Regional Center for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which was for the behavior of putting holes in the walls (last count it was 21) with his pounding on the wall as he walked by.

Life skills are also part of the therapy - teach tooth brushing and toilet training. We have four nights a week for 2.5 hrs. One therapist for three nights and another therapist for one night. I will post another blog on the revolving door of therapists and supervisors we have had in less than one year. Another blog post will be on how Matthew went from being a poor picky eater to now consuming everything in sight, similar to a typical teenager. Toilet training is a slow process but will be covered in a blog as well.

Matthew's teacher has an adult son in a group home - this was the selling point for me for this high school and class - which is a CBI - Community Based Instruction with MRS students - Mental Retardation Severe. His two elective classes are JROTC - his uniform is sharp and I am waiting for the day he has to wear it to school so I can take a picture. His class is after lunch so might have him change his shirt with his aide prior to lunch.

The other elective class is drawing. I met the teacher at back to school night, where he mentioned his son has PDD. The bus that takes Matt and his aide to school also goes to another High school. On the bus are two students that Matthew went to elementary school with and they were all in the same Kindergarten. One of the aides was also in the First grade class Nicholas attended.

The good news is that LAUSD starts school three weeks earlier next year. They get out still at the end of June. There was one incident with Matthew getting out of the house via the backdoor when I was at the gym one Saturday and their Father was here watching them. A neighbor spotted Matthew coming out of the gate and dashing around the corner. She knocked on the door and had the Dad drive his car down the hill to catch up to Matthew - who was running in his socks down the middle of the street.

After learning of this escape and the first of its kind, I stopped going out on weekends and the Dad just comes for a quick visit on Sundays. I am not sure where Matthew was going - but he was on pure adrenaline. The neighbor ran all the way down to find him until the car got to him.

The lake that we used to walk laps around is being drained and under construction for two years so we found a park that is closer and Matthew enjoys walking at a fast pace around and it is filled with trees and shade.

Nicholas is still doing online schooling - taking Biology, Spanish, Modern World Studies, Literature and some other courses. There are some online clubs he is enjoying. I think I will send him to a camp next summer to work on social, life and community skills.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Drive Home from School

Today I received a phone call from Matthew's teacher at almost 1PM. He said there was a bit of a problem with Matthew. I thought something really awful must have happened and he was hurt or hurt someone. But no the teacher said the aide had to leave school to take his son to the Doctor and since the aide needs to ride with Matthew on the bus and this year the bus route has no other aides on the bus - so I had to go pick him up.

The teacher should have just said I need to pick up Matthew instead of mentioning some sort of problem with my son that did not exist. He needs to use his words better and not cause panic for the parent!

There are four students, two personal aides and one classroom aide along with the teacher, so basically it is 4 adults and 4 students. I asked how the aide was able to get to his car since he parks near my house to ride the bus. The other personal aide drove him during their break, which left just one aide with the teacher for that duration. He seemed quite frazzled on the phone because the other two aides leave earlier than the time school gets out. The same thing took place at the Elementary school where the other aides shift ended earlier so that left Matt's aide to help all the other kids instead of mine. This resulted in leaving his jacket or communication device at school with the aide being distracted with other students.

Matthew is the only boy in his class this year - this is Middle School - 6-8th grades in a MRS class - Mental Retardation Severe. I chose the school because they follow the traditional school calendar where other schools are year round with months off at various times of the year and not summer.

This other girl was at the same Elementary school as Matt in another classroom and is a classmate of his. The Mom takes public transportation to take the girl to school as she does not want to put her on the bus. Matt's aide and I have told her it is not a problem.

I gave her and the girl a ride home. The girl kept saying Hello in the car and likes to kiss hands and wave - she was fine back there next to Matthew who was chowing down on some fries from Mc Donalds. The Mom was constantly telling the girl to be quiet. I mentioned I would not mind if Matthew would say Hello and be so cheerful.

I felt bad for the girl who has such a sweet disposition and likes Matthew. H seemed fine with them being in the car for the drive home. I went to Target earlier today to look for a jacket for Matt since the weather here in Los Angeles is getting colder and rain is in the forecast. All Matt has to wear is a fleece jacket.

Matthew is not the type of kid that will try on clothes for me to see if they fit, so when I buy clothing I try to leave the pricetag on until he has tried the item on. I picked out this great looking orange four in one jacket, with a fleece/polyester reversible inside jacket, the outer jacket has the hood. I showed him the jacket and he wanted to put it on. Later he tried the fleece side of the other jacket and wanted to practice zippering on the orange jacket. He knew I was surprised he wanted to take part in this since he was smiling and quite happy with himself.

Sometimes it is the little things that brighten your day. Now if only I could hear him repeatedly say Hello.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pretty Please Press Books - Review and Giveaway

I was given the opportunity to review these four hardcover books by Pretty Please Press! because of my membership at The Product Review Place. Pretty Please Press! is a small publishing company that reached out to mommy bloggers as part of a grassroots marketing effort.





Pretty Please Press! has a special discount of 20% their books plus buy 3 get one free through the end of the year - ends December 31, 2009. You can read more about the authors and illustrators at the site.

Pretty Please Press publishes children's books that are designed to be read aloud and talked about. Each book contains a message about character and values that helps parents and children think and talk about a variety of issues.




I liked the vibrant colors of the books and the free educational downloads they have at their site - Character Building Lesson Plans, Concept Building Cards and Vocabulary Building Cards. These seemed very suitable to the autism community of parents, therapists and teachers alike.

The lesson plans and cards are available for each book and include such vocabulary words as - galaxy, delighted, allergic, harmony, answer, demonstration, bow, cajole, balcony, bribe and bellow. Each book covers a specific theme as indicated below. The website has guidance for parents on reading comprehension and why reading aloud is so important. The books are suited for children from kindergarten through third grade.

My high functioning autistic son Nicholas has also read each book and offered his opinion below. He has always enjoyed reading and one year took part in a read-in at the Elementary School he attended. When in the fourth grade he read a chapter from one of his favorite books to a lower grade class. The teacher told me Nick was very animated in his reading and should try out for drama once he reaches high school.


Kick Block Punch - Setting goals - Written and illustrated by Jacquie Hann. This book begins on the first day of karate class with some enthusiastic students wanting to earn the black belt right away. This one actually showed perseverance with Sam never giving up and achieving his goals. One page at the start has him going home and kicking his brother Ben, which I did not really like due to there being no consequence for this action.

Nick says that the kid was not learning the key aspects of karate in the beginning, but with practice he was able to earn a yellow belt with the green belt his next goal.

Bella Basset Ballerina - Perseverance - This book starts off on a fall day after school. Bella has twin brothers Beau and Bart. Bella wants to be a Ballerina in the big city. Nick's feedback was that this book was too girlish, but did get that there was a lesson taught on following your dreams.

The Scritchy Little Twitchell Sisters - Resolving Conflicts - Written by Laura Aimee Garn and Illustrated by Erik Brooks. The title is a fun tongue twister to get the readers quickly interested in learning to read this book aloud. The sisters are constantly at odds with one another, which is not much different with two teen boys in my household. My sons are fifteen months apart and opposites.

The sisters destroyed their toys and made life so impossible for their parents that they divided up the house. Mrs. Twitchell and Lavinia lived in one half of the house with Mr. Twitchell and Emmeline on other side. All their belongings were divided, labeled and locked away. They had piano, dance lessons and a very busy lifestyle. Nick's impression was that the sisters constantly fight for the attention of their parents.

Pynx - Tolerance - Written and illustrated by Jeffrey Greene. According to Nick, there were lots of alien creatures on this strange planet when the Pynx arrives. It makes many sounds that confuses and angers them. They have to learn to coexist and tolerate one another on the same planet. The jungle creates were interesting looking.

Kick Block Punch and then Phynx were the favorite books of my son who is homeschooled. My son loves to draw creatures and is into animals. He was inspired to get out his sketch pad once again and write another book. His best one thus far is Ricky the Shark.

I also received a second set of these four books to giveaway. The rules for this are as follows:

Giveaway ends Monday, December 7, 2009 at 11:59pm EST. Open to U.S. addresses only. One winner will be selected at random and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be selected. Be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment or have it readily available in your profile so that I may contact you if you're the winner.


Entries -

1. Please leave a comment indicating whether the books are for a boy or a girl.

2. Tweet this giveaway once a day - please post the status link to tweet.

3. Follow me on twitter

4. Leave a comment on any of my articles and leave title in comment section.

5. Sign up for my autism newsletter.

6. Post this giveaway on Facebook - use share this on sidebar - leave link to your wall

7. grab my blog button from sidebar - leave link to your blog in comment.

8. tweet any autism article from site using the icons at the bottom and leave status link in comment

9. Place an entrecard on my blog - leave me link to your entreard page

10. Follow my other two blogs and leave blog info in comments.

Please note that Pretty Please Press! sent me the books, therefore I am financially responsible for mailing these out to the winner, paying for box and postage.

I received the books in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Explaining Birth Son to teen with autism

There is a new show on ABC entitled, Find My Family. This is from the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Today, November 22, 2009 is the day I gave birth back in 1978 to a son that I gave up for adoption through Catholic Charities in Newark, NJ. When I saw the commercial for the new show I did a google search, which led me to an email address for those who are interested in being on the show to contact. I did that and have yet to get a response.

So far this is okay with me as I have yet to inform my oldest son about my first born son. I wrote a Birth Mother's Open Letter back in 2000 when I had two toddlers on the autism spectrum. They are now teens, but Matthew would not really grasp the story.

The other day the commercial was on when Nick and I were watching TV and he told me it looked good and mentioned the bit about it being from same producers of the other show that we have watched over the years - although he mostly tuned in for the autism family stories/makeovers.

I am located in Los Angeles and noticed Lisa Joyner is one of the hosts and she was in Los Angeles news at Fox for many year so I think this is the home base of the show. I mentioned in my email that I have two teens on the autism spectrum and from NJ where I gave up son. I discussed wondering if he has any kids and if autism is in my genes and should he be notified of this. I forgot to note in my email that I turn 50 in April.

I almost started to tell Nick about my first born son but not sure what he will comprehend. I had an opportunity to write a letter and put in his file before he turned 18, just in case he had access to it or contacted Catholic Charities, but at that time I had received autism diagnosis and could not spend the time or money on a search.

I keep the information I have on Catholic Charities in my earthquake kit also.

Money Management Lessons

The other morning I decided to look at my checking acct balance online and was surprised to see a negative in red with overdraft balance listed. This was 5.42 and I thought I must have forgotten to note the recent Burger King transaction of $6.87, plus the prior day I had used my paypal card as a credit card and it was going to transfer a dollar and change from my checking acct as I had gone over and this is set up to do that.

I looked at my acct and register to see these were noted, but found online a charge for LA NEWSPAPER for $25.00. I called the number which was a recording saying the number for the paper and informing callers to tell the company that this was a personal number. I imagine this was the delivery person's phone number.

I was quite irate on the phone with customer service after being told this was the third charge from my checking acct for $25. There was one in July and September. I have no idea how I missed those, but am quite distracted being a single Mom to two teens on the autism spectrum with one being homeschooled and utilizing the computer for work.

I get a bill for the Los Angeles Daily News annually and give them my debit card for the payment, which has been $35.00 annually and I never gave authorization to use my card for future use. I have no paperwork citing this and did not sign anything. The customer service rep said I authorized it in July but could not come up with any print out for me. She said their site and info was recently upgraded. I asked for a history of my acct to show me how long I was paying the $35 fee and to see this in the mail, she could not produce anything like this.

She said she would put in for a refund of the November charge and I called my Bank. My first call resulted in finding out that they would do an investigation after the refund came through and I called to notify them and if that charge was the cause of the NSF - non sufficient funds they would reimburse me. I was concerned with the dollar and change charge from paypal that did not come through and wanted to find out if that would give me another $24.00 NSF fee and he said yes and would not be reversed.

My son Nicholas is homeschooled and this went on after his brother went to school on the bus and he woke up to some colorful language on my part. I had a stack of bank statements all over the kitchen table as I tried to find the previous $25 charges.

I got out a bank statement and a credit report to show Nick what happens when a credit card company sees you have NSF and how this can spiral out of control. I also found the papers from the bank on their fee structure showing if you have so many NSF charges in a year the fee rises. This was my attempt to cover myself and do a quick lesson in money management.

The big lesson was for me and the way I do my checking acct register. I look each item I have written up online and place a check mark next to them so that I have checks up and down the register. This is how I have done it for years but it is not foolproof as anything unexpected coming through would not be in my check register and would not get noted as I am looking from my register and not the actual withdrawals.

I am now changing that way of balancing. A few weeks ago I had noticed when checking to find out why balances were not the same a calculation error on my part, or so I thought where I misread a 2 for a 5 and added the $30 back in, which might be why I had not noticed the $50 already taken out (July and Sep)

I had to get to the laundromat and called from my cell the Bank again to put a dispute on the charge and I found out you have 60 days so the customer service rep was kind enough to place one on the Sep charge as well.

I wrote a review on some workbooks awhile ago. The very large Life Skills Activities book has a great section in it, Practical Living Skills with Money Management one of the chapters.

There are pages on Writing a Check that shows a blank check and the steps plus maintaining a checking account. I think it is time for Nick to learn this. We just recently started a chore system that is going well.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Screwed Over By Professionals

I have been thinking lately of how we as a family of two autistic teens have been treated by those professionals serving the disabled community. For nine years my son Nick attended the autism summer camp with Matthew being eight years. I start planning for camp early each year and due to this we do not sign up for Extended School Year , but that backfired this past summer.

A few years ago I read about a New Jersey Mom where the school her special needs child attended read and utilized her blog against her at the IEP. Because of this I have been lax in posting my true feelings about the camp issue this past year along with what happened with the behavior parent training a few years back through one agency and the clinic where Matt received Feeding and Floortime therapy.

But parents need to stick together and share both positive and negative experiences for others to glean from and determine what is the best resource for their kids. Quality control exists for a reason.

Camp abruptly was cancelled before the start of summer, but way after the deadline to sign up for ESY so Matthew had nothing for two months to keep his progress going and his decline was evident to his teacher at the start of this school year. Things he once was able to do had to be taught over. There were obvious deficits due to not having any services over the summer.

The camp ended their association with the State of California Regional Centers and proceeded to send the written exchanges they had to the families. I felt this was poor judgement to air their dirty laundry to the very people they serve. They basically left us hanging with nothing - there was not even a planned day for families to get together so the kids can see one another. After nine years this is how my son was treated and I felt it was unacceptable.

Over the course of the summer the Regional Center cut camps as a vendored option, leaving families scouring to find funding opportunities. Several weeks ago we started going to Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN LA) where we ran into a fellow camper that was in Nick's class for the previous two years.

For years I had been telling other parents and promoting online about the summer camp and now we are in the dark about what will happen next year. In talking to the other parent at the KEEN sessions she also did not get her daughter into ESY because of camp, but in spite of that her child still wants to go to camp next summer as does mine. It is a conflicting feeling and I wonder how they will contact parents in the coming year.

The Behavior parent training few years back was for a few months but the services were hardly professional. Since that experience the Regional Center has ceased doing business with that company, but after my calls to complain the so called therapist trashed me in the final report. This is why I hate assessments and reports.

The girl got the job from an ad on craigslist and tried to use her version of PECS with my nonverbal son Matthew. I explained to her that she was no speech therapist and to stick to the assessment plan. One session she brought a new therapist who had a low cut tank top on. I called the office to complain about their attire and the way the therapist conducted herself in my home.

The feeding therapy started years ago and went well for a long time until I requested the sessions to be at my kitchen where we needed the help. Matthew had no problems eating in their kitchens but the issues were here. There was never any organization to the sessions as the therapist would bring a piece of paper and never follow a plan or give me written directions. I asked many times to use foods that required a fork and spoon, but it was always foods that could be eaten by hand.

The visits to school were inconsistent and the same questions were asked each week. For months no one ever showed up and there was a huge gap in services offered. We were basically just left hanging and Matthew is back to eating limited foods.

I have run into the Occupational Therapist and Dietitian twice in the last year - once at a funeral and just last month they were presenters at a feeding seminar I attended. It is my belief that some professionals speak well on their topics and are good on paper, but fail in achieving success with the client.

I requested many times to get the copies of the videos they took of me and Matt, yet to this day nothing ever arrived in the mail. I wanted to see the progress and learn from these tapes, but they were too busy using them at their seminars to help other professionals instead of following through with their own clients. My son has suffered because of this.

The Floortime therapy was through the same clinic since we had a relationship with them, or so I thought. After a year at my home they stopped suddenly due to the therapist being allergic to cats and we had one from outside come inside. No one ever came again after that and just left my son in the midst of the progress with no help whatsoever.

It sure would be nice if the therapy remained consistent and the families received some guidance before it all ended. Thanks for nothing..

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blog Tour for Gather.com

For the past several years I have been joining online communities to connect with other parents who have kids with autism. I started with epinions.com in 2000 before finding Gather.com in August of 2006 CafeMom.com was the following summer along with Wish Upon A Hero.com also known as WUAH, with Twitter.com June of 2008, as well as this blog last summer.

The summer months are when I come across these online communities and expand my relationships and do my part to promote autism awareness. There are many rewards to finding another community to become part of, plus you find some of the same friends from other sites. Each site has their own style so you get to gain new insights from those previous relationships while delving into new opportunities at each site.

I wrote about my impressions of Gather.com back in October of 2006. I was so enthusiastic with the site that I created almost twenty groups for members to belong to where they could post articles, videos, photos and comment on other posts. Every idea I had would mean a new group.

The site has grown and expanded with options over the years to include bookmarks and sharing of posts, pings on profile pages, spotlighting of our own articles for our profile page and having more information on members to help determine if you want to become friends. You can delete a comment on any of your posts, you can remove the option of ratings for anything you post also. Groups can be private for only family members if you choose. Your friends can be categorized by friends, family and colleagues. There are many options on gather.com to read and interact with others plus the fun in earning points for gift cards. The holidays are five months away - time to prepare is now.

Meet people and make new friends is the gather motto. Once you become a member you can search by your location, interest or age group to find conversations and groups to join. At your home page the links to utilize include:

my posts, my photos, my videos, my comments, my friends and my groups. Also the option for guarded viewing is on this page, plus email preferences, your account settings, friend updates are here and comments from your friends on posts around the site.

Your gather points are posted next to your photo or avatar. This is a clickable link so you can find the gift cards available for your point total. The minimum to redeem is 315 points. There are options to get paid through paypal as well. I received a Borders card in the mail today. I redeemed last month. The gather home office is in Boston, Founder and CEO is Tom Gerace. I still get notified when Tom writes a new post. The letter with the gift card thanks you for making gather such a special place. "We love sharing our success with you."

Just last month was an opportunity for the first 500 Gather Moms to fill out the 2009 summer survey and receive 50 gather points. There are competitions, author chats, review opportunities and contests to take part in on gather.com.

My teenage son has enjoyed over the years looking at photos of cats on gather.com. He will tell me what the rating should be and help with the comment. There are options to rate and comment posts, pictures and videos. You can set which groups are your favorite and change your settings to not receive emails from every group. If you join many groups there is the section at the bottom of your posts where you need t choose which group your photo, post or video gets linked up to.

Some groups are very strict in what they will accept, there are tags that are helpful to find posts as well. My groups are moderated so I need to go into my home page and click on group tasks to find the new content and approve it on a weekly basis. Gather.com also takes copyright infringement very seriously. There are groups on this topic as well.

You will meet many new people who share similar interests, post poetry, short stories, reviews of books and other products, share family experiences and post coupon codes to get deals at each week. Now for summer the reading is about vacations, picnics, movies, favorite television shows and recipes.

There was a children's health product that had been recalled. I wrote a post complaining about this and wanting to know what other parents were using. This article continued to get comments as it was found in online searches. Through these comments I learned of two new products that were just as good that I started purchasing and still use to this day.

At your home page you will see what your friends are posting, what activity is happening in groups, recent comments and photos. There are many groups to discuss and learn about the site as well. This past week there was an offer to win a free book

The first year I joined gather.com I stock piled 7 or 8 B+N gift cards for holiday shopping for my kids. Although B+N is no longer an option, Borders, Macy's and CVS have been my gift cards of choice since my first year. I have always received my gift cards within three weeks. You earn points for everything you do on the site. To join gather there are links for you to place on your blog or site, plus you can send invitations. There was a referral program with points earned for new members. I have had a banner on my blog since I started it.



I highly recommend other bloggers join gather.com to form new bonds with those who have similar tastes. There have been cruises for members to attend and meet in person. Members share about their writings and new books, family ventures and find out about other places around the world from the diverse mix of members from all over.

Some of the groups I created include:

autism families

associated content writers

Beauty 101


This is the first blog tour I have signed up with Mom Central since my blog was accepted into their program. Due to the fact that I have personal experience this is a perfect fit for me.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog and giveaway campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Gather. Mom Central sent me a gift cad to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

VizZle - Visual Learning Software Giveaway












VizZle - Visual Learning Software for Children with Autism is web-based from Monarch Teaching Technologies. This is the answer for teachers, therapists and parents for quick, easy and effective visual supports.

Back in March my high functioning son Nick and I went to the free exhibitor day at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. This is where I first saw and heard of VizZle. Awhile after the conference I noticed VizZle on twitter.

VizZle has a searchable library of lessons that range from state-standard academics to personal hygiene, matching boards, game-boards, interactive books and a visual language lab. Lesson tracking will be available by August. Currently there are token boards that can be customized, timers plus first-then boards.

You can match coins to their value, match coin images to written names, play the matching spider game, pick clothing appropriate for each season, learn about gardening, practice grouping animals in a table-top activity and for the next six weeks VizZle is giving away a $25 amazon card to the user with the most new lesson plans each week. There is a new winner every week. The site also has a free trial and there is a quick start guide to VizZle in pdf format.

There is also the option to take a one-hour VizZle training session. You can inquire about special group discounts for the school year 2009-10. The VizZle help section.

VizZle received a Best Education Software Award 2009 from Comput Ed Gazette. They are one of four finalists for the Technology Innovations Golden Lamp Award from AEP (the Association of Educational Publishers), which will be awarded in June. In mid April VizZle sent out their 1000th username and password.

I am thrilled to announce that Monarch Teaching Technologies, Inc. is giving away two 3-month subscriptions to VizZle to readers of Autism Family Adventures blog. This starts today and will run for one-week. This is a great giveaway for parents, teachers or therapists and gives you the summer to work on lesson plans and/or have your child practice learning while on summer break.


RULES FOR GIVEAWAY


Please make sure I have a way to contact you should you be the winner. You can include your email address with your comment. Please do one comment for each entry.

For the main entry please post in comments whether you would use the three month free subscription to VizZle as a parent, student, teacher or therapist. What age group are the students or your child?

For extra entries leave a comment for each option

1 entry - subscribe to my RSS feed or via email
1 entry - follow this blog - can be found in the sidebar
1 entry - follow me on twitter (autismfamily) leave your ID
1 entry - follow @govizzle on twitter - leave your ID
1 entry - grab my button from the sidebar - leave link to blog
1 entry - Fav Autism Family Adventures (this blog) in Technorati
1 entry - digg, stumbleupon or mixx this blog post - one comment for each
1 entry - tweet this giveaway - leave your twitter id & date of tweet
1 entry - join Autism Next Door on Facebook
1 entry - friend me on Facebook - Bonnie Sayers - leave me your name
1 entry - fan VizZle on Facebook - leave me your name
1 entry - connect with me on LinkedIn - Bonnie Sayers
2 entries - do a recommendation for me on LinkedIn
2 entries - blog about this giveaway - leave blog link


If you already do any of the above, please note that with your ID in a separate comment for each.

This VizZle giveaway will run through Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 8 PM PST. The winners will be chosen using Random.org from all valid entries and notified via email. Both winners will have 48 hours to contact me before another winner is chosen. Giveaway is open to US, Canada and International users.
 
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