Debuts May 4th, order here!
Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I am about to dig into a book by my good writing friend Stephen Parrish. I "met" Stephen and many other wonderful folks through a blog called Miss Snark. Miss Snark was the bomb. She was an anon literary agent who gave your the straight skinny on publishing from the end of a bullwhip. The pain was exquisite and her club was the place to be even though I never did warm up to the ball gag. Hey, I'm a talker, what can I say? Alas, "she" retired and the party ended. Many of us leapt over to FB, which, sans Snark, is not quite the same.
You can go to Stephen Parrish to learn how to play and where to buy the book. I think it would be GREAT for folks with Asperger's and HFA to join the hunt!
Here's my brief (it's about 3 minutes of the video) speech at the National Autism Association Metro New York event. That's Bella's voice you hear in the background. Mark and the girls were next to Dan Olmsted, our Editor at Age of Autism and he took the video on his iPhone. He came up to NY from DC just for the event. I was very touched. We had a huge meltdown in the car ride into the City, when Gianna realized our new minivan, as luxurious as it is (the seats go back like La-Z-Boys with foot rests!) it does NOT have WiFi and her iTouch would not access YouTube. She was upset. Very. For an hour. As we passed by Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital on the FDR, I longed to lunged out of the car and into a softly padded room. I mention that in the speech. Natch.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
What else would you expect from the greatest city on the planet?
Last night, Mark, the girls and I went to the venerable Council Chamber at New York City Hall. In that beautiful room, Commissioner Sapolin, from the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, talked about how NYC will tackle autism from all sides for all people. He used an analogy (you know how I love analogies) of Helen Keller. (He is seeing impaired.) He recounted how she single handedly changed the perception of blindness, of disability, from an object of mere pity, to a human child who could and did learn. From there, America embarked on a new course for the blind.
New York is setting a new course for autism, with the help of the National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter which includes the 5 boroughs, Westchester and Rockland Counties.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Wow. I'm floored. I received a call from our friends at NAA NY Metro Chapter that they are honoring me at this event. I in turn, will honor all of you, fellow autism parents and advocates. Mark, the girls and I will be there. If you can get into the city, hope to see you.
WORLD AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH
Commissioner Matthew Sapolin,
Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities
The National Autism Association - NY Metro Chapter
for an event commemorating
WORLD AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH
Monday, April 19, 2010, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Council Chamber, City Hall
1 Centre Street, New York, NY
• Honoring Kim Stagliano, an extraordinary autism mom and Managing Editor, Age of Autism, for her remarkable contributions in raising awareness about autism
• Enjoy inspirational speakers, music and refreshments
There is no charge and children are welcome
Questions may be directed to:
Khalid Rehman MD
Chair, Advocacy & Awareness Committee
National Autism Association - New York Metro Chapter
email@example.com Tel: 917.639.3397
Please let us know in advance if you require a reasonable accommodation.
Please visit us at: http://www.naanyc.org/
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I'm happy to share an excerpt of Jenny Gardiner's new book, a memoir about life with a crazy African Gray parrot, kids, husband and the usual array of insanity we all face. You can purchase a copy at Amazon HERE. Jenny is a good friend, one of the first "real writers" I met through a writer's list. She is screamingly funny with a finely honed sense of snark. What's not to love?
Winging It: One of my favorite children's books we read with our kids until tattered is Five Minutes' Peace, which is about an elephant mom who can't find solitude to save her soul. As a mother, I could relate. As a pet owner, even more so. And as a writer, I began to recognize solitude as an underrated commodity that tends to remain just past the horizon.
In the midst of puppies and teens and crazy parrots, I had been working under a self-imposed deadline, with the plans to submit my novel to agents to try to then sell it to a New York publishing house. But with my kids home all summer, I had put off most everything writing-related for as long as I could without feeling like an irresponsible slacker. There was, however, a light at the end of the tunnel: back-to-school time. I decided the first day back for my kids would be the day I would finally reclaim my schedule and behave like the disciplined writer I aspired to be.
The day after Labor Day arrived. I drove my kids to school, then returned home without stopping for cappuccino or pastries or groceries or even gas (I’m a very industrious procrastinator). I shunned the chest-high stockpile of dirty laundry awaiting me in the basement, and instead settled my butt down at my desk, intent on knocking out at least an entire book by noon.
My first distraction came from Bridget, who barks at the mere suggestion of movement within a hundred yard radius. This can include a leaf blowing outside the window. You can imagine how many leaves blow outside the window of a house that backs up to the woods. Bridget’s shrill bark set my teeth on edge and immediately my ears pinned back like a collie hearing one of those canine whistles. I tried hard to ignore it.
After about fifteen minutes of intermittent barking, I got up, put her out (with Sassy following obligingly), and again sat down, fingers to the keyboard, ready for my imminent brainstorm. Soon Bridget barked to be let back in. Up again, let them in, back down, ready to get to work. Ah, but everyone wanted a piece of me, so next, the bird got into the act.
Of course Graycie loves to be the center of attention, which is handy since she resides at that unavoidable juncture between our living and dining room, overlooking the kitchen. I was not inclined to open the perch up on the cage, because she'd been getting into a lot of mischief, which would only require yet more of my attention. However Graycie had gotten wise to my disinclination, and had figured out a way to let me know in no uncertain terms that SHE WANTS OUT!, by plinking on the metal bars with her beak, PLING! PLING! PLING! The bird’s got staying power, and can plink without cessation for a half an hour easily. You've heard of road rage? Maybe even 'roid rage? Well Graycie, it seems, had developed a bad case of cage rage.
My intent was not to imprison Graycie, but once her bad-tempered behavior begins, I cannot reward it by caving to her demands. When I can keep an eye on her, I will open the cage, but because she’d recently become so devious (including sneaking off the couch to make mincemeat of my furniture), I knew I couldn’t deal with the consequences at that particular time. But after twenty solid minutes of plink, plank, plink, plank, bing, bang, bong, I couldn't take it any longer and relented, hating myself all the more for engaging in head games with a parrot.
I approached the bird and stooped to remove the top layer of newspaper from the bottom of the cage--the one littered with wasted parrot chow and dropped food and dropped, um, droppings. As I leaned over, Graycie scurried down the inside of the cage, ever on the prowl for an attack strategy (something she of course does with relish). Reaching through the cage, she was able to grab a chunk of my hair and pull. I looked up to see a shred of blonde highlights clamped in her beak.
Helpless, I warned her to behave, and then raced back to the top of the cage to open the perch before she again rushed after me, hoping to maul me before I could safely move away. It was like a game of dodge ball, only I was avoiding a blade instead of a hard leather ball. My parrot has such a charming disposition. Safely out of harm’s way, I returned to my computer, ready to get to work.
Immediately Graycie scooted along the bars, beak to claw, beak to claw, to the bottom of the cage, this time on the outside. She'd decided it was time to pull the newspaper sheets out from the bottom of the tray and shred them all over my clean floor. Within ten minutes, enough paper was strewn about to accommodate a nest of large rodents. She’d done this after depositing an enormous splat of bird poo below, which helped to adhere the paper to the hardwood floor. This is why I’d preempted an even larger mess by removing that top sheet beforehand--it’s bad enough to have shredded yet somewhat clean newspaper decorating one's living space, but add to it strewn old bits of sticky fruit, decomposing vegetables, and dried bird excrement…Martha Stewart would not be impressed.
Rather than allowing myself to be diverted yet again, I decided to ignore the mess, and return to my computer. Twenty plus minutes into my new work regimen, a noticeable silence settled in. I glanced toward the cage, only to realize no bird was either in it or on it. A look under the dining room table revealed Graycie click-clacking her pigeon-toed black talons across the expanse of my dining room, a trail of droppings in her wake and her defiant red tail feathers dragging behind her as if to say “up yours!” There's something somewhat shameful about being flipped off by a household pet.
I heaved a sigh, and headed over toward the bird. First I suggested to Graycie that she get back onto the cage before the dogs ate her. She looked at me with two words in her eyes: “Yeah, right.” She continued wandering astray, with no intention of following my gentle hints.
I’ve often found that so much in life is based on certain social contracts working as planned. You take it for granted, for example, that, generally speaking, your kids will obey you. When they become old enough and defiant enough, the jig’s up. They’ve figured out that ultimately, you hold very little sway over them. By then you hope they’re conditioned to behave within acceptable social parameters. And so it goes with Graycie, who clearly has realized that she holds the upper hand over me. Only she hasn’t picked up on that whole social contract thing yet. And she’s got a tool in her arsenal that I am lacking: her menacing, hooked, and ever-so-sharp black keratin beak, a lethal tool for which I have enormous respect. And fear. And loathing. With it she can readily crush the rock-hard shell of a brazil nut. Deforest a home's worth of decorative houseplants. Shred my living room furniture. Or choose to bite my finger off. Maim me. De-eyeball me if she really wanted to. She’s not afraid to wield it against me (I have the scars, both physical and mental, to prove it).
So instead of forcing the issue, I retrieved a broom, hoping to scare her back up onto the cage. As I began to sweep, she aggressively chased both me and the broom, biting the bristles and pecking at my ankles, while repeating over and over again, "Hello, gray chicken. Hello, gray chicken" in my voice (it’s a term of endearment I often call her).
By this time I was entertaining visions of parrot-on-a-spit and was threatening her with parroticide (if that's not a word, it should be). The stubborn bird would simply not comply. To the rescue came Bridget, who had gotten wind of the psitticine escapee on the loose. She careened into the room, nearly toppling the bird. Graycie began flapping her wings, scattering hundreds of bits of newspaper throughout the living room, dining room and kitchen (curse that open floor plan!), the remnants of a ticker tape parade celebrating her escape. As the dog skidded into the cage, Graycie yelled, "Bridget! NOOOO! You're a BAD, BAD GIRL! Stop it NOW!"
Lucky for her my murderous notions of throttling and stuffing her into my electric smoker were replaced by my laughter. But just barely.
At that point, I gave up on bothering with both Graycie and her chaos, and instead took my laptop onto the front porch where the mess and the pets would remain out of sight, out of mind, and blessedly out of earshot.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
April is Autism Awareness month. There's a lot of really good work being done for people across the spectrum, from the severely affected to the far less affected but still in some way, held back by their diagnosis. Awareness is good. It might help a Mom whose child is sucking her thumb in Church - at 15. Or the Dad whose son has asked the bored to death clerk about helicopters six times while checking out of Target.
There is still a push to call seeking a cure for autism undesireable. A call to spread the word that autism is a brain difference, perhaps like left or right handedness.
Bullshit. Take a 2:57 gander at this little girl. Nine years old and non-verbal. Like my Bella. Take a long hard look and tell me she doesn't deserve a cure. Did I already say bullshit? Because that's how I feel.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Autism Can Be Deadly from the Outside In.
Here is a sad story and stark reminder of the stress for families doing their best to keep a child with autism (whether 5, 15 or 45) safe. It is from WSB Radio Atlanta. I often compare autism to cancer - and am lambasted for opening the conversation that autism can, like cancer, be deadly. Not from the inside out, but from the outside in.
Our condolences to the Dejons family.
The search for a missing six-year-old Douglas County boy has ended.
Douglas County Sheriff Phil Miller tells WSB the autistic child wandered off from his home in the Middle Lake Subdivision in Villa Rica Wednesday afternoon.
Authorities from all over including the Georgia State Patrol, which provided its helicopter, helped in the search. Hours later, he was found nearby.
"Unfortunately, we found the child in the lake and he had passed away. We don't suspect foul play. It's just a sad, sad tragedy," said Miller.
The child has been identified as Christian Dejons.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Well, I schlepped up to Hartford, 53+ miles away, this morning to participate in Autism Awareness Day at the Capitol. Shannon K. from Autism Speaks was kind enough to help facilitate my participation with a woman named such and such who runs some big autism something or other here in the state. I have been in CT for 5 years with 3 kids on the spectrum and she's never crossed my radar screen in any meaningful way, so I don't know what she actually does. I'm down in the "NY" part of the state though, and we're kind of segregated.
I asked Mrs. Such and Such why I wasn't on the list any longer. Insert ruffling feathers sound here. I marched up to the Senator in charge and asked why I wasn't on the list. " Well I didn't know you until three days ago and..." Ah ha....... Someone Googled KimmyKat and didn't like what she saw, perhaps? So rather than give me the courtesy of an email saying, "The list is full and we're so sorry," I showed up for naught. Don't make me put on pantyhose for nothing, people. It's not nice.
Shannon was the only speaker to convey the urgency of the autism situation. Her son was there, and is a doll. She also spoke to some good things going on with hiring people on the spectrum. I have a saying, "Don't punish progress." Walgreens and now Lowe's are working toward hiring people on the spectrum and I'm not complaining. CT has a bill to offer a tax incentive to companies who hire people on the spectrum, and I hope that will include Asperger's.
So, here's my presentation. I was going to hold each photo up individually, but I'll just write the script under the photos I snapped for the blog. OK?
Hi, I'm Kim Stagliano and I live in Trumbull. I am Mom to a beautiful 15 year old girl with autism named Mia. (Hold up photo.) Hi, I'm Kim Stagliano. I am Mom to a beautiful 13 year old girl with autism named Gianna. (Hold up photo.) Hi. I'm Kim Stagliano. I am Mom to a beautiful 9 year old girl with autism named Bella. (Hold up photo.)
In ten seconds I'm going to talk to you about the needs facing the autism community for care, treatment, recovery (yeah, I was gonna let that fly) special education, living assistance, employment and elder care as the population ages. How could I do that in the now 5 seconds I have left. (Flip over each child's photo to reveal.)
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
We bought these shoes yesterday at Hawley Lane Shoes. The young man who helped us told me he was on the autism spectrum. He was so kind and connected to all of my kids, especially Mia. He helped her find these shoes. She is wearing them today. What a nice Autism Action Month feeling.