Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays!

I don't know about you, but the Holidays tend to get a little crazy around here. We get the benefit of hosting the festivities at our house, which is nice because it gives Calvin a home-court advantage (being at home helps him relax and participate better within the large group.)

The downside, though, is that we have to host the festivities at our house – cleaning, preparing, most of the cooking, and in general being on our "A game" for 3 different holiday events, 3 days in a row! Add in the fun of shopping and wrapping presents, and it's no surprise that life is going to get a little hectic between now and the new year.

I'm sure most of you can relate!

This will most likely be my last post for a couple of weeks – my goal is to both survive and enjoy the holidays, and it's going to require as much time & energy as I can give it! ;-)



I hope everyone out there has a wonderful holiday season, and we'll look forward to great things in 2008!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Spotting Red Flags at Soccer Practice

One of the unintended consequences of living with autism, and everything that goes along with it (therapies, diets, sensitivities, learning styles, communication, etc. etc. etc!), is that you get to be very proficient at spotting red flags in other children. This has become even more true as we've been able to watch our NT child grow. I'm not sure if this is necessarily a good thing; it is just something that comes with the territory.



Last weekend we were watching Jonas' soccer practice (a loose term to be sure, since coaching a group of 3-4 year-olds can be like herding cats!) At first glance it looked like complete chaos; there were never more than 2 or 3 kids actually paying attention at any one time. But somehow it was soaking in – once the coach got a drill/game underway, the kids inevitably fell into line and participated (to varying degrees of skill level). All except one.

One boy seemed to struggle with tasks that weren't necessarily easy, but which the other seven all managed to complete independently. These included running a "slalom course" through a series of cones and then kicking a goal (Dad had to help him navigate the course), shouting "GOOOOOAAAAALLL" after scoring (Dad reminded him of what to say), making a mess by spreading cones out all over the place (he placed his in a nice, neat straight line), and in general his running and kicking motions were less fluid than everyone else's.

I'm not saying this child has anything wrong, or is even on the ASD spectrum at all. But I know from first-hand experience how easy it is for parents to ignore (or not even see) these warning signs, and to make excuses for their little angel. But that's the wrong thing to do.

Early intervention is one of the key factors in determining a child's ability to reach his/her full potential, and the earlier the better. Not every kid is destined to be the next Pele, but if you notice that you're little guy is the only one who consistently needs parental 'guidance', putting your head in the sand is the worst thing you could do; it's time to start asking some very difficult questions.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hope Wine does things right

Hope Wine donates 50% of their profits to charity. No gimmicks, no caps, no limitations. They sell a bottle of wine, they make a donation to charity. They are currently offering 3 different types of wines, with the profits from each type of wine being tied to a different charity:



Cabernet Sauvignon profits support Autism related research and charities

Merlot profits support AIDS related research and charities

Chardonnay profits support Breast Cancer related research and charities

If you're the person in charge of buying the wine for this year's holiday festivities, you might want to consider supporting a company who supports these causes.

Read more about Hope Wine in an article by AZCentral.com or by visiting their website at http://www.hopewine.com/.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Special Night for Special Kids

Last night we joined hundreds of other families at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale for a great evening to celebrate the holidays. This has become one of our favorite nights of the year, and one that we look forward to every holiday season. The park does an awesome job of bringing the season to life, and on this one night they invite the entire special needs community to be their guests, with free train & carousel rides, cookies & hot cocoa, popular TV characters like Elmo and Cookie Monster, and even a chance to meet Santa!

Even though we try to lead a robust life, and to participate in many different activities, this one's always special. We enjoy bumping into old friends, and meeting new ones. And it's always nice when you can let your guard down a little bit, because everyone there shares a common bond – there's a lot of support, encouragement, and understanding going around.



ps – I've never embedded a slideshow into a blog post before.. How's this look?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Arizona autism insurance bill is on the Hill

Have you heard about the Autism Insurance Bill being proposed in the Arizona State Legislature? If not, then listen up – this has the potential to be an extremely important piece of legislation.. Maybe even life-changing for many families.

I can speak from experience on this one. When I left my job at a Fortune 500 company to go into business for myself, health insurance was one of the most challenging pieces to put into place. We wanted to include Calvin on our family insurance plan, and we were willing to pay for his premium. "Heck, we thought, why should the State be required to pay for his doctor's visits?"

Well, we eventually found one company who would insure Calvin on our plan, but with an exclusion rider so that any care which could conceivably be connected to autism would NOT be covered. We were out of options, so we accepted. However, when the dust settled and we actually had a policy in place, they had excluded Calvin entirely! So the State of Arizona has been providing his health insurance coverage ever since – not by choice, but by necessity.

This law will not only require insurance companies to provide coverage for "non-autism" treatments, it will also give some help for the very real, very necessary, and sometimes very expensive treatments and therapies we've come to rely on to improve the quality of Calvin's (and our family's) life.

Please visit http://www.azautisminsurance.org to learn more about it, or to find the contact information for your district's senator and representatives.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

About HappyChucks

(updated 4/09 )

Who am I?
What’s my link to autism?
What is this blog about?
Why am I doing this, and what do I hope to accomplish?
What does HappyChucks mean?
What type of fundraising efforts have I/we done?


Who am I?

That’s a difficult question to answer! I am Calvin & Jonas’s dad, and Cheryl’s husband. I am a partner in The Phoenix Agents (a Phoenix-area real estate team), and have lived here since 1970 – not quite a native, but awfully close! I’ve spent most of my life seeking out face-paced, high-energy activities, but have begun to enjoy slowing down a little bit; lately I’ve found an interest in writing and digital photography.

Need to learn even more about me? Here's another bio page.

What’s my link to autism?

My older son was diagnosed with autism at 18 months-old. By 20 months he was in a full-time, 40 hours a week, intensive ABA-type home program. Since that time, we’ve experienced an entire new world – one that we never even knew existed before then. Therapies, food and diet, medicines and homeopathy, education and IEPs... I can’t say we’ve done it all, but we’ve done quite a bit, and we’re learning and experiencing more every day.

What is this blog about?

This is an outlet for me to share what I’ve learned and experienced, as well as new things I think about each day, with others. Anything is fair game – discussion about various therapies, products, schools & school districts, activities, events, news, stories, or anything else that I feel like writing about. Hopefully my writing will touch a few chords; if I can generate some interaction with others “out there” then I can probably learn even more than I share.

Why am I doing this, and what do I hope to accomplish?

For me, the time just felt right to start this project. I have a lot of good information that others can benefit from, and this is a great way to share it with the people who are looking for it. Cheryl & I have spoken with a lot of families along the way, but it’s generally because of a word of mouth introduction – somebody’s child get a diagnosis, and they know someone who knows us and recommends they give us a call.

I’ve been blogging about Phoenix Real Estate on ButterHomes.com for over a year now, and have really enjoyed it. But it’s restrictive – I can’t write about everything I want to, and I’m writing for a completely different community. I want to use my experience from ButterHomes.com to build a place where families can learn, teach, and share their experiences.

If I can help one family: Get diagnosed earlier; Improve their therapy choices; Gain better education for their child; Brainstorm a better way; or even just to make sense of the why’s and how’s... If I can do any of that, then I’ve made a difference. If I can do it repeatedly, than I’ve really accomplished something. And I’m willing to bet that along the way I’m going to learn some great new things that can help Calvin and my family as well.

What does HappyChucks mean?

Ask anyone who knows Calvin what’s the first thing they think of when they hear his name, and you’ll get 5-10 different answers. But the two answers you’ll hear most often will be:

Happy. Calvin is one of the happiest boys I know, and he shares his infectious smile with everyone around him.

Chucks. good old fashioned Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. One time we bought Calvin a pair of Chuck Taylors, just because they looked good on him. That week his teacher asked if he could wear them every day, since they were the first shoes he could not kick off during class! He has been wearing them almost exclusively ever since, and has several pairs in several colors. It’s become his trademark.

What type of Fundraising efforts have I/we done?

I currently sit on the Board of Directors for Neurologic Music Therapy Services of Arizona (NMTSA), a non-profit organization serving more than 350 Arizona families each month.

We’ve spearheaded “teams” to raise funds at the Walk Far for NAAR walks.

We’ve organized groups to walk at the Zoo Walk for Autism and Zoo Walk for ASD.

I’ve done pro-bono business consulting for Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC).

Cheryl has chaired the Wine & Cheese w/ Silent Auction for Kris’ Camp in 2007 and 2008. (and 2009)

I developed and implemented the Friends of Kris’ Camp program, with funds being shared between Kris’ Camp and Neurologic Music Therapy Services of Arizona (NMTSA).

I chaired the 2007 Holiday Raffle for NMTSA.

We have donated time, energy, and expertise along the way – sitting on various committees, attending functions and events, and volunteering.

So far we’ve personally helped to raise over $35,000 for various autism-related charities. (as of spring 2009)