Just a few snippets from moms on the Spectrum on their special day. Happy Mother’s Day! -Ed
Mother’s Day: Autistic 12-Year-Old Interviews His Mom About What It’s Like To Raise Him
An Autism Mom’s “Unique” Mother’s Day Gift
From Lisa Jo Rudy
A Unique Mother’s Day Gift
For any of you who might be wondering if your spectrum child will be under your roof forever…well, this one’s for you.
My son and I had the coolest conversation the other day at dinner, when it was just the two of us. I’ve been trying for the last few years (on occasion) to ask my son what he would like to be when he grows up. My question is usually met with silence, or something inappropriate about one of his special interests, or by the simple statement, “I don’t know”. Well, imagine my surprise when I broached the subject the other night (expecting the same response), but instead was met with the following exchange:
“Oh, Mommy, when I grow up,” he said, excitedly, “I’m going to be a teacher.”
I, of course, jumped right on it, surprised and elated to be having an actual conversation about the future. “Really?” I said. “What kind of teacher?”
And he said, “I’ll be a computer teacher, of course.”
“Of course – - ” I was trying to reiterate, but was interrupted.
“And I’m going to marry Jenny (his current “girlfriend” at school) and we’re going to have five kids.”
I was happily surprised to hear he had it all planned out. “Five kids, huh?”
“Oh, yes,” he continued. “It will be a boy, girl, boy, girl, boy – just like that.”
“Well,” I cautioned. “It might not work out just like that.”
“That’s okay,” he said. “I’ll still love them all the same and they’ll have YOU as a Grandma. What could be better than that?”
So for all of you Spectrum Moms out there who think there’s no hope for the future and that no one else understands what you’re going through, please remember this. It is possible for our kids to get better. You just have to take the first step and then another and another… Happy (early) Mothers Day to all of my fellow Warrior Moms!!
Mom Hero: ‘Super Mom’ Responds With Love to Autism’s Challenges
In honor of Mother’s Day, TODAY Moms is celebrating Mom Heroes, those everyday wonder women who quietly change the world. More than 700 readers submitted essays for our Mom Hero contest, and we wish we could give everyone a prize. Ultimately, the winners told us beautiful stories about mothers who are unsung heroes. Check back every day this week for a new winner.
Do you know a mom hero who deserves thanks? Send her a TODAY.com e-card.
My Mom Hero is my wife, Sandy Painter. She is the hardest working mother I know.
Our youngest son is severely autistic. He receives numerous therapy sessions at our house and our school. Sandy participates and deals with all of our son’s therapists and his school. She also manages his diet, which is very restricted. He is gluten, casein and soy free.
The best way I can put her love for our family into words is to watch when our autistic son hits, scratches and bites her on a consistent basis. She has never hit him or put him down. She is constantly trying to find ways to make him better while being a mother to our daughter and a wife to me.
Sandy constantly helps our daughter with normal problems that a 9-year-old girl faces. She helps at the school and has spent many a night reading to her and helping her with her homework. She manages to keep our house clean and keep dinner on the table.
When Sandy is not being super mom, she is being a super student. Sandy went back to school and is taking four classes a semester. She has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, all while being an amazing mother to a special needs child and a normal child.
Sandy is an amazing wife and I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth to have her as my wife. In my book, she is the top mom, regardless of if she wins anything.
I think this is absolutely fabulous and exemplifies the commitment and spirit of parents of Autistic children everywhere. We all wish that everything that we are capable of doing will, in some measure, have a profound and lasting impact on the development of our children.
University of Kentucky Associate Professor, Father of Autistic Son Applies Engineering to Autism Therapies
The distance between professional research and personal impact was shortened a few years ago when Sen-Ching (Samson) Cheung and his wife began to detect developmental delays with their son. They noticed he displayed poor social interaction skills and wouldn’t look anyone in the face, not even his parents. He also preferred to play by himself in the corner and avoid social contact. Eventually, they had him tested; the diagnosis: autism spectrum disorder.
Cheung is an associate professor in the University of Kentucky College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a faculty member within the UK Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments. Like most professors, he is deeply involved in engineering research. Most of his research has been in the area of multimedia information analysis.
“I enjoy solving problems and developing new theories, working on new technology and future products,” Cheung said. “But something like video surveillance does not impact me personally. At the end of the day, I can leave my research in the lab.”
That was not the case when it came the diagnosis of his son.
“Though we were disappointed about the diagnosis, we began taking our son to different therapies and reading about effective ways to help children with autism,” Cheung recalls.
One therapy involved letting their son watch videos of other kids performing skills he needed to learn for himself. However, autistic children typically do not respond well to videos of other kids because there is no connection; they can’t relate to them. However, according to recent research in autism, autistic children do relate to their own face and have little problems recognizing it in a mirror. Thus, an idea was born: What if their son and other autistic children could watch themselves accomplishing basic daily living tasks? Given their inclination to look at themselves, they would be more likely to develop those skills.
The problem with such an approach is obvious: how do you record a child doing something he or she has never actually done?
“That’s where engineers come in,” Cheung said.
Working with UK pediatric professor Dr. Neelkamal Soares, autism expert from the UK College of Education Lisa Ruble and developmental psychologist from the College of Arts and Sciences Ramesh Bhatt, Cheung has submitted proposals for funding to develop what is called a “virtual mirror.” In the virtual mirror, a child will be able to look at himself in a large computer display. As he is looking at himself, the program will take his image and virtually create the child carrying out the very actions he needs to learn (speaking, sitting still, social interactions with others, etc.). Through seeing the instant visual feedback from the virtual mirror, Cheung hopes that this new technology can help autistic children like his son better concentrate on behavioral learning and generalizing abstract concepts to daily life.
Cheung is eager to put his knowledge to work.
“Developing something new that will help autistic children is incredibly rewarding for me. I am taking my background and expertise and connecting them to something I have a personal stake in seeing succeed. It’s for our child and also for countless other parents of autistic children who need help. Not many professors get to come to work as personally invested in their research as I am, and as my graduate students — who come to my house often and play with him — are.”
Cheung is conducting preliminary stages of his research in the recently dedicated Davis Marksbury Building. He believes the distinctive features of the new facility will give him and his team an advantage as they investigate this new field.
“I am hopeful for the virtual mirror’s possibilities — it is the most important work I have ever done,” he says. “But even more so, I am extremely hopeful for my son.”