Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taking the Week Off

It’s a few days before Christmas, and I’m taking the week off. If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that I still take on more than any sane soul is capable of conquering. And if I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that trait isn’t changing any time soon. But I am going to stop for a moment, take a break, smell cookies as they bake, and stare at the glowing lights that calm the soul during times of stress and unknowns.

copyright 2011 Julie Clark Art
My daughter is growing up so fast. And I need to stop, take time for her (and my husband). The to-do lists will still be there. Articles to write, books to ponder, and bills…oh, those bills…they never go away, do they? But a few days unplugged are welcome, and I hope you are able to do the same.

So, for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy this time spent with your family.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ten Parenting Tips to Consider. Don’t be Caught on Santa’s Naughty List!

For those who celebrate it, are you ready for Christmas? Are you ready for time off from school? For company? Or are you the ones traveling this year? Is your shopping done, gifts wrapped?

Or is your anxiety increasing as you read the above?

Here’s a quick tip list, in an effort to keep mom and dad off Santa’s Naughty List:
  1. If your child wants to wrap gifts, let her – and don’t criticize how “sloppy” it might look. Remember, many of these kids have gross and/or fine motor skill concerns. And, whatever you do, please, oh please, resist the urge to “rewrap” it. (Unfortunately, I know folks who would do just that…*sigh*)
  2. Does your child want to wrap gifts, but the perfectionist nature of her makes it a stress-ball, ending in meltdowns and tears? Make sure she has the proper tools and an adequate work space. Be prepared with calming activities, and refrain from matching her level of intensity while she’s in the middle of a difficult situation.
  3. Practice gift giving and opening time. Remind your child it is ok to dislike a gift, but it is not ok to act rudely, and a “thank you” is still due. And telling your child (very loudly in a very strong voice) that she is being rude and disrespectful, well…ahem… :)
  4. Be prepared for the Holiday dinner and parties, and consider her sensory world, which includes the menu. For many, an empty stomach is a recipe for a meltdown, any day! Don’t expect her to fail, but don’t expect her to “suck it up and deal with it”, either.
  5. Stick to (at least some of) her wishlist. Aspies like surprises like my husband loves tofu. (Somehow, I still think I’ll convert him. Silly me.)
  6. Going caroling in the cold, snow and freezing temps? Make sure to bundle your child up, especially if her sensitivity to cold (and wearing mittens) is lacking.
  7. Get to know the amygdala. It’s the part of the brain that has the fight or flight response and is what causes our kids to go from sweet little angels to snapping zombie turtles in a millisecond. The amygdala loves this time of year. Yelling feeds it – don’t feed it.
  8. Did your Aspie give you something off her Special Interest list as a gift? You know, that Special Interest that is, shall we say, well loved and all but worn out? Yep, mom, time to practice #3, ourselves, huh?
  9. Don’t make your child hug anyone as a gesture of “thanks”. For some kids, hugging is hell, and not equated with caring.
  10. Take time to sit back and enjoy this time spent with your immediate family. At the end of the day, kids are just that – kids. People who grow up and become adults. And that day is approaching quicker than we’d like to let it.
Ok, your turn. Have any tips you’d like to share?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Handmade Giveaway

With the splitting of this blog into two, I'd like to let you know of a giveaway over on one of my fave blogs, We Know Stuff. The giveaway is a small way to celebrate this change! They are hosting the giveaway of one of my handmade sets, designed and made this fall. And, yep, these guys are on the small side. The aqua mint mini tote is great for carrying keys and your phone for a quick dash out, and the coordinating coin purse fits snuggle-y inside it, as well. 
Handmade by Julie 2011
Due to all the legal bits, only residents of the USA are eligible to win. But, for those interested, if you head over to the We Know Stuff blog, and read the giveaway article, you'll find a coupon that anyone can use, good for my Etsy shop, no matter where you are!

As this blog will now be focusing primarily on Asperger's, head over to my new blog, One Clever Cottage if you'd like to stay current on news, product lines and other information regarding my handmade artisan business, "Julie Clark Art". Or stay right here, for more on life, living and Asperger's.

Or join me at both places. I'd be honored.

The drawing is THIS Friday, December 16, 2011. Feel free to pass it along to friends and family.

Thanks, again, for following along!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Asperger’s in Pink on Facebook

Not too long after Asperger’s in Pink was published, I started a (minutely) small business. Shortly afterward, a Facebook page appeared for each, along with this blog, which was used for both. But promoting Asperger’s awareness while growing a small artisan business eventually meant the two needed their own spaces. If you regularly read this blog (many thanks!), you already know I recently started a new blog, One Clever Cottage, which focuses on life, living and “Julie Clark Art”, keeping this one’s focus mainly on Asperger’s.

Say “Julie Clark Art” three times fast, and it sounds like “aardvark”…

Or a barking froufrou dog.

Yeah, should have thought of that before I started out, huh?

Live and learn.

As much as running two blogs seems like even more work, it’s actually very freeing and has reenergized me! In fact, I want to take a moment to talk about Asperger’s in Pink on Facebook. Have you checked out “the Page”? It’s meant to be interactive. It’s meant to be a place where we can talk, grow, and learn from each other. Have a question? Ask it! If other mom’s don’t see it, I will try to repost it. Have Asperger’s, and want to give your viewpoint on anything? Please do! Want to share a relevant link – or even something that put a smile on your face? Asperger’s in Pink on Facebook is meant to be a positive place to land.

Do you have Asperger’s, and don’t like how others talk about you, as if you have something “wrong”? One thing I am very sensitive about it taking an “us vs. them” approach when talking Asperger’s. “They” are people. “You” are a person. “We” are no better, no smarter. In fact, some of “us” may have Asperger’s, too.

I’d be honored if you’d join the page, and share it with others. It’s open to all – moms, dads, teachers, Aspergirls – and boys.

See you over on “the Page!”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December is Here!

Wow, can you believe December is here, already? For the first time in years, we are actually "on schedule".

I think.

Most presents are purchased. The family get-together is all set. My last arts/crafts show of the season is this weekend. All (known) commitments are inked on the kitchen calendar. We're in good shape.

Figuratively speaking.

But not talking about my figure, here. It's fat-pants season in my house, no matter how many years I swear I'm not pulling those things out, again. (Darned sweet tooth!)

One thing that has me feeling more relaxed this Holiday season is the fact that we sat down as a family and discussed our plans from now until New Year's. Kristina knows what to expect, and that's half the battle in helping her enjoy the season. Not only is she not a fan of surprises, just like us, she isn't a fan of disappointment, either. Knowing certain days are filled makes it easier for her when she wants to ask to do something special. It's easier for her to realize ahead of time that Monday won't work for a trip to the Smoothie store because Dad has a meeting and mom has work due. If she asks, then we announce our plans, she often takes it personally, as most Aspies do.

So, are you ready for December? There's still time to sit down with the calendar. :)


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Are You Ready for Thanksgiving?

For those in the States, are you ready for Thanksgiving? Do you have any questions or concerns as to how to handle the day? Would you simply like to vent, especially if anxiety is trying to become the main course? Or are you looking forward to it so much, you're having a hard time keeping away from that pumpkin or pecan pie? Step over to the page on Facebook, post and share. :)

Aspies and NT's welcome!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Publishing Comments. Or Not.

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for the feedback that's coming in regarding new blogging ideas! I do read each and every comment, as I approve them before they are posted.

For this particular topic , if you'd like (or are simply ok with) your suggestion posted, simply let me know in the comment, or in a new, additional comment. Otherwise, I will keep it as private. Some you are sharing wonderful, personal stories, and I want to make sure to respect your privacy. :)

Thanks so much for reading! You are all amazing!


P.S. Typically, I do post all comments submitted unless otherwise requested, or if they contain personal contact information or spam.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What Would You Like?

What would you like to talk about, regarding Asperger's?

Now that I have split my blog in two, I'm have tons of ideas running around inside my heard regarding Asperger's. But...

(There goes that "but" again...)

I'd love YOUR ideas for blog topics! Want to talk Middle School survival? Kids in the kitchen (or not)? Life, in general? Asperger's and girls, specifically? Asperger's, in general? Interviews and features?

Post a comment below, and I will consider each and every one!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

Two weeks from today, it will be Thanksgiving in our house. Literally. It will be a small gathering, but we won't be traveling this year. My daughter has a clear vision of what Thanksgiving looks like and what the food is and is supposed to taste like.

Which is why her grandmother is bringing the pumpkin pie.

And I've been informed I am not allowed to even attempt to make it, as it won't taste "right". (I can't argue with her - my cooking skills have yet to bud, let alone blossom.)

Fall Thread Painting by Julie Clark 2011
China will be on the table and the dog underfoot, hoping for a spoonful or two of sweet potato casserole to hit the floor. We have traditions we will follow aside from the dinner menu - how we spend the morning, how we dress the table, as well as ourselves.

Tradition is a good thing in our home. As the years go by, I know what my kid looks forward to, what makes her look to certain events with anticipation. And knowing we will be with some family, knowing the menu will be predictable, and that many other things will hum along according to an unwritten script lift her spirits.

Now that our plans are finally coming together, I can sense her relaxing a bit more. It isn't turning out how she originally had hoped, but it is working out. And there will be a traditional Thanksgiving feast on our table. And I, for one, am thankful my daughter isn't in college yet, as there are fewer of these moments left to savor.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blog Splitting

There's atom splitting. There's hair splitting. But what do you call a blog that has evolved to the point it needs to divide in two? Well, for lack of a better word, I'm going with "blog splitting".

What does this mean? It means I am narrowing focus. I've decided to use this blog mainly for Asperger's and Autism Awareness, but will throw in something totally unrelated once in a while as I firmly believe life consists of more than just one aspect.

Blogging related to my studio, art business and other aspects of life and living will now be over at a brand spanking new blog, called One Clever Cottage. I'm aiming for more of a light magazine feel, and plan on using original content as much as possible. (In fact, if you want a truly awesome, diverse blog read with giveaways, recipes, craft ideas and all sort of fun, head over to my friends at We Know Stuff. They know what they are doing and the Cottage is going to have a different feel and focus, for sure.)

And, yes, there will definitely be overlap between the two! After all, Asperger's is as much a part of my life as art, and always will be.

Feel free to post any questions, comments or suggestions below. I'm excited for this change, and hope you will be, too!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hi Everyone, How's Life?

Hi everyone, how's life?

This guy is thankful Halloween is o-v-e-r!

Just wanted to stop for a moment and thank all of you who take the time out of your day to read "the blog". I'd love to hear from you!

(and the dog, who wishes to remain anonymous)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween plus Sensory Processing Disorder Equals a Marriage Made in Hell

Halloween and the Sensory World are often a marriage made in hell.

Do you agree? Is this too strong a way to put it?

As the mom of a teen on the Autism Spectrum, tell me you disagree – I can take it. But give me a moment before you do.

Live in my house during the last few weeks of October. Shop with me at the party store late August – or the grocery store in September. Watch my kid try her best not to go to bed with nightmares.

Fun times.

(And people think the winter holiday images are offensive…)

For many, what awakens the senses this time of year is precisely what draws them to it. The sounds, eerie lighting, the chance to be something graphic and provoking - and all else that goes with it. But for many on the Autism Spectrum, and those with Sensory Processing Disorder, in particular, this time of year is nothing short of a nightmare come true.

Much of it comes down to their interpretation of the sensory world around them. Just as the sights and sounds draw people to this month, the flickering lights in orange and purple, the echoing screams broadcast in stores and throughout many neighborhoods, and the gory imagery make many very uncomfortable and much more than scared. They become terrified.

They shake. They cry. They cover their ears and eyes as they go aisle to aisle, and as they participate in school parades, eyes often downcast if gory costumes are allowed.

And they ask why so many are so excited to celebrate things we are told to fight against: murder, death and gore.

And I have no answer.

And not everyone celebrates in this way.

It’s hard to put experiences of these kids into words if you don’t know anyone who feels this way. Who sees the world with a sensory eye. Who thinks in color, in images, often with a constant video stream running through the mind. For many visual people, excessive imagery and sounds really can be too much to bear.

Couple this with a gap between IQ and EQ (that’s our emotional age, per se), and this time of year easily overloads.

Don’t get me wrong, some kids want to participate. Some want to dress up. In fact, it’s one time of year kids with Asperger’s can dress as their Special Interest without being ridiculed. They can enjoy being who they want to be for a day without being picked on. Maybe. And most want the gobs of candy, processed with dye# who-knows-what.

Yes, this is a rant, but it’s a rant with a point. A rant from a mom who has seen all too many Octobers end in sweat and tears from a young girl, counting down the hours for the images, sounds and textures to be put away for another year.

I’m not asking it be stopped. I’m asking for some to consider looking at it through someone else’s eyes.

Rather, if a kid stops by Monday evening, and seems overwhelmed, please, be sensitive. Not all kids like a plastic severed hand in the candy dish. Don’t make them go through sensory hoops just to get a sweet. Hand it to them with a real hand.

Smile at them, and compliment them on their costumes. Even if they don’t smile back. It just might give them the juice to knock on the door of the next house before they turn in for the night.
If you would like more information regarding Sensory Processing Disorder, the Sensory Processing Foundation is a terrific resource. If you are looking to connect with other parents, as well as search out advice for handling times such as sensory laden holidays, the SPD Blogger Network is another great resource. (And they have a pretty cool purple octopus to greet you, too!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Have You Ever Done This?

I have a habit of taking on more than any sane person should. Currently, that means promoting Autism Asperger's awareness and understanding, creating and growing a small business, freelance work (writing), contemplating my next book, sketching out speaking ideas, learning and using social media for all sorts of applications (raise your hand if you know what a time hog social media can be!), taking care of my family (can you say "Mom's Taxi Cab Service" or "Bank of Mom"?) and everything else in between.

Oh, yeah, there are windows and floors to clean, too. But don't cobwebs simply add to the theme of October?

The other night, I looked at the clock and it glared back at me. I really, really wanted to sit down and relax a bit before bedtime, which was only an hour or so away. But dishes were in the sink. About 10-15 minutes worth. Not the end of the world by any means, but I was tired and then it hit me.

Why didn't I ask for help?

For help from my...gasp...teen.

She can wash dishes. Heaven knows she does other chores, so why do I always choose to do them instead of getting her into the dish washing rotation? So I asked her. And I got the glare. Then the excuses. Then the *sigh*.

And she did them.

And she honestly did not complain one bit.

There are many things over the course of her life she either has needed assistance with, or her gross motor skills make difficult for her to do. Washing anything made of glass, for example, has been a recipe for disaster, as we're still working on coordination in that area. And I have an antique, fairly thick now chipped tea glass to attest to that fact.

How she managed to chip that is still a mystery. But she did - while simply removing it from the previously functioning dishwasher.

But if I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that there are many times I should ask her to do more than I do. That I should increase her responsibilities. That I need to chose to give her even more than she (or I) think she might be capable of handling. My task is to get her to grow. And she won't grow if I allow her to stay stagnant, will she?

So, have you ever done this? Done too much for your child, for any reason, instead of letting them pitch in and help? These kids are growing up, and it's up to us to help them be the responsible, hard working adults we all know they are capable of becoming.

Give them a chance to pitch in. It's good all around!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Helping the Autism Society of North Carolina

As many of you know by now, both the Arts and Autism Asperger’s Awareness are important to me. And I have a not so subtle goal of combining the two when I can. (Remember the blog post featuring Faded Leaves?) Last month, while at a craft fair, I had a chance to take a break from my table and walk around and check out the other booths. That’s where I met Elizabeth and what made a slow day priceless.

The bright green caught my eye immediately. It’s the unique color for the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC). (North Carolina is one of our states here in the US.) I had read about the, “It’s a Cinch,” campaign, and was thrilled to meet Elizabeth, who began this amazing project.

What am I talking about?

It’s a cinch.


Like many moms of kids on the autism spectrum, Elizabeth decided to delve into her creative side and come up with a unique effort to give back to a place that has given her and her family so much - the ASNC.

Here’s the project.

Volunteers make cinch bags (those small fabric jewelry bags that “cinch” when you pull the strings taught) out of either their own fabric remnants or donated fabric, which are then sold for $10 each. All proceeds are donated to the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Here’s the goal.

Make and sell 1,000 bags, generating $10,000 for the ASNC. To date, 370 have been made and 286 have been sold, and she is always looking for volunteers to help her meet and exceed this number.

There are so many angles to this project that I love. For instance, the economy has hit hard for many of us, but if you can sew, you can participate. Click HERE for the project's link on the ASNC site. Too busy to sew? You can do what I did and donate some fabric so others can have some to work with, or recruit a friend to make some out of your stash. (Takes care of quilter fabric stash guilt! Give that fabric a happy new home - but email Elizabeth first to make sure she has volunteers who can make use of any donated fabric.) And if you’d love to buy a cinch bag, just like other sites that offer unique handmade gift ideas for the Holidays, this truly is a unique, handmade gift – and all for a great cause!  100% of the proceeds go to ASNC. Simply send an email to: for more information. Bags are $10 each plus shipping. Although she can’t promise a specific bag, Elizabeth will try to fill general characteristic such as color, style, etc.

Not in North Carolina, or even the US? Not a problem. Have questions? Want to help? Just send Elizabeth an email and she can fill you in with all the details.

But if you are in NC, and have an interest in helping Elizabeth expand her project, she would love to hear from you, too. (email her at

See, I told you.

It’s a cinch.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guys, This One's (probably) Not For You

Driving home with the scent of Lila’s Rain filling the air. Such an emotional week. Such a fitting name for a coffee on a day when blue skies do their best to burn away the clouds, lighting and thunder in my head.

It all started with a routine exam, about as enthralling as a trip to the dentist. And it hasn’t yet ended. But in between, the focus on asking for me to provide "excellent" feedback on how the workers performed their jobs, as well as seeing a plaque regarding how they, indeed, have a high amount of excellent ratings was, and remains, the least of my concerns. I’d rather deal with a bad bedside manner than a cheery disposition providing an incorrect diagnosis. I’d rather see a plaque boasting lives saved by early and accurate detection.

But once the pictures came back, all that changed. Obligatory care and concern turned more genuine. And my sense of what tomorrow will be is now muddied and muffled. The sight of pink ribbons are sure to taunt me at every turn while I wait.

And I wait. I’m a GenXer. I’m “young”. Well, “young” for this sort of journey, so I’m told.

Next week will tell what path I will be placed on. The chances are good it will be back to life as usual. Writing. Creating. Increasing awareness and acceptance of Asperger's. Having less disdain for all the paperwork that comes with running your own business, no matter how small or “on the side” it may be. Relishing every meltdown my teen is sure to display.

I’ve said itbefore and I’ll say it again: not knowing is worse than knowing. The fear of the unknown often supersedes the fear you can touch.

And this may be nothing but something taking my mind off of everything for a few days. But with October around the bend, I felt some unknown compulsion to write this. I’m not a big “ribbons” person. I don’t choose to wear or display them. And I doubt that will change. But I am an advocate of taking care of yourself.

It’s almost October. Get checked.

And, as for me, until the next round of tests are performed then analyzed, it’s back to work.

edited: thanks to all who expressed care and concern! my test were fine, but I feel for the many women who went home with different results.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Change on My Mind

Change. I’m not quite sure if I like it. But there are times I definitely don’t.

Like yesterday.

When a bazillion cyber friends all decided they do not “like” the new changes on a certain social site with the big blue F.

Well, at least a handful of us old enough to have kids who wonder why we think this thing called “privacy” is such a big deal.

But there are other times when I welcome change. As summer fades to autumn’s warmth, I enjoy the colors and aromas that only this time of year can bring. And how many of us can confess that a new pair of shoes is always welcome! (It’s a girl thing. Even Kristina drools over the shoe aisle.)

This autumn, so much seems to be changing. Kristina continues to work on self-advocacy, and we can now envision the day when she no longer needs mom or dad at her side to help her. In fact, by the time high school draws to a close, there is the chance she may not need some of these meetings, at all. This is change we welcome.

Professionally, there are always changes to be had. My art business has now expanded to include a shop on Etsy. I am looking into possible speaking and other opportunities. And as Kristina is now older, I am contemplating whether or not to write that nextchapter.

But some things I never want to see change. Some things I crave to be forever constant. To hear my child’s laughter. To smell freshly brewed coffee each morning. Watching rust colored, golden leaves quietly tumbling to earth as pumpkins dot porches, homemade soup and fresh bread filling the kitchen. To feel the breeze that reminds me that sometimes a walk is all we need to put everything back in perspective.

And with so much change in the air, I feel I need a walk tonight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's Show Time!

Autumn is just around the corner here in the States, which means weekends filled with craft shows and arts festivals. I've always enjoyed them, but this year, I'll be on the other side of the table!

Am I nervous? Heck, I'm too busy to be nervous. Plus a cranky sewing machine has a good way of keeping my mind off of anything.

Except stifling words I really shouldn't be thinking.

Or using.

I'm looking forward to meeting new people as well as getting feedback on my pieces. Most of all, I'm excited to talk about my Hidden Heart Owls to those who've never "met" them. I'm still finding my way, looking for the best way to get their message out, and I may even name a few of them.

Not familiar? These little guys were created to subtly promote autism awareness. (And I've scattered them all over my online shops.) As much as the puzzle piece has taken over, some kids - like mine - aren't too fond of it. She doesn't like how it makes her feel as if something is "missing" that needs to be "found", or that something is "wrong" with her.

Plus, why can't advocacy and awareness ever be "cute" and "whimsical"?

I chose the owls as our personal "spokes-creatures" for many reasons. My Aspie loves animals, plain and simple. She, like almost every other Aspie you'll ever meet are incredibly brilliant people. And they also have lots to give, which is often overshadowed by so many things. If you look closely at the owls, you'll see they have a tiny heart or two, which stands just for that. And, take another moment and you'll notice they will never look directly at you. (Sure, not everyone with Asperger's lacks eye contact, but many, like my K, abhor it!)

Do you have a favorite image you gravitate towards when promoting Autism Asperger Awareness? Have you created your own? Feel free to share, and let us know why it's important to you!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Wonder How She Feels

I often wonder how she feels.

She knows about the book. She knows we love her more than anything. But she also knows that others are not so kind or open minded.

Aside from those who don’t get or don’t believe that Asperger’s is, there are those who devote exhausting amounts of time and money analyzing every single angle of it.

And I wonder how it makes her feel.

Some are fantastic, and I have the utmost respect for Dr. Tony Attwood, who not only has grand intellect, but also a heart for both the subject of Asperger’s and those who are on the autism spectrum, themselves. And meeting him is a grand honor I cherish, and knowing he’s read the book keeps me motivated at times.

But others seem to lack that spirit, and, oddly enough, act as those whom they claim to study – without emotion or connection, seeing kids like mine as nothing more than lab rats in the process.

And I don’t want her to read their thoughts. I want to shield her from them.

Because I know how I would feel if it was me.

Funny thing, those dedicated to analysis often look at everything but the heart and soul of the target.

My kid can read. My kid can cry. My kid can get angry.

No, this isn’t directed at anyone in particular. But it’s a reminder that when we all post this, that, and the other thing about Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism, let’s keep in mind to steer clear of talking about “them” as if "they" are subhuman. Finding a “fix” to behaviors that are simply different, not wrong or immoral. Dissecting their behaviors as if we are in a high school biology class, using blunt tools and a lack of respect for much of anything but getting a passing grade.

“They” are people, too. People with heart, and who deserve to have us look past their faces into their souls, for they are there.

And I know how she feels. She feels like a human. She IS human. She wants to be loved, respected, and have people she can honestly consider friends. She wants to be accepted for who she is.

And she is not a species under a microscope. She is not a “freak”. She has so much to offer her generation and ours, even. And she will do it.

She’s in skinny jeans, sitting in school, preparing herself for life on her own.

And, most importantly, she’s my daughter, and if I could choose to take away her Asperger’s, I wouldn’t. It is what makes her who she is.

And she would agree.

In fact, she’s told me that, herself.