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A Little Help

  • Posted on July 14, 2013 at 10:24 PM

So, the good news is that I’ve successfully wrangled my book back on track despite the fibromyalgia and the upheaval of summer, graduation, and a bigger vision of what I want to offer to the world. My book is going to be an important part of that new vision, too; so, I’m even more motivated to get it written, polished, and published.

Unfortunately, I was a little too successful in breaking myself away from my freelance work. The time has come when I need the help. Luckily, I have a platform that makes that possible.

There are many ways to help and even a little bit of help can go a long way!

  1. If you can give, please do so. Even $5 can make a big difference!
  2. Whether you give or not, please connect to your social media sites through this page and share my campaign with your family, friends, and casual acquaintances. Feel free to customize the message you share.
  3. Please leave a comment on this same page to raise awareness of my campaign on the hosting site. Even a little bit of attention might be just what I need to catch someone’s attention.

And that’s it! That’s all you would have to do. So, please help me make this fundraising campaign a success!!!


The Story I Am Telling

  • Posted on July 8, 2013 at 8:00 PM

My new office is in my mother’s house, so she’s often there when I release a progress report on my recent work session, which I’ve been doing on my social media sites. A few days ago, after releasing a report, I came upstairs and my mother greeted me with, “You’ve finished another chapter! Great! Congratulations!”

That started a conversation about the book I am writing and I decided to share a chapter with her. She was effusive with her praise, as mothers are prone to be, and then said something that caught my attention.

“Well, you need to tell where Willy was in order to show how far he’s come.”

I processed this for a moment. No doubt I was shaking my head from the start. Still, it took me a while to come up with the words that went with the denial.

“I’m not writing Willy’s story. It’s my story. It’s not about the boys. It’s about me. It’s about what I did with it.”

This is an important distinction.

I write about my children. I write about them a lot. But I’m never telling their story, because their story must be told through the way they process the experiences they have. I don’t presume to get inside their head and voice what’s in there. I tell my story. I tell my story as a parent. I tell my story as someone who is neurologically different, but not diagnosably autistic. I tell my story as someone who had to learn to advocate for my children.

And that is the crux of this book. Going into this whole autism thing, I had no idea what I was doing or what I was dealing with. I’ve read a lot of stories from parents who took charge from the get-go, but I wasn’t one of them. Based on the people I’ve talked to, most of us weren’t one of them. So, on the one hand, I’m telling my story for those parents who don’t know what to do when they start out.

More than that, the place that I went is also different than the norm, because I am different from the norm. So, I’m telling my story for all those parents who don’t jump on the I’ll-do-anything-to-cure-my-child’s-autism bandwagon.

My children are central characters in my story, but this is my story. It’s not because I’m arrogant. I certainly don’t think I’m more important than my children. But I can’t tell their story. I can only tell my story, because I am only in my head, processing my experiences. If I were telling “their” story, it would be fiction, not memoir, because I’d be making unknowable assumptions on what they were experiencing. Furthermore, I am telling my story because I believe (and I’m not alone in this) that telling my story will be a service to others, particularly a service to parents who want to serve their children.

Someday maybe my children will tell their own story. It may not be in words, though, but that’s part of the point. Me, I will tell my story, and I’ll tell it in words, because that’s the story I have the authority to tell.

Commencement Commencing

  • Posted on June 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM

It’s time to celebrate my accomplishment. My father and my brother have flown in. Today we spend some family time together. Tomorrow we head down to Chicago to participate in my commencement ceremony. Sunday we gather for a family celebration.

It’s official: I have a Master of Science in Written Communications and a Master Certificate in Corporate Written Communications!

Yay me!

Looking Ahead

  • Posted on June 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I am working with Dr. Vaughn K. Lauer, author of When the School Says No…How to Get the Yes!, which will be released this fall. We’re working on projects we hope will provide parents of children with special needs much needed information about the special education system. While there are things we’re not ready to announce, which I’m definitely excited about, there are also things up and ready for your consumption.

Vaughn and I are working to create podcasts that will help parents of children with special needs navigate the special education school system to ensure their children’s needs are met. We will soon be co-interviewing people who work within the special education system and who can provide listeners with valuable insights.

To kick off this effort Vaughn interviewed me. It’s up! Check it out.

A New Degree

  • Posted on March 27, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I have finished the final course of my graduate degree. While I suppose it’s not official until I go through the graduation ceremony and have the degree in hand, I now have a Master’s of Science in Written Communications.

I’d planned for this moment, but now that I’m here and after my long period of illness/exhaustion, I don’t have the momentum I expected. I feel adrift. I’m not sure what comes next.

Any ideas?

A Call for Support

  • Posted on October 24, 2012 at 8:00 AM

So, I’m writing a book. It’s become my big to-do project. But I also have to write to support my family. Every hour I spend on my book takes away time I can write to support my family. So, I’m raising money to offset the difference.

But that’s just my immediate motivation. There’s a whole ‘nother dimension to this fundraising business that I want to talk about.

In my community, we have a big fancy library that is full of books and movies and CDs and CD-ROMs and books on tape and all sorts of good stuff. Nothing wrong with that! But, when the boys were first diagnosed with autism, there was very little “good” stuff on autism in that library. Last time I checked, there’s still not. It’s not that they didn’t have any books on autism, but they were all skewed away from anything remotely pro-neurodiversity. I typed “neurodiversity” into the computerized card catalog and it just laughed at me. Actually, it tried to redirect me to something that didn’t even start with “neuro.” If I remember correctly, it was “necromancy.” Sound like fun?

Sometime after that, it was Autism Awareness Month and the boys’ school had set out a selection of books about autism that were available through the Family Resource Center. Jenny McCarthy’s latest book (I didn’t bother to look at the title) was prominently displayed. Nothing remotely pro-neurodiversity was available.

I’ve looked at various collections available in my community since then. I’ve read some books that I found intolerable, others that I found misguided, still others that I’ve found merely unhelpful. All the books that I have found useful and appropriately respectful of the subject matter have been books I’ve had to buy for myself.

So, here’s my plan: I’m going to donate copies of my books to as many of the places I looked for loaners as I possibly can. I’m going to assume the full cost of donating in my own community, but I’m asking for your help donating books to other communities. I’m targeting public libraries, Family Resource Centers (both in the community and in the schools), and any similar lending library families use to learn about autism. It’ll take time for me to hit them all, of course, and I’m not even sure I could locate them all. But I’ve got to start somewhere.

I’ve already pledged that any donation of $250 or more will earn a donation of five books. I’ve also pledged that any donation of $500 or more will earn a donation of ten books. I already have one donation of $500, for a total of ten books.

Here’s a new pledge: If I reach my half-way mark of $1,250 by November 15th, I will use a portion of the funds raised to donate a total of 25 books, plus any donations earned by single donations.

To reach this goal, I need your help. If you’re considering donating, then please donate before November 15th. If you can’t donate, but want to show your support, please press the “share” and the “like” and the “tweet” buttons on the link provided. Please leave comments. Please like comments. Please help raise the awareness level of this campaign and encourage others who can afford to do so to donate.

Thank you! Together, book by book and dollar by dollar, we can ensure that people who are looking for information on autism can find information that helps them to empower the people with autism in their lives!

Embracing the Chaos of Autism: A Signature Speech (in progress)

  • Posted on October 8, 2012 at 8:00 AM

As part of my author-career development process, I’m supposed to create a signature speech based on my book. Embracing the Chaos of Autism is the working title of this speech. The premise of the speech is to use stories to teach others the importance of individual-focused treatments, with empowerment and development (versus cure and normalcy) as the goals of those treatments.

Basically, as a society we’ve focused a lot on principles—principles of parenting, principles of education, principles of self-development—which suggest that a universal approach or structure works (or should work) for everyone. In raising my three children with autism, I have had to set aside most of these principles. Instead, I focus on my child, his needs, and the strategies and techniques that work for him—each of them require a different, individual focus.

My goal is not to get my child to a point where those “universal” principles can become successful. Instead, my goal is to empower my child—as he is, for who is he—to reach his unique, individual potential.

This individual focus seems so simple, and yet the difference is remarkable. There’s this belief that seems to hang around parent circles that the goal is to make a disabled child “indistinguishable” from his or her peers. Everybody should just be like everybody else, right? Yet, parents of typical children are often driven to make their child “distinguished.”

So, when does it end? Why are we so driven to make our children something they’re not, instead of helping them grow into the exceptional, wonderful, awesome people that they are?

We don’t have to accept the norms of parenting. We don’t have to strive to be normal. Autism isn’t normal, but there is a “normal” for each individual with autism. Maximizing that “normal” for the best benefit of the child makes for stronger children, stronger families, and stronger communities.


Summing Up the Summer

  • Posted on September 7, 2012 at 8:00 AM

As I write this post, the boys are heading to their first full day of school. By the time this “airs,” the boys will have begun the last day of their first week of school. This brings the end to an eventful summer for the Crist family, let me tell you!

Willy had his first airplane ride and his first grand mal seizure, luckily not at the same time, though during the same weekend. I got my first book contract and prepared my first column pitch. Alex and Ben found a way to live in harmony—unfortunately, it mostly involves ignoring each other.

All the boys have grown. Alex is starting to use words to communicate on a semi-consistent basis. Ben is using words to communicate every day, many times a day. Willy is communicating more complex thoughts, feelings, and ideas. I gave my first public speech via YouTube and launched my first fundraising campaign.

I feel like I’ve been a spinning top, just trying to keep up. And now the top is stopping.

What’s going to happen next?

Embracing Chaos on Fundrazr

  • Posted on August 29, 2012 at 8:00 AM

So, after years of people telling me I need to turn the story of raising my children into a book, I’m finally doing it. I even have a publisher. But the publishing company I’m partnered with (and, with Influence Publishing, it is very much a partnership) cannot provide me with an advance. Julie Salisbury has, however, provided me with training on how to raise funds to help support my publishing efforts.

I now have a campaign on Fundrazr to help me support my family while I divert working time to writing my book. If you are financially-able, please support my cause with a donation. If you aren’t, you can still support my cause by spreading the word on the social media sites of your choice and leaving a comment on my campaign page, which raises my status on Fundrazr. Every little bit helps!

In the meantime, check out my YouTube video to learn what this is all about.

(And yes, that's me speaking!)

The Versatile Blogger Award!!

  • Posted on August 2, 2012 at 12:21 AM

I have the pleasure of accepting the Versatile Blogger Award from Sylvia at Homeschooling Through Triumphs, Trials and Tragedies.  Thank you, Sylvia!

So, let’s get things started by listing 7 random facts about myself, as per the rules:

  1. Though science isn’t my strong-suit, I have a “science” degree in business, as in a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and I’m working on a science degree in writing, as in a Master of Science in Written Communication—which I think is especially odd.
  2. A personal memory my mother recently shared with me (again) sums up my approach to risk-taking: As a baby, my brother would crawl to the edge of the bed and keep on going, like a cartoon character, until he hit the floor; whereas I would crawl slowly to the edge of the bed, feel for the edge to make sure I knew where it was, and then back up.
  3. I recently bought myself a small bouquet of two roses, some weed-like yellow flowers, and a leafy sprig.  The deciding factor, however, was a feathery thing that’s painted a sparkling purple, which may or may not be a branch from something or other.
  4. The thing I will miss most about my current office—if and when I finally move into my new office—is the unfinished wall, which faces the other room, thus leaving a very large expanse of “cork board” for me to pin things to—I use it so much I had to add another layer of real cork board on hinges.
  5. The thing I will miss least about my current office is—surprisingly not the leaky wall in the other room that’s making me sick—the over-abundance of insect life that gets in here and attracts an overabundance of spiders.  Luckily, I’ve seen very little evidence of insect life in my new office—not to mention no leaking walls to make me sick.
  6. Despite passing College Algebra with a solid A and being adept at making functional spreadsheets to compute rather complex business equations, I still have to stop and think really hard to do simple mathematical equations in my head, so my husband calculates how much to leave for a tip whenever possible.
  7. Speaking of an overabundance of spiders, there are no less than five visible spiders competing for the insects attracted to the lamp casting light over my computer.  ~shivers~

So, is that random enough for you?

Now, I must nominate 15 other bloggers for this award:

  1. Aspergirl Maybe – because she’s still “new” and deserves the love.
  2. AutismHerd – (without the autism now), who is really funny and fun and just all around terrific!
  3. Autism and Empathy – because I know durned well that the whole “autistics don’t have empathy” is a big fat lie myth (with another nod to Kathleen).
  4. Kate Hutchinson – with another apology for bringing controversy to her blog.
  5. Delightfully Different Life – with a recommendation to find and buy her novel!
  6. Countering… – for those  who like science or controversy, or both.
  7. Aspitude! – because Elesia is just awesome!
  8. Rolling Around In My Head – because Dave is a great person to help open your mind beyond any one disability or difference.
  9. The Tumultuous Truth – because Sharon’s passion is inspiring even when you’re already inspired.
  10. Life with Asperger’s – because Gavin is a great source of information and a great person to help you see Asperger’s from both sides.
  11. Special Needs Book Review – because it’s new to me and sounds like a great idea!
  12. Whitterer on Autism – because it really shouldn’t be so low in my blog list and because Maddy is wonderful and fun and definitely deserves the love!
  13. A Diary of a Goldfish – for all she does for the online disabilities community.
  14. Sanabitur Anima Mea – because she cares so much about so many things (just don’t ask me to pronounce her blog, but I am pretty sure it’s Latin, if that helps).
  15. And finally, Meeka’s Mind, because sometimes we just need something totally different!

Now, apparently, the Versatile Blogger award is a real award with its own page and stuff, and you can learn more about it here!  The things you learn…