Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My "hot" date at Six Flags!

Will has always loved rollercoasters - the faster the better!  I'm sure it has something to do with his sensory issues, but he's always loved amusement park rides.  I penciled in "Six Flags w/ Will" on my calendar a couple weeks ago and yesterday was the day!  Too bad that day fell on the hottest day of the summer thus far - it was 109 degrees as we headed to the park around 5 p.m. last night.  Good thing the park wasn't too crowded and the water ride lines were short!  But I will tell you this - there is some good people watching at an amusement park on a 100+ degree summer day.  Lots of hot-messedness going on!

Once we got into the park, Will immediately wanted to go on Aquaman - fine by me!  For my California friends, it's the "tidal wave" at Magic Mountain.  We rode the ride, stood on the bridge to get soaked, then set out on our next adventure.  And oh, what an adventure it was...

Will told me he wanted to go on the "colored" rollercoaster.  He'd already told me he didn't want to go on the white rollercoaster, and seeing that all other coasters in the park have a color of some kind on them, I was at a loss.  You can imagine what happened next - full-on, back on the black concrete, screaming, crying, autism fall out.  I find the best way to deal in those situations is to avoid eye contact - I know I'm being judged, so I just focus on Will and trying to calm him down.  And I swear every time we go out on one of these autism adventures that I'm going to get Will a shirt that references his autism so people might read it and understand that he's not a bad kid, he's got issues!

The fall out continued when Will pointed towards the Batman ride and I told him he wasn't tall enough to ride that one.  10 more minutes on the black top.  Threatening to leave didn't help - he wanted to stay.  So I did what I knew would work - we found a relatively quiet corner to regroup, then went on about our way. 

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about changes to Six Flags' disability policy.  I was curious to see how things would go yesterday.  For the most part, it went well.  Of course, when Will and I exited the elevator at the Titan ride, the young man on the intercom immediately drew attention to us by saying over the speaker, "So you're just going to come up the elevator, huh?"  I try to avoid bringing attention to the fact that we're receiving accommodations - people will stare and judge and I just don't like that.  Remember, I'm already in "avoid eye contact" mode.  I will even avoid using our disability pass if I can avoid it - if the line is short and I think Will can handle it, I will make him wait in line.

Of course, I tried that a couple times yesterday.  And Will stood in line screaming repeatedly, "We're all going to die."  I chuckled - you've got to have a bit of a sense of humor with autism.  I can imagine the patrons around me didn't think it was so funny.

And then there was the bobsled ride where we waited patiently at the handicap entrance while the attendants seemingly ignored us.  We'd been there about 10 minutes when a tan gentleman with his teenage son came up the flash pass entrance waving his disability pass demanding immediate access.  The attendant told him he'd need to come around to the handicap entrance.  So he did.  And pushed his way right past Will and I as if we weren't even there.  I don't know who had the disability - the teenager or the dad.  But this guy made me angry because he felt he was entitled to special treatment because he was waving around his pink disability pass.  We appreciate Six Flags for providing the accommodations - we don't expect the Six Flags staff disrupt their normal operations because we're there.  The guy was a jerk.  His kid seemed embarassed.  That dad makes it hard for the rest of us who just need a little help.  He is the epitome of why (a) people think they can abuse the pass - it gets you quick access; and (b) we get judged by folks who've just had to wait in line in 100 degree heat for 20 minutes

After that, I decided to take a "disability pass" break and see if Will could stand in line for the rapids ride.  It was longer than I thought it would be but I couldn't convince Will that if we got out of line, we'd be able to get in a shorter one.  Every time I mentioned leaving, he started crying.  So we waited.  Will wanted me to pick him up - that wasn't going to happen for a variety of reasons.  It didn't help that we had a very friendly 5 year old standing in front of us who insisted on trying to engage Will, and Will wasn't interested.  So then the 5 year old talked to me the whole time - he told me he'd farted, he assaulted me with the plush duck he'd just won at an arcade game, and insisted we ride the ride with them.  Dad just stood there on his phone.  Luckily, we were on a different raft.  That ride was my last straw.  Sopping wet, we stopped to get some overpriced chicken fingers before heading home.

Overall, it was a good afternoon.  I appreciate the Six Flags disability policy and accommodations for making our trip a little more enjoyable. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mommy First!

Bryn is at such a fun age right now  - the things that come out of this child's mouth these days are hysterical.  And sometimes, very poignant....

Last night she said to me, "You're not a lawyer, you're a mommy."

You're right baby - mommy first!



Monday, July 23, 2012

How about a Cup O' Joe?!?

I'd intended on blogging tonight about the 10 lbs I've gained since the Mrs. Texas Pageant back in January.  I was going to explain how I had a whole bunch of excuses for it - stress, my sprained ankle I'm rehabbing, etc.  Then I was going to tell you that there are no excuses - that I've been lazy and watched the scale creep up over the last several months.  I was going to wrap up the blog by telling you I've decided to get my groove back and get my lazy behind back in the gym.  Well, now that I've done that, I figure I can address something a little more important.

I woke up last week (like everyone else) to news of the mass shootings in Aurora, CO.  24-year-old James Holmes methodically unleashed hell during a midnight showing of the new Batman film.  As I write this blog, the death toll is at 12 with 58 others injured - several of them critically.  The youngest of the victims was only 6 years old.

What kind of sick person commits a mass shooting?  What kind of person plans the attack for months, purchasing handguns and assault rifles and stockpiling ammunition?  What kind of person assembles over 30 explosive devices and sets them throughout his apartment hoping someone will come in and trigger them?  Well, according to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, that person might be on the autism spectrum.




When I first read about this today, my jaw dropped.  Here is what Scarborough said this morning during his MSNBC broadcast:

"As soon as I hear about this shooting, I knew who it was. I knew it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society -- it happens time and time again. Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale...I don't know if that's the case here, but it happens more often than not. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses -- they can even excel on college campuses -- but are socially disconnected."

Scarborough essentially postulated that mass murderers are on the autism spectrum.  Why, because they are socially disconnected?  Wait, so all people with autism are socially disconnected?  I'm confused... and concerned.  For folks who don't know any better, will they now associate the words "mass murderer" with "autism."  I sure hope not.

And a couple other things bothered me about Mr. Scarborough's hypothesis.  Autism is colorblind - it is not a white person's affliction.  And it certainly isn't unique to affluent communities.  You'll find autism in homes all over the U.S. - socio-economic status isn't indicative of one's chances of having autism.  And I'll say it again - just because someone is "disconnected" from society doesn't mean they are on the autism spectrum.  

So what makes Mr. Scarborough an expert on this subject?  Well, he's got a son with Asperger's.  I guess he thought that gave him the right to make such an irresponsible generalization with absolutely NO PROOF whatsoever.  Hearing his comments just sucked the air out of me today.  We in the autism community are constantly battling stigmas and stereotypes - our kids are retarded, ride the short bus, etc.  Now they are socially disconnected, mass murderers.  When this sort of irresponsible rhetoric comes from within the autism community, it just stings more.  Old Joe should know better...
   

I'm back!!!!

Did you miss me?!?!?  My laptop finally crashed and had to be replaced - I've been computer-less for a little over two weeks!  Working from Ryan's laptop and an iPad has NOT been the beez-neez!

Anyway, Geek Squad hooked me up and I'm working from my new 'puter.  I have so much to catch up on and share, from 36th birthday shenanigans to upcoming events.  So stay tuned!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dummy...

When will anonymous posters realize they aren't anonymous???

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Please do me a favor...

Please don't ever fake a need for a disability accommodation at an amusement park - you make it harder for people like us who need them... My birthday is tomorrow (well - in about 10 minutes) and I have a tradition of going to Six Flags every year. I blogged recently about how they had changed their accommodations policy, obviously in response to people who abuse those accommodations. As my friend and I stood in line for the Texas Giant, the ride attendant Garrett (who was the sweetest young man) explained that there were passengers boarding that needed accommodations and he thanked us for being patient. The lady in front of my said, 'Can I ask you a question?' I couldn't hear what she and Garrett were talking about but I found out soon enough. She turned around and told her adult son that next time they came to the park, they would just go to guest services and tell them she has a disability, 'then they would get a fast pass for every ride.' You know I couldnt sit there and say nothing, so I said, 'The accommodations are great. We've used them for my son with autism and we usually bring a doctor's note saying he needs the accommodation.' She was quiet for a second but then responded that she had kidney disease. Sure, okay... Here I was with a person right in front of me conspiring to abuse the policy that makes trips to places like Six Flags possible for families like us. You know what I think Six Flags should do? Require a doctor's note describing the disability and what accommodations are necessary. And I think the note should have to state that in spite of the disability, the person seeking the accommodation is fit to ride. I know this makes things more difficult, even for the parents who legitimately need the accommodations, but I think this would be a good way to curb the abuse. Besides wanting to slap the ignorant lady, we had a great time at Six Flags!

Friday, July 6, 2012

To the anonymous poster...

...who obviously spent an exorbitant amount of time explaining why what 50 Cent said is okay because the autism community is being too sensitive, save that nonsense... not sure how you compare someone with autism to someone being fat.  Shows your ignorance...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

50 Cent... Autism... The Aftermath

The autism community has spoken!!!  Thanks to Holly Robinson Peete's open letter to 50 Cent regarding his ridiculously offensive tweets about autism and those with special needs, 50's timeline and Facebook page were bombarded.  Mothers and fathers posted their children's pictures with the hashtags #FacesofAutism and #whatautismlookslike.  What an incredible opportunity to increase awareness for what autism really is.

Interestingly enough, 50 has his supporters and plenty stepped up to make excuses for these tweets.  Someone said his Twitter account had been hacked, yet he was tweeting about his upcoming birthday.  Another response said he'd been out of town and couldn't monitor his account.  Last I checked, Twitter is global and I'm guessing even in Siberia, there may be access.  Neither of these two excuses fly with me.  @50Cent is 50's verified account.  I'm going to assume he condones anything that is posted on his timeline on his behalf, and avoiding responsibility by blaming it on someone else isn't going to fly.

I think one of my favorite excuses offered up by a 50 supporter was that he's rich and is helping to feed millions of people in Africa.  That's crap.  That would be like saying if Mitt Romney turned around and called 50 the "n-word," he'd be excused because he does charity work.  It's even like George Zimmerman saying he can't be racist because he has Black friends.  Does that sound right to you?!?  Ridiculous.

The tweets have apparently been removed but that took entirely way too long.  And 50 has not issued an apology to the millions of families and children he offended.  One of the anonymous commentators on my blog pretty much said the autism community is too sensitive and 50 was just joking.  Well, autism is not a joke.  There is nothing funny about autism.  I have no doubt that the person who left this anonymous post does not know someone with autism - if so, they never would've left such a ridiculous comment.  Come walk a day in my shoes and let me know how funny you think autism is.

While we wait on an apology, I've decided to boycott any business associated with 50 Cent - Reebok and Vitamin Water quickly come to mind.  I hope others do the same.  One thing punks like 50 (who are rich and think that entitles them to act however they so choose) respond to is money, especially when they are losing it.  Hit him where it hurts and I bet he'll watch his words in the future.




Come out and support the North Texas Jackrabbits!

One person who has supported my Mrs. Texas efforts every year is my friend Sheila Stoutmire.  Sheila is a personal trainer and runs a boot camp that is fabulous!  More importantly, she and her husband, former NFL great Omar Stoutmire, run the North Texas Jackrabbits.  This track club has been tearing up meets all over Texas and now they have 6 relays and 20 athletes ranked All American in the National Elite Youth system.  

48 of the Jackrabbits qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics coming up July 30th-August 4th in Houston.  The team is currently raising funds to help out with the costs of competing.  The average cost per athlete is $350 including hotel accommodations and healthy meals during their stay in Houston.  To help raise funds, the Jackrabbits will host a car wash in Prosper this Saturday at Sonic located at 100 North Preston Road (near Broadway) from 9 am - 12 pm.  If you can't make it to the car wash, visit www.Ntxjackrabbits.com to help out!




Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My open letter to 50 Cent

I am a 50 Cent fan.  Always have been.  Right around this time of year, he always ends up on my playlist around the time of my birthday.  

Go shawty, it's ya birthday, we gon party like it's ya birthday, 
gon sip Bacardi like it's your birfday... you know the rest.  

We all know the rest because that's our jam.

I was so disappointed and became angry today after reading an amazing blog post written by Holly Robinson Peete on her blog.  Holly is an autism mom - her oldest son is on the spectrum.  So naturally she was disturbed by comments posted by @50Cent on Twitter.  The posts read like this:


yeah i just saw your picture fool you look autistic  RT  Release the album or get shot again

Explain to me 50 - what does "autistic" look like?  Maybe you don't really know, so here's a picture of my son to give you an example...


That sweet boy with a perfect smile and eyelashes to die for.  He's kind of handsome, isn't he?!?  He's a little flirt - he loves the ladies.  But is this who you were referring to in your attempt to diss homie on your timeline by saying he looks autistic?  

The first tweet was followed shortly by...
i dont want no special ed kids on my time line follow some body else

Oh, okay.... so now we've gone from lumping all autistic people together to 50 Cent telling his 8 million followers that he doesn't want any special ed kids on his timeline.   Again, another slap in the face to those of us who have children with special needs.  50 might think this is funny, no big deal.  I can assure you 50 that this is huge.  I pity the ignorant fool that becomes the concerted target of the autism community.   We will educate you.

And finally, the last suspect tweet in the first round of offenders stated...
just kidding about da special ed kids man, i was in special ed day said i had anger issues lol

Right, okay, so all special ed kids have anger issues now?!?!?  Looks like your issues had more to deal with your ability to spell.  My son with autism has no problem with spelling easy English words properly.  This response is angering.  

What's more upsetting is that these insulting tweets have not been removed from his timeline.  They've been there since yesterday.  I have been told by a very good source that 50's twitter account was hacked and he didn't tweet these awful things.  Well, he needs to fix it, and fix it now.  One of his "people" has to have access - they need to remove the tweets.  The tweets should be immediately removed and 50 Cent needs to issue an apology.  Where are his "people?"  Why haven't they dealt with this yet?  I suggest they do soon - mainstream media has paid great attention to issues affecting families with autism.  And thanks to Holly Robinson Peete, there is an EXCELLENT point of reference for us all to get behind as we continue to battle such ignorance of the likes of 50 Cent.

I had to share Holly Robinson Peete's amazing blog post on this subject today.  She hit the nail on the head.  She seemed so calm, so eloquent.  She said it better than me - I just want 50 to know that he's a jackass.

Here's the link for Holly's Blog Post... 



Monday, July 2, 2012

Amusement Parks are Supposed to be FUN!


One of the things we LOVE to do with Will is take him to Six Flags.  This kid loves rollercoasters - the faster, the better!  The only way we are able to navigate amusement parks though is if there are accommodations available like being able to use the exit entrances so we don't have to wait in long lines.  The thought of waiting in line for an hour for a minute-long ride is hard enough with typically developing children.  Imagine trying to do so with a kiddo with autism.  I can run down a list of reasons why it is nearly impossible for us to wait in long lines, including Will's constant need for some sort of stimulation or tactile input.  The thought of constantly having to apologize to the patrons around us for Will's behavior is enough of a nightmare to keep us at home.  It's one of the reasons why autism can be so isolating for families - the constant judgment from those around us who don't realize our kids aren't just being bad and that they have disability that causes these behaviors.  But with accommodations, we can easily nagivate a park with minimal stress.  The stress and anxiety aren't completely alleviated, but for a brief moment when we're on those rides, we almost feel "normal."

I've been thinking recently about when Will and I would plan a trip to Six Flags here in Texas this summer.  I was stunned when I read a friend's Facebook post this week about her recent experience at the park.  Six Flags had made some changes to their policy and the accommodations we were used to weren't available.  There was no more exit entrance accessibility.  I called Six Flags for some clarification on their policy.  After speaking to a guest relations employee and the supervisor who had to call another department for some clarification on the policy, I was told that the exit entrance admissibility was still available for patrons with mental disabilities.  I called my friend and explained what I'd been told, and she confirmed that her experience was completely different.

My friend Giselle Phelps of CW33 did a story on the situation.  Seems like there was some miscommunication and hopefully Six Flags will do a better job at instituting their policies.


Let me say this - I will be the first person who understands why Six Flags needs a good accommodations policy.  Lord knows I've gotten mad when I've seen a person with a broken arm and their five teenage friends utilize the accommodations.  A broken arm doesn't affect your ability to wait in line.  And I've watched overweight passengers roll up on their electric scooters with their ten family members in tow use the exit entrance.  In fairness to the other patrons waiting in line, I can understand why this isn't fair and why Six Flags would try to institute new policies so that people don't abuse the system.  But I hope the new policies don't make it more difficult or impossible for people like us who really need the accommodations to enjoy the amusement park as well.

And if anyone who reads this has a problem with my kiddo skipping the line because he has autism, I'll say this - I'll trade you Will's autism and we'll happily go wait in line!

DFW Family Says Six Flags Over Texas Special Needs Policy Inconsistent

Monday...

Let's go!