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November 18, 2009

Bringing Peace into the Holiday Season, by Sensory Interior Designer, Carolyn Feder

Carolyn is a past guest on You Aut to Know! Check out the episode here.

As soon as a few leaves start turning colors, wonderful images and sensations
start forming in my mind. I can practically feel the crispness in the air and imagine the smell of wood-burning fireplaces. The thought of sweet treats
makes my mouth water in anticipation. I am ready to put on my special sweater and floppy slippers. Once my favorite music is playing in thebackground and the scented candles are lit, I feel inspired and eager to welcome the holiday season.

All my wrapping paper, bows and shiny decorative items will come out of the
box so I can spread them all on the floor. Thank goodness we bought all those
flickering lights on sale last year. The old ones got so tangled, we had to throw them away. I find myself smiling when I sip some hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. As I bite into a freshly baked gooey cookie bar with crunchy walnuts, I look at it all, in wonder.

Molly experiences the holiday season differently from her mom, especially
when she keeps making her put on that uncomfortable sweater. It has all kinds
of bumps and those crazy socks with the stripes.....They have so many knots
from the yarn changing colors that Molly pulls them off as soon as they go on.

The loud music playing over and over again is hurting her ears badly and those
scented candles aren’t making things any easier. The crunching of the cellophane and wrapping paper is so sharp, her skin hurts just looking at it. Molly keeps turning the lights off to make all those loud colors, jiggly shapes and shiny things go away. “At least the horrible snake with blinking spots won’t come out of his cave for a while”.

The scent of hot chocolate coming from the kitchen has a calming effect on
little Molly. Except that once those lumpy~ spongy~ white~ icky things touch her tongue, she will spit them out. The rocks in the bricks are too spiky and now it all tastes very brown. She throws them as far as she can. The soothing moment has come and gone in an instant. All she can do is scream back at all the things that are hurting her. The next time her mommy says, “Let’s go shopping!”, you can be sure Molly will be hiding under the bed hoping she’s never found.

Things tend to go from bad to worse as the holidays approach for those, who
like Molly, cope with sensory integration dysfunction. Holidays for some are
nostalgic, warm and comforting, but for others it’s traumatic at best. Even
those who love the sights and sounds of the holidays can become overwhelmed in stores by the constant influx of holiday music, decorations and lights.

By simplifying and reducing scents, sounds and sights, you will allow the
intended peaceful season to enter your life. Adjusting things at home will
make a tremendous difference for everyone, especially those affected by
sensory irritants.

Create A Sanctuary
Music playing, fireplace crackling, kids playing, people talking, pots and
pans banging, before you know it, your house quickly reaches the highest
note on the scale and there is no place to hide.
Our solution is creating a ‘quiet room’ this season, a peaceful place
where one can get away, relax and re calibrate. Play soft music or listen
to the muffled sounds of joy behind the closed door. Avoid any holiday
related decor in this room, set it up as a visual spa by having low lights,
gentle colors and comforting textures including a soft blanket to snuggle
up in. Make this a nurturing space for those who need to get away from
all the hustle and bustle.

Unexpected Sensory Irritants
For those with sensory integration issues, the fewer scents, sounds and sights
the better. Stimulus is processed differently and uniquely. Bright colors and
patterns may be perceived to have loud sounds, textures may create pain.
So imagine how the traditional decor translates for some. Since a fireplace
produces mesmerizing shapes, sounds, lights and scents, let that substitute
the need for flickering lights, overflowing decorations and perfumed potpourri.

It’s All In The Packaging
Awareness of holiday irritants includes gifts themselves and their presentation.
Purchase toys with pleasurable textures, less plastic, flashing lights and
eliminate sound effects. That alone will prove helpful in maintaining a peaceful
environment. To complete this gentle experience, use paper bags as wrapping
paper with the brown side seen on the outside. Tie the packages with
non~shiny, subdued colored ribbon. It will only require a simple pull to reveal
the gift inside, no ripping or tearing sounds. For a fun craft later, the paper can
be used to draw or paint on once the novelty of the gifts wears off.

Contact Info:
Carolyn Feder is the founder and owner of Sensory Interior Design.
By combining her space organization and interior design techniques,
she creates spaces that get you in touch with inner peace and focus year round.

For more information about consultations, lectures, workshops and coaching,
visit or email

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I may be paranoid, but not an android.....

This post was originally going to be a rant.  But after about 20 minutes of ranting I felt that I was being a little paranoid. One of my greatest fears of writing a personal blog about my life and my family was that someone would take something I wrote or said personal.  The internet can be a cruel place where its easy for people to hide behind user names and identities while passively telling someone off. I was reading someone else's blog today and I was wondering "is this person talking about me?"  Maybe he/she was, maybe not, I don't know.  I just felt a little paranoid about it all.  One of my greatest gifts is my empathy for others but the negative aspect of that is over sensitivity.  Its a daily balance, but what is life, if not for growth. So, I decided to still publish the post, because its one of the most honest things I have written.  Enjoy the paranoia!

I consider myself a nice person.  Sometimes a little too nice.  I have taken a lot crap from people who assume they know something about me and my life.  I decided a year and half ago to share my experience with autism in order to help other parents avoid the crap that has been dealt to me.  No agenda, no delusions of grandeur, no other purpose for presenting my story other than to help parents get the services they need. Mine has been the experience of misinformation.  You see, I realized early on that many individuals out here don't really give a damn about my family or my families experience.

Oddly enough for all the opinions out there, people are very touchy.  I find the autism community in general to be one of the most sensitive around.  I get it.  Its personal.  I know because I am the first one to tell someone off who dares look at my children wrong.  Oh and if I happen to be talking to people who aren't "autism aware" and they say something even remotely bigoted about the autism epidemic, you better believe I set them straight.
My number one rule in dealing with opinions is;
Recognize the real enemy - I don't criticize other parents.  I don't go there.  Its not my place. What do I look like sitting her writing or talking about other moms and dads, who the hell am I to judge someones experience? I am a card carrying member of the golden rule, I don't want it done to me I don't do it to others.  I don't criticize individuals on the spectrum - how can I claim to be some sort of proponent for inclusion and uniting the community if I can't get along with the individuals who actually have autism.  I describe what has been said to me or what I have witnessed, but I never, never assume I could ever know what is in someones heart and mind.  If they choose to share it with me so be it.  The real enemy is callousness and insensitivity.  That is who I want to fight with and do at least once a week.
Many people like to talk.  Talk talk talk talk talk.  People like to talk about themselves and their experiences and their opinions and they like to think they know something about someone else, but they don't.  These same people can't even begin to speculate as to what my family has gone through or what a typical crazy day in the life of us entails.  I get pissed off because I put myself out here in the blog world and on internet radio, because I get tired of seeing the same faces talking about autism, the same faces answering questions about autism, the same faces directing the dialog on autism.  The faces don't look like me and they certainly don't share my story.   Its not all good, its not all bad, it certainly isn't easy.  I am sorry if I have offended anyone in my quest to bring some different aspects about families and autism to the table.  Get over it.  I have.  My life will not be like anyone else's and I will continue to talk and share my personal opinions.  Maybe I'm paranoid and no one really cares what I have to say, but as a little variation on the well known saying goes, just because I am paranoid doesn't mean no ones talking about me.
For those who love the song...

November 15, 2009

How do I discipline my child with autism .... show resources

What a great and informative show!  If you missed it you must check it out, great advice and tips for any parent. Unfortunately we didn't get discipline, isolation, depression and other things I wanted to ask, but Maggie will be back again.

Focus on Foundations
Friends of Autism - grants up to $500

Autism A-Z
J - Joint Attention - the process by which one alerts another to a stimulus via nonverbal means, such as gazing or pointing. For example, one person may gaze at another person, and then point to an object, and then return their gaze back to the other person. In this case, the pointing person is "initiating joint attention" by trying to get the other to look at the object. The person who looks to the referenced object is "responding to joint attention." Joint attention is referred to a triadic skill, meaning that it involves two people and a object or event outside of the duo. It is well documented that infants display both types of joint attention at 9 months of age.  - Wikipedia

In the News
Study done on mothers of adolescents and adults with autism finds, "Cortisol levels were found to be significantly lower than normal, a condition that occurs under chronic stress, yielding profiles similar to those of combat soldiers and others who experience constant psychological stress."

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November 8, 2009

Overlooking the Obvious, Sensory Designing for the Autism Spectrum - Resource List


Carolyn Feder, TBAE & TAID
Registered Interior Designer

Focus of Foundation
First Hand Foundation - First Hand Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps children with health-related needs when insurance and other financial resources have been exhausted. Our mission is to directly impact the health status of a young life. Since 1995, First Hand has assisted more than 85,000 children in 66 countries around the world.

Autism A - Z

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November 5, 2009

Including Aspergers with Autism

 The New York Times recently printed an article about the diagnosis of asperger syndrome and how the editors of the DSM V(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, version V or 5) are considering having one broad diagnosis of autism that will include it as well as PDD-NOS(Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) and High Functioning Autism.
This is a step in the right direction. For years there has been an underlying division between classics and aspies, this is not usually verbalized, but as a parent I have noticed it from other parents as well as teachers I have come in contact with.

Most people I meet generally consider asperger's to be autism anyway. Usually they have never seen someone with severe autism. One reason is because people who have children that are severely affected do not come out. Their children are in special programs or homes. I also credit this to the media focus on the what I like to call the "cuter side of autism," you know; the precocious, hyperlexic, mini genius portrayal of autism that tends to exclude some of the other aspects that many parents may deal with like; feces smearing, clothing stripping, aggression, regression and elopement.

I also notice that non verbal individuals and those with more challenging behaviors are assumed to be mentally retarded and uninstructable. Many of the supplementary programs and groups tend to be more open to those who are verbal and have less challenging behaviors. My son has been rejected from groups that claim to work with kids with autism. How is that? They only work with kids who are verbal.

On the other hand people diagnosed with aspergers have to prove their disability because of their high functioning. Social awkwardness and anxiety is hard prove particularly if you have a great capacity to learn and can adequately communicate.

Parents are just as biased as the greater community. There are some parents who do not want their asperger children to be associated with the "other" autistics even going as far as not using the autism spectrum to describe their child. I find all of this to be unsettling. Because my kids span the spectrum, I can tell you a diagnosis is a label. It does no more to solve the problems or answer the questions, its just different behaviors. Will it be easier for my daughter to fit in because she will be able to hold a conversation with others versus my son who is non verbal? Yes, but what then happens when she starts crying inappropriately because she misinterpreted what someone was saying to her? Won't people still think she is just as weird as my son who likes to yell up and down the aisles at the grocery store?
I focus on changing societies perception of autism and creating meaningful inclusion in the community. Therefore it will not matter if you have Asperger's, PDD or Autism, you can still have a meaningful life in a place that accepts you for who you are Uniting the diagnosis is one small step to getting people to focus on more on functioning and behavior and less on labels.

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November 3, 2009

What really goes on behind the scenes of an IEP meeting? You might be surprised.

Listen to a clip from my interview with author and former special educator Jack E. George, where he lets me in on what goes on behind the scenes at IEP meetings. To see the clip click on the title of the post and to hear the entire interview, click on the player to the right.

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