So,about autism…


This post is one of a few that has come about after I received some questions and concerns from friends and family that are related to autism spectrum disorder. After our oldest child was diagnosed in December 2012, I stopped all pursuit of freelance work as learning to understand and help our child was (and still is) a greater priority. However, in ceasing public blog writing, I also cut off one of the more efficient ways to communicate what I’m sure looks like a strange and crazy life to those around us. In writing these posts, I have no desire to “go viral” or argue with the general public. For my sanity’s sake, I’ve turned off the comment section of this post. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term, and a diagnosis is important in getting insurance and other entities to do what they’re supposed to do. Research tends to fall into three categories: genetic, the gut brain connection, and other environmental factors (in my opinion, this does include damage from vaccinations). In time, I expect some of these to become their own “label”.  Or that we will see an increase in diagnosis of ASD paired with co-occuring conditions like: gut/brain inflammation, epilepsy, etc. Currently

it’s most likely to be paired with speech and sensory difficulties than anything else. The current rate of ASD is 1 in 59, and that’s based on data from 2014, and a birth year of 2006. As you can see, data lags a bit behind reality. Some predictions have the rate as high as 1 in 2 by 2020 or 2021. 

You can find more information at the CDC website, but know that I don’t agree with some of their definition, specifically that those with ASD have no interest in other people. I believe that they do, it’s just shown in socially inappropriate ways. I hope to post more on this topic soon, but for now we have books to read, and fine motor skills to practice.

A mother’s thoughts on “The Accountant”.

I didn’t set out with much hope when I began watching “The Accountant”. As the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, I’ve found that most of the information that is passed around in the news media and that surfaces in Hollywood’s major pictures does more harm than good. In fact, I planned to skip this film, until a friend watched it and asked for my thoughts about the idea presented that autism is “differently gifted”. To fully grasp what she now understood, I watched the movie.

the accountant movie poster

Movie poster (Source:

“The Accountant” is well written, and one of the better stories to come out of Hollywood for some time. Written by Bill Dubuque, it does an excellent job of weaving the “facts” of autism with an incongruous setting. In the first few minutes after the title is shown, we learn that autism affects 1 in 68 children* (from the CDC). We see the strain between the parents as they try to decide how best to help their son. We see a memorable example of the puzzle, with it’s missing piece, the “symbol” of autism. We watch as The Accountant’s brother remains a silent witness through most of the movie, which is a nod to the siblings of those with autism, who can be “lost in the shuffle” and have a first row seat to the struggles within their families. This struggle includes the abandonment of the family by the wife and mother, statistically it’s usually fathers who leave.

We see The Accountant interact as an adult with his customers, as well as Dana Cummings, a young accountant who has discovered that someone has been “cooking the books”.  In her attempts to be friendly, she interrupts The Accountant’s lunch routine, and we see him struggle to maintain his composure at being thrown off the task, while using memorized facts in conversation. We also see his failure to understand her use of an idiom (“where fun goes to die”), which is characteristic of those on the spectrum. We see The Accountant go home, where he finishes his schedule by using what is known as a “sensory diet”: he blares loud music, turns on flashing lights, and applies deep pressure to his legs using a roller. He also takes Zoloft, which isn’t a medication that is given to treat autism specifically, but treats conditions that may come with it. In this case, depression and/or social anxiety. Eventually, The Accountant responds to Dana’s assertion that his “life is unique”.

“It’s not unique. I have a form of high functioning autism which means I have an extremely narrow focus and a hard time abandoning tasks once I’ve taken them up. I have difficulty socializing with other people even though I want to.”

These are just a few examples of the many, many things that “The Accountant ” gets right. This brings me, of course, to my biggest concern with “The Accountant”. A handful of lines between the characters Raymond King and Marybeth Medina, who are trying to solve the “puzzle” of The Accountant’s real identity.

Marybeth: “He’s a f***ing killer.”

Raymond King: “…the why, though, that I’ve got. Someone breaks his moral code.”

I want to be clear that the statement made by Mr. King isn’t a factual one, and I don’t believe it’s intended to be by the writer. The story gradually reveals to us that The Accountant throughout is doing what he believes to protect and defend those that he loves. His most violent actions are tied to love. He isn’t a ticking time bomb or a loose cannon. My concern, however, is that moviegoers may take this statement as fact, and react with fear to autism. News media outlets perpetuate this fear at times when there are mass shootings. Reporters speculate that because someone was a loner is automatically equates autism, it goes to “print” or they say it on air, and there it remains. I’ve never seen anyone retract irresponsible statements such as these, and they *do* cause harm, because it impacts how others define autism.

This fear also surfaces, in a subtle way, in the ending minutes of The Accountant. The movie closes where it began, at Harbor Neuroscience, a place that many parents of autistic children would sell their souls to send their children to, or to have it exist in their state. We see another set of parents, here to discuss their child with the doctor. It’s in this scene that he makes the comment about autism being “differently gifted”, and comments negatively about IQ tests** as a standard of intelligence. The parents mention that their child was “missing” and that they “Hoped he would catch up”, common statements that are made by parents of children on the spectrum, including myself. The doctor is very encouraging to the parents, and makes the following statement.

“I guarantee you that if we allow the world to set expectations for our children, they’ll start low, and they’ll stay there.” He’s right, of course, and we see this play out when the unnamed child is left to interact with Justine, the doctor’s nonverbal “low functioning” daughter. The parents don’t know what to think of Justine, and the mother seems fearful when she asks if her child is sure he wants to stay. Justine communicates by computer, and the child is delighted when the computer’s voice speaks to him. The viewer should then realize that they see her as a little more human than before.  It’s true that in many cases, autism is just differently gifted, however, The Accountant in this instance shows savant like abilities in the area of math, and this simply isn’t true of autistics as a whole. Some with autism are just ordinary people with social struggles, others have epilepsy, too, and may never interact with anyone, or make some progress, regress, progress, regress, etc. Some, like Justine, will be viewed as “low functioning” because of problems with motor control, and brushed aside because they can’t speak. This would be someone like my son, if you’re curious. He has good gross motor control, but speech remains difficult, as do find motor skills. I watch time after time as adults and children dismiss him because he can’t respond, and then begin to ignore him completely. He is all too easily brushed aside, because he can’t speak up for himself in every instance of social engagement. My daughter is younger, and though delayed in speech, seems to be catching on to it quicker.

It’s disturbing to me to see in various forms of media, that we continue to view people as important or of having worth, only if they can contribute, or talk, walk, etc. And we react in fear to what we don’t understand. “The Accountant” does an excellent job of revealing that fear. So. If you haven’t seen it, or if you’re curious about “autism” stuff, watch it. Even better if you watch it with the parent of an autistic child who can point out what you’re seeing, and then discuss it with you.  Keep in mind that it *is* a violent movie, and there are graphic scenes. And keep an eye out for the extra who is supposed to be dead, but follows Raymond King’s shoes as he walks by near the end of the movie.

*The data used by the CDC to arrive at this number is from 2010-2012, and only from a few states. It is believed that the number is now as high as 1 in 45 children by other sources.

**Note that IQ  tests aren’t used to diagnose autism spectrum disorders, although they can be given for other reasons.

Book Club Notes #1

I participate in our church’s book club. Our pastor selects a book, we read it, then meet for food and discussion. I’m not always able to participate in the discussion, so I decided that this would be a great place to publish my notes. Today’s post contains my notes and thoughts on “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity” by Tim Challies.

As a SAHM, I struggle with productivity, and my “next thing” (to do) list often seems to be never ending.I find it difficult to focus, and I often multi task to varying degrees. My desire to be social is often at odds with my workload, and rest often seems like a waste of time. I also find myself allowing circumstances to dictate how I spend my time. For example, I get a notice about a bill I’m certain that I’ve paid, and I immediately stop whatever I’m doing to try and solve the problem before I “forget about it”.

“Do More Better” is one of the most helpful books on productivity I’ve read in a long time. The first three chapters helped me to narrow down my focus, as well as to write out my priorities using the worksheets provided on his website. As a result, when I’ve been asked to participate in other book clubs, or to assist someone with a minor project, I was able to refer to my lists, and say “no”. The “Serve and Surprise” worksheet was also helpful in focusing some of our time on fun things. As a result, our family is taking a trip to the aquarium that I’ve been postponing, and I’m planning another “field trip” to the planetarium. The aquarium trip will save us money, as they are running a ticket special that expires at the end of the month. Continuing to postpone the trip, would have meant missing out.

I appreciate Tim’s organization system, and recommendations for information storage and productivity apps. However, committing to Evernote long term will eventually involve paying money for the service as users of the free service are only permitted to upload and store a certain amount of data each month. I found ToDoIst helpful at first, but I get distracted by other things on my phone (texts, Facebook, email, Feedly) each time I picked it up to add a task. My phone doesn’t access the Google store, and using a third party app to access this system wasn’t as effective as I hoped. Attempting to keep the computer available for this purpose also lead to more distractions. I’ve personally found the analog bullet journal system to be helpful. So my biggest challenge is disciplining myself to add tasks to the bullet journal, and then follow through on referring to it and setting up each day’s tasks. I’ve found that we all function better when I have a list to function on each day. The ideal time to set up this list is the night before. If I wait until the morning, I find that I’ll put it off or forget about it until lunch, which isn’t helpful.

Book Review: 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Image Courtesy of

Image Courtesy of

When I was given a copy of the book 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (first edition), I was convinced that I’d be reading “old news”.  Although already familiar with some of the information, I was completely blown away by the section on behavior (chapter three), which has helped me in my daily interactions with our son.  I also think that the behavior chapter is especially helpful to educators. Too many in the autism world have been influenced to think that functional communication is the only true means of communication. It isn’t.

From page 67, on hostile or aggressive behavior:

First, understand where the behavior is coming from. Almost all such behaviors are rooted in your child’s sensory and/or social impairments. He is not doing it to provoke you, embarrass you or make your life miserable. He is not an inherently unkind, cruel, malicious or evil individual. He is most likely feeling frustrated, fearful, threatened, tired, unable to communicate his needs or otherwise unable to cope.  Let your response spring from this understanding.

The chapter also points out ways to avoid escalating a skirmish, which are helpful for parents and educators alike. I also found Chapter 7 To Know the Law, to be helpful. It contains a brief explanation of navigating laws within the public school system as well as links to the three federal laws: IDEA, Section 504, and ADA (see page 196).

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the material was clearly organized and presented in a helpful way. Web addresses are contained within the text, so there is no need to flip back and forth to a notes section at the end of the book to find what you are looking for. Book lists for suggested reading are also given where appropriate, as well as vendor information.  There are some endnotes but they aren’t overly cumbersome.  A great index at the back of the book makes it easy to use this guide as a reference.  I highly recommend this book to all educations and parents. It’s a worthy addition to the library shelf.

NOTE: The authors have published a second edition, which you can peruse here:

If I Believed in Omens.

September 11th found me employed at Kmart and bored at a front register.  I recall that my smock was too big and I hoped that my new engagement ring would be ready to pick up from the jewelers. There was a sudden flurry of activity as an older lady who worked in the back offices ran up front to tell the front desk clerk, Melanie, that something awful had happened and to come see the news.  Melanie left me in charge and followed her back.  After a few minutes, she came back up front and told me what happened. The older lady, whose face I can still see but whose name I’ve forgotten, came back up front in a full fledged panic attack because her niece worked at the Sears tower, and the news media was reporting a possible threat to that tower and that they hoped there would be an evacuation. Melanie also had a connection at the Sears tower and they left to be with family.  I was sent to break by the store manager. Continue Reading

Book Review: Death By Living by N. D. Wilson

death by living cover for blog

Cover art courtesy of Thomas Nelson and the Booksneeze program.

N.D. Wilson makes it clear from the beginning that the focus of his latest work, Death by Living: Life is Meant to be Spent is on “a way of living, a way of receiving life” (p. xi).  He uses a variety of examples to illustrate our inability to control the circumstantial ebb and flow of our lives.  The two most vivid are the stories of how each of his grandfathers, James Wilson (USS Brush) and Lawrence Greensides (Guadalcanal), narrowly escaped death in World War Two.  Although our modern day-to-day lives don’t seem quite as exciting as WWII, Mr. Wilson reminds us that: Continue Reading

Book Review: Joni and Ken: An Untold Story (Ken & Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby)

Book cover courtesy of the Booksneeze program

Book cover courtesy of the Booksneeze program

(Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through the publisher’s book review program, Booksneeze, in exchange for an honest review.)

When I was a child, I picked up a copy of Joni. I was absolutely intrigued by the young woman pictured on the cover who could paint with her mouth instead of her hands. I can’t recall if I read the entire book, but I do know that I made it through the first chapter in order to find out why she used her mouth-quadriplegia. I don’t think that I’ve read any of her other books from then until now.  “Coincidentally” God used the girl who could paint with her mouth to start a ministry, Joni and Friends. Late last year, I was able to access resources through that ministry which lead me to believe that our son, a toddler, is autistic. A few weeks later, my “hunch” was confirmed by a developmental pediatrician. Continue Reading

Book Review: The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

Cover image courtesy of Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program

Cover image courtesy of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program

The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson tells the tale of Beth’s sort of midlife crisis when her husband, Rick, a “Men’s Pastor” locks himself into a shed in their back yard for some serious prayer and a fast from his family with only a few groceries and some serious theological works for company.  To be honest, I chose this book only because I wanted to read fiction and it didn’t have an Amish woman or some other virginal looking young beauty on its cover.  I thought that it might be a bit “touchy feely blech” but instead I was treated to a snappy bit of satire on America’s consumer driven version of Christianity told from none other than the first person viewpoint of the pastor’s wife.  This book actually made me laugh out loud, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by any fiction author since I read Doug Wilson’s Evangellyfish last year.

Beth notes that as her church got bigger “its name was sliced smaller and smaller.  For the past eighteen months, we’ve been The Community”(Loc 1098).  Beth also wonders why The Community is “having trouble raising twenty grand for the Habitat house we’re cosponsoring with our sister church downtown when the parking lot on Sunday mornings is clogged with Mercedes and BMWs and Volvo SUVs, not to mention several Jaguars?” (Loc 232).  The author doesn’t shy away from topics that are usually considered taboo for Christian fiction (unless of course, the character repented of them at least a decade or more ago and says so, in print): drug use, alcoholism, loneliness in marriage and a pregnancy out of wedlock are all here.  The character of Mother Zaccheus nearly steals the show when she issues Beth a slap of grace of sorts in a halfway house.

It’s a great many layered work that’s a breath of fresh air. The only downside, as with any satirical work, is that it will feel dated in the future, given its many references to current social networks and electronic gadgets.  I also found that some of Beth’s “confessions” appearing like so (Confession:) broke up the pace and at times felt a bit jarring.  I look forward to reading more of Ms. Samson’s work in the future and I encourage you to add this book to your “must read” list.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Galatians for You by Timothy Keller


Image courtesy of The Good Book Company

Galatians for You by Timothy Keller is the first in a series of “expository guides” which aim “to be: bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied and easily readable” (Loc 32).  This title can be used for “reading, feeding or leading” (Loc 32).  I am pleased to report that Galatians for You hits the mark on all counts.

Galatians for You is full of so much information about the impact of the gospel to the Christian’s daily life that it’s hard to narrow down the focus of this review. There are several things that stood out to me: the blazing firepot when God made His covenant with Abraham (Loc 997-1000), the significance of women as heirs (Loc 1145-1159) and Paul’s example of Sarah and Hagar in Galatians 4:21-31 (NKJV) to illustrate the difference in “being related to Abraham: one right way and one wrong way”(Loc 1522).

“Paul says clearly that Hagar and her son, Ishmael, represent the law covenant of Sinai and the earthly city of Jerusalem, which by and large consists of persons who have not accepted Christ.  And these people are “in slavery”(v.25), because they are under law.  Paul is linking several things together: the Sinai covenant of law; the present Jerusalem; Hagar; and all who make the law the means of justification with God and the main principle of life…..By sleeping with Hagar, Abraham was choosing to rely on his own capabilities.  He was opting to “work” and gain his son.  He was acting in faith; but the faith he had was in himself, as his own “savior” (Loc 1558).

“Though the false teachers proudly consider themselves related to Abraham by Sarah and Isaac, Paul says that they are spiritually descended from the slave woman, the Gentile (Hagar), the outcast.  Their heart and approach to God is like Abraham with Hagar, and the fruit in their lives is like Ishmael-just more slavery!  Though racially they are from Sarah, in their soul and heart they are like the people they despise.

They rely on their own ability rather than the supernatural grace of God. The most religious people can be furthest from freedom” (Loc 1558-1570).

That last sentence is chilling and a crucial reminder to be sure that we are looking to the gospel for our freedom, and not anything else!  I highly recommend Galatians for You. It’s an understandable read with an easy to use concordance to identify terms that the reader may not know and also contains an appendix that briefly discusses a “modern” debate about another aspect of Galatians.

A copy of this ebook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.