Interview With Taylor Morris -- An Exceptional Teenage Girl with Aspergers

I have the distinct privilege of welcoming Taylor Morris to my blog today. Taylor is an amazing young girl, who has Aspergers Syndrome, and is bringing awareness to the value of self-advocating for children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Her insightful videos give answers to parents desperate to understand where their child’s mind is, why it goes there and how to reach them. I encourage you to take a minute and view Autism through the eyes of this exceptional young woman.

I have to admit that I am a little nervous to ask Taylor all of my questions – I think that is because I have never sat down and asked my ‘autism’ questions to a person with autism. I am overwhelmingly thankful that Taylor and her mother have agreed to have her participate in this interview. A big thank you to both of them for allowing me such an invaluable insight into autism and on behalf of me and my readers, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to better understand our children!

There really isn't anything better than hearing it directly from the source, is there?


Welcome Taylor – thank you for joining me here on HLW3B! I have been intrigued by the videos on your website (, discussing everything from your insider point of view of a therapy session as a preschooler to explaining your own world in calm detail. I think as a parent of a child with autism (HFA), I am mostly impressed with the confident and self-assured way you have of expressing yourself. To what do you attribute your ability to be so self aware?

I think I started being self-aware when my parents would remind me of the consequences of my actions. Having my parents tell me that something comes off as rude forces me to realize that I am one person who has to learn to function in a world with many others. This creates a self-awareness of my actions. My parents comments and hard lessons on the playground nudged me to realize the way I act and how present myself has much larger implications then I had previously thought. They taught me that being myself is much more then just doing whatever I want. From here I began to grow to be the person I am; I say what I truly believe but I calculate the implications of my actions as well. I believe this is what makes me come off as a mature self-aware person.

Squirmy Wormy Winner!

A big thank you to everyone who read and entered my interview with Squirmy Wormy author Lynda Farrington Wilson!

The very precise and scientific process of picking a winner today was performed by Matthew. And Matthew drew . . .


Congratulations Jen -- you are the winner of Squirmy Wormy.

Please email me and give me your address so I can get that book shipped to you -- and you can start working on self-regulation with your kiddos!

Thanks again to everyone -- and especially Lynda Farrington Wilson for helping support SPD Awareness and our children.

Next in my Autism Awareness Month posts will be my interview with Taylor Morris -- I am more excited than you can imagine!

Enjoy the weekend,

Earth Day Inspired Sensory Diet

The 40th annual Earth Day celebration happens to be on April 22nd, and I say, given that this is Autism Awareness Month, and from what I hear Occupational Therapy Month as well, I thought I would put my own sensory-spin on it.

Namely, how to get sensory input with a little help from Mother Nature in your own backyard. Isn’t great to know there is another ‘mother’ out there helping your little seeker?

Here are some ideas on how you can use this beautiful planet of ours to incorporate more nature in your nurture.

Sun: I think that the sun might be under valued by all of you who see it daily -- like maybe those of you in Arizona or California, but it is longed for by those of us in Seattle!  That dose of natural Vitamin D puts all of us in a better mood. Make sure your kids (and you) get plenty by venturing outside each day –
  • Color with sidewalk chalk
  • Read on the porch
  • Have a picnic
  • Set up an 'art studio' outside and let your little ones take inspriation from nature
  • Lay in the grass
  • Look for 'cloud animals' (or other imaginary shapes)
  • Make sun-tea
  • Trace your shadow – or just try to catch it
  • Look for bugs in the grass

Squirmy Wormy Book Giveaway and Interview

I was talking with a parent last month about her son who has Autism. She was asking why he is always lying down and if that was a sensory issue.

YES! I was screaming – YES! It is a sign he is low, that his body needs some input to help engage.

She responded with the realization that instead of constantly telling her son to ‘sit up’ she could use that ‘clue’ about how his body was feeling to help him recognize what was going on, and find solutions to help him regulate his own body. And you all know that isn’t easy when you have a child with Autism that doesn’t communicate as well or as much as you, or they, would like.

And with that, the solution hit me like lightening: “You need to get your son the book Squirmy Wormy by Lynda Farrington Wilson to help teach him to regulate his own body!” I announced with a level of enthusiasm that is hard to get across in mere words.

Just Be Mom (Or Dad)

Just because your child is challenging, doesn’t mean that you aren’t still his parent. Spend the weekend with your case-manager, social-worker, education-consultant, medical-scheduler, worry-wart, and future-predictor hats on a shelf, and just be your child’s parent for the day. Reconnecting with the parts of our kids that are the most fun, special, and awe-inspiring often gets left off the never-ending to do list in the hustle of the day to day management of all of their needs – choose this weekend to honor who they really are and let them be kids!

Here are my straightforward and simple parenting reminders – nothing new here folks! – just trying to get you in the right mind set for a weekend spent enjoying your child!

Please add your favorite kid-centric weekend activity in the comments below!

1. Let them eat dessert

2. Play an old fashioned board game

3. Teach them something you loved as a kid

4. Bake cookies

5. Laugh about when they were a baby

6. Make a mud puddle

7. Play the, “Remember when … “ game

8. Recall favorite vacations

9. Just listen

10. Read together

11. Remember to SMILE when your child walks in the room – they need to know you missed them

12. Lead with the positive

13. Go through old photos

14. Be playful – every moment doesn’t have to be a teaching moment

15. Skip rocks – or just throw them in the lake!

16. Allow your child a mental health day; they have as much stress as we do

17. Play dress up – YOU TOO!

18. Compliment them

19. Remind them of their of past successes

20. Watch a movie

21. Go bowling

22. Talk about your hopes for the future

23. Let them pick what to make for dinner

24. Make ice cream sundaes

25. Reward them for just being themselves

Hope you have sun like we do in Seattle!

Photo: Nick being silly in Victoria at the totem pole park. He cracks me up!

We Will Be OK; Guest Post by Caitlin Wray

This is the second "Autism Awarness" gem I have up my sleeve this month -- a guest post by my friend (or at least she is in my head, not that I have actually met her or anything), Caitlin Wray who writes beautifully at the blog about her darling son Simon, who was recently diagnosed with Aspergers and her equally adorable 1 year old Seth -- not to mention her hubby and herself.  :) 

Her article is a personal account of the moment most of us have experienced-- the moment where a doctor says "Autism" and our world changes.  And yet stays the same -- all at the same time. 

Winner of the Ulitmate Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder

Thank you to everyone who entered -- and a big thank you to Dr. Roya Ostovar for autographing a copy of her book for us!  I have to say that I am just enamoured with the fact that my readers took it upon themselves to refer to her as "Dr. O" -- we are such a welcoming group! 

I asked Nick to draw the name from slips of paper in a hat, so you know, this is our standard way of doing a random drawing, and he pulled ---


And in Nick's words, spoken directly into the slip of paper like a microphone, "Congratulations, Jennifer, you are the winner!"

All you need to do is email me your contact information, address and full name, before Friday, and I will send you the book.  Unfortunately, if you are buried under laundry or involved in solving a three day meltdown and are unable to get to me, I will choose another winner on Friday at 6pm PST.

Thanks again to everyone -- stay tuned for my next Autism Awareness Month gem-- a guest post from Caitlin Wray from, after that I will be interviewing Lynda Farrington Wilson author of Squirmy Wormy, wrapping up with a GREAT interview with Taylor Morris from

It's a great April here on HLW3B!  Now if only the sun would shine...


The Emergency Button

In case I haven’t said it recently, I just love Matthew. Everything about him – his keen sense of humor, his fascination with tools, his unique ability to create an utter mess, and even his dedicated desire to rub my face, cheeks, nose and ears constantly. I even love the fact that I can count on him to hit every emergency button that he comes near.

Today being no exception.

But before we get into today’s emergency button hitting moment, why in godsgreenearth do people insist on putting emergency alarm buttons just 3.5 feet off the ground? And why, OH WHY, do they have to be big shiny red ones? I mean, don’t they just scream “PUSH ME”?  I rest my case.

Matthew started swimming lessons today. His first ever.

No, not just his first swimming lesson ever, but his first lesson of any kind ever.

But with three solid months of preschool under his belt, where I get notes sent home in his backpack that say things like, “Followed directions”, “Cleaned up”, “Transitioned well” and don’t pass out when I say this one, “Cooperative”, you would think that he could handle a 30 minute swimming lesson with only two other children.

Yet, he still finds a way to make it an adventure.

Dr. Roya Ostovar, Interview and Book Giveaway

I am very excited to be hosting Dr. Roya Ostovar, author of The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder on HLW3B today. Dr. Ostovar is a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Director of Ostovar Pediatric Psychology and Consultation in Belmont, Massachusetts (

Her new book, The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder, provides much needed information on everything from the direction of new research to practical solutions for taking your sensational child on vacation – and, I am not kidding when I say this, virtually everything in between.

I am sure you are not surprised to hear that I jumped at the chance to ask Dr. Ostovar more about Sensory Processing Disorder. Truly, how often do you get the chance to go straight to the doctor with your questions – no appointments, no co-pays, no nurses, no screening, no assessments– just straight to the doctor?! This was an opportunity I could NOT say no to!

I was also happy to find out that Dr. Ostovar was willing to give an autographed copy of her book to one of my readers. Check out the bottom of the interview for details on how you could be the lucky winner!

And with that, grab your coffee, and let’s start the show.

OH Canada!

There is nothing more healing than laughter. And if you are new to reading my blog you will be happy to know that my motto is, "If you can't laugh at my life, you have no sense of humor."

I figured it was only fitting that I use that as the direction for the recap of our Victoria trip.

3 boys, 2 parents, 2 grandparents, 4 days, 2 holidays, 1 hotel, 3 boats, and A LOT of fun.

We were supposed to take the Victoria Clipper -- a high speed shuttle from Seattle directly to Victoria. That is what our tickets were purchased for, and that is where we arrived at 7:00 in the morning Saturday.

The water was rocky, and the wind blew hard. We rushed the boys into the terminal, where Gabriel's autism allowed us the luxury of passing the lines and pre-boarding. But we weren't exactly early, so there were lines that had to quite literally be passed.

As we moved through crowds of people in the terminal, much like an airline terminal, my darling Matthew crashed into the butt of each and every adult waiting near him.

"Oh, sorry." I said, over and over again, grabbing Matthew by his down coat and jerking him from place to place and he giggled with delight. Afterall, it was morning, and he was low. It was my idea to bring him to a room full of strangers and assume that this time, he wouldn't crash into all of them. What was I thinking? Matt was happy, and self-regulating. Try explaining that on the fly to a group of strangers.

Autism Awareness

Today is Autism Awareness Day -- and in honor of this day and my son Gabriel, along with all of YOUR sons and daughters, I have planned an amazing line up of interviews and guest bloggers throughout the month of April.

We begin the month with Dr. Roya Ostovar, author of The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder who will give us a fresh new discussion on SPD, and also share her experience working with kids on the spectrum in her private practice. She has some great insights into sensory issues, and is gracious enough to be giving away a copy of her book.

Then we are going to talk about 'Diagnosis Day', when you first hear out of a doctor's mouth, "your child has autism"; a day that changes everything, and nothing, all at the same time. My friend Caitlin Wray is going to share her relatively new experience, after her son was diagnosed this year.

Lynda Farrington Wilson will join us, with a great interview sharing her book Squirmy Wormy, a story based on her experience with her son, who has autism, and will highlight ways to help kids learn to manage their own sensory needs. Self regulation is key! I am also thrilled to say that Lynda has kindly offered to give away a copy of her book as well.

Then, my son Gabriel will make his debut here on HLW3B, as he leads a child-to-child interview with Taylor Morris, a teenage girl with Aspergers who will be here talking about the value of self-advocating and allowing us to see her world from the inside out. If you haven't had the chance to see Taylor, check her out here. This promises to be an amazing interview -- and an one you can actually share with your own kids.

Today is a day for awareness, to help bring understanding, but it is also more importantly, a day to celebrate the differences among all of us!

Are you wearing blue?

FTF "Write It Down" by Jennie Linthorst

Write It Down, by Jennie Linthost. The third article in the series of First Things First.


Life moves fast when you have a child with special needs. As parents, we’re constantly motivating our children with Herculean efforts, affect, patience, problem-solving, and love, to move through another day of progress out in a world that doesn’t seem to quite understand the nuances of our days. From breakfast to shoe tying, getting out the door, school, therapies, grueling homework, play dates, dinner, bath and bed, we go through a million rollercoaster rides of thoughts and emotions inside ourselves. Yet, how often do we take a moment to self-reflect on what we are thinking and feeling? How often do we acknowledge our self-doubt, our shame, our judgments of our children, and our amazing ability to work through these thoughts and show up in the world everyday as we do?

Working in the field of poetry therapy, I have spent years witnessing the power of self-expression through writing. When an individual is offered a piece of inspirational writing to read, and then offered the space, the safety and time to self–reflect on what it might bring up about their own life, an amazing thing happens --a voice inside them begins to work through the muck, and confusion of whatever is happening in their present life. The true power and the healing takes place as they allow this voice to write it down on an empty page with no rules, critiquing or editing. And suddenly they have been heard. It is has been taken off of their hearts and put on the page.

People often ask me how I use writing for my own healing. I prefer to have a monthly group where I can use the poetry therapy process to be inspired, and to have the time to write and share with the group. But, as I said earlier, we parents don’t always have the luxury of a structured writing group and a poetry therapy facilitator.

There are ways in our crazy lives to stop and reflect, and to work these moments out on the page. Our daily experiences are the inspiration. I am always listening for the moments in my day where I feel my thoughts and emotions are being triggered by something. Maybe it’s a moment of frustration with my son in the morning, or a comment made by a teacher or therapist that is working with him during the day, or how my heart hurts in the grocery store when I feel envious and angry at a family that seems so typical and perfect. It’s the little glances from my husband when I feel I have let him down, or raw moments of honesty where we lift each other up. These are the nuggets of gold to be written down and worked through on the page.

I carry a small notebook in my car and in my purse, and when these moments of thoughts occur, I jot them down. I have time waiting in the car pool lane, or while a therapist is working with my child, or before I go to bed at night. I use these moments to begin a poem. There is inevitably a turnaround in my thoughts- a magical place inside myself that knows how to steer me back to self-love and forgiveness. I give those scary places a voice, and then another greater voice inside me seems to know how to calm me down. I feel less alone and more at peace.

Recently I have noticed that I have anxiety around how I seem to define myself as “good” or “bad” depending on how well my son’s day is going. If it is a good day at school and I hear a positive comment on his progress, I am elated, I am a good mom, I can go on and have a peaceful, joyful day. If I see him struggling in the classroom or hear a negative comment from a therapist or teacher, my whole identity seems to crumble, and my day becomes heavy and dark. As I watch this pattern in myself, I feel determined to see a new perspective. I can see that in the big picture of things, my son is absolutely progressing from where he had been at the beginning of the school year. He has “good” days and “bad” days, but overall it is a clear upward climb of progress.

I know that this is one of those nuggets of gold that needs to be worked out on the page. As I begin to write about it, I notice that I begin writing in the third person, observing how other parents are doing this in their own hearts and minds everyday, as they watch their child. It is easier for my voice to start there, and as I continue to write, it becomes about me, and the way I am learning to step back from the ups and downs, and to see that I as a woman am not defined by my son’s day. I see that I can stand tall, and know that the present moment is just what it is, and nothing needs to be different at all for me to be okay, and at peace. It is in the writing of the following poem, that the greater voice of me finds what it needs to say to me.

I see the parents.
They sit on the sidelines
of a therapy room,
arms folded,
temporarily relieved for the respite.

Their eyes tell me the story-
the fear, the hope, the shame-
the secret judgments
of a life they feel went wrong.

Their eyes dance or drop,
depending on the child’s progress that day.

I know that place.
I have risen and fallen a thousand times
with my son.

But, I am trying a different path,
a smoother, more easy terrain,
where I can step out of the role of mother,
and see a woman standing tall,
walking gently in and out of the moments of a day.

She knows that nothing needs to be fixed.
Nothing needs to be different
than it is right now.

Over the years since my son’s diagnosis, I have written a large collection of poems that express my personal experience as a mother of a child with special needs. In addition through my work as an expressive writing coach, I have had the honor of working one on one and in groups with moms from around the world with children with special needs, helping them find their voice of inner wisdom and guidance. This is one way, of many, to consider asking yourself, “how do I move through the confusing, painful thoughts and feelings I face on my journey as a parent?” Maybe you will consider writing them down, and listening for that higher voice inside of you that always has the answers, and wants to tell you the healing words you need to hear.

By Jennie Linthorst, mother of Graham, whose story is featured in the documentary film: Autistic-Like: Graham’s Story, facilitator of expressive poetry workshops, and author of the book of poems, A Mother’s Journey.


Next month I will be the featured writer (yay!) and then June brings us Gavin Bollard from Life With Aspergers.

Please feel free to leave comments for Jennie here!

Photo: Jennie, her husband Erik and their son Graham.