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Dolphin Tale II (behind the scenes tales)

The sequel, Dolphin Tale 2 is set for release this September 2014.  There is great anticipation about it’s latest star, a sweet little Dolphin named Hope.  Her name is very appropriate as it is at the core of many heartwarming real life experiences that surround the Tampa Bay Area, Winter the Dolphin, and Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Dr. Nelson Mane’ of the Mane’ Center worked with CMA’s David Yates and Winter the Dolphin herself to assist his little patient, Levi Larochelle who has Aspergers, with Social/Emotional development.  This interaction between Levi and Dr. Mane’ with Winter, along with Hemispheric Integration therapy of 8 sessions at Clearwater Marine Aquarium yielded amazing results!

Check out just three real life connections between Winter and children that go behind the scenes and renew the “hope” within your heart!

http://www.ifwintercanican.com/inspirational-stories/winters-kids/

 

Walk on…by: Kimberly Larochelle

“Walk on” , I heard him say. A calm and confident command, and one that struck both my ears and heart. Maybe it was the day, with sky as blue as I could ever remember and with the warmth of the sunshine that caressed his smiling face, but as I looked into his eyes, I saw sweet contentment and it was so good, so real, and so rare. Yet not so rare as of lately…lately we have been involved with the “Sibling Bonding Program” held at Healing Horse Therapy with Maurette Hanson in Loxahatchee Groves, Florida.

My son Levi is on the Autism Spectrum as many know already and has been diagnosised with Aspergers. Today was the 5th class in the Sibling Bonding Program that he takes with his younger brother, Jacob who is not on the spectrum and today was the 1st time they got to get on and ride the horses. What an exciting day! The boys have looked forward to this day for so long and now it was finally here!

 Up to this point, Maurette has instructed the boys on the care and grooming of the horses and with her kind and patient instruction and supervision they have learned so much in regards to the physical health, emotions, and overall well being of the magnificent horse. Levi has bonded with Butterball, a beautiful tan and buff colored Austrian Haflinger horse, and Jacob with Polaris, a majestic black beauty, a Friesian horse from Holland. Today they mount their horses and ride!

There is such anticipation as the boys learn how to place the saddle on and connect the strap to their helmets. And so it goes…they ride…for the 1st time! Maurette instructs the boys to feel their horse underneath, the movement and the momentum. “Close your eyes”, she says and “feel…can you feel where and how your horse is moving?” The experience goes on as they learn to “Whoa” stop their horse, and of course, “Walk on” to continue on the path. As we “walk on”, Levi says, “This is great!” and while this doesn’t seem like an out of the ordinary thing to say, it is…for Levi! Expressions of sincere happiness are very rare with those having Aspergers and yet this is what seems to be emerging more and more ever since we have started this program. It is of particular significance since he is going through puberty at age 13 now, which makes life and emotional/social graces especially difficult at present.

“It was great, Dad!” , he says again when greeting his father home from work and once again those words fall ever lovely onto my listening ears. Dale Carnegie was quoted as saying,”When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” and he is right, which has always concerned me when thinking of Levi’s future adulthood and his ability to thrive in the Social/ Emotional world. However, lately those fears have been diminishing, much in part to the effects that are emerging as a result of the “Sibling Bonding Program”. My boys are learning together, bonding as they go into the wondrous and stimulating world of horsemanship. Equine Facilitated Learning encompasses a world of emotional, mental, and physical enrichment that words alone could never convey properly…it must be experienced! Then, you get it!

So we continue to “Walk on”, and the horizon on this part of our journey, I must say is looking pretty bright. I am thankful to have found this path, thankful to have the privilege of getting to know Maurette Hanson, a true gem of of a person, and thankful that she has met such a great need in providing this beneficial program. With gratitude and appreciation, we’ll “Walk on” ever anticipating what wonders lie ahead!

Kimberly Larochelle

For more information on Healing Horse Therapy Center and the Sibling Bonding Program:

http://healinghorsecenter.wix.com/healing-begins

 

My Horse, My Aspergers, and My Brother by: Kimberly Larochelle

 

Equine Assisted Therapy is the professional term that to me indicates an unspoken bonding, attaching hearts of humans with the hearts of the magnificient and noble horse and penetrating the emotional soul of each into one. A wholehearted yet quiet and serene understanding that is silent, yet speaks volumes! Couple this amazing interaction with yet one more ingredient that makes the delicious into decadent…the brother, “the sibling of the spectrum”. You may have heard it said, “3 is a magic number” and it certainly is for many things, including Equine Assisted Therapy for ASD. As parents of children on the Autism Spectrum, we all know that therapy for them is vital, yet it is only beneficial if it is progressive! I have just recently stumbled upon a real “diamond” of beneficial therapy at the Healing Horse Therapy Center here in the West Palm Beach area, as Maurette Hanson, Executive Director, heads up a program called The Sibling Bonding Program.

 

Horses are therapeutic to all of us and especially to those on the Autism Spectrum. They are sensitive and emotional. Their eyes seem to peer into the very soul of those to whom it gazes upon, and they seem to understand everything unspoken, much as the sibling of the spectrum seems to understand and they just “get it” oftentimes more than anyone else in the family. The sibling of the spectrum gives confidence and security to their brother or sister with ASD and that one is usually lost and upset without them around. So, why not have them around for therapy…specifically, Equine Assisted Therapy?! Does it work? Does it make a difference? In my opinion, Yes and YES!!! I will describe just one day on the ranch and then you can decide for yourselves.

 

Just one day…”what a difference a day makes”:

 

1. At breakfast I tell my ASD child and his SOS, (sibling of the spectrum) that they should hurry because we are going to ride the horses today. They both excitingly smile, laugh and communicate with mutual anticipation for the adventure.

 

2. The ride to the ranch is so different than the silent or one way communication that I am accustomed to and the emotional zeal and excitement is shared and is now 2 way and mutually enjoyable.

 

3. They are each bonded with a horse and with the added confidence and security of having his SOS along, I am shocked to see my ASD child do things with the horse that I never thought possible, like brushing it’s constantly swishing tail, or cleaning the horses hoofs…things that normally would frighten and scare him into a fight or flight reaction or at the very least hesitate, nevertheless, side by side with his brother he not only did these things, he enjoyed them!

 

4. The interaction between the horse and my ASD son is amazingly serene and the demeanor of both is calm and happy as they walk together, his hand with rope leading his horse and following his brother doing the same…there is a camaraderie that is so apparent as my SOS son looks behind as if to say, “Coming?” as the other responds with a big smile as if to say, “Here I come…”

 

5. The ride home is especially enjoyable as the two boys share their experiences with the horses and without ever a moment of silence, they bust into and add to eachothers tales of the experience with pure delight and gusto!

 

The events of the day have the added benefit of a “Waterfall effect” and the shared memories, fun and discovery are laughed and talked about to all their friends and family…Together! And, “together” the 2 brothers seem to be, even more as this sharing has bonded them well. The therapeutic bonding that had resulted was not only twofold, but threefold included, the two brothers, just as the amazing as the bonding of horse and human!

 

One day has turned into many days just like this, and even better… The boys relationship is connecting like never before and I have received many unsolicited comments about how healthy their relationship is and how mutually happy they seem to be. Yes indeed…three IS a magic number!!!

 

 

Kimberly Larochelle

Discouragement…an Elephant’s Story

 

There once was a traveler who came across a sight that intrigued him greatly. It was a full grown and very large elephant walking around in circles, only as far as he could walk, around and around in the small circumference that his back leg would let him.

The elephants leg was attached to a small length of rope which was tied to a small wooden peg that was stuck into the ground. The most curious thing to the traveler was that this full grown elephant, weighing several tons, could have easily pulled out the peg and escaped…yet he didn’t…he just walked around and around and never tried to pull out the peg in order to move any farther than his rope allowed. And so the traveler inquired further, and found out that this same elephant had been tied to this same rope and peg since he was just a baby. At that time, he wasn’t strong enough to yank the peg out of the ground no matter how hard he tried, therefore he gave up and eventually he never tried to break free again. He became discouraged, and that discouragement led to hopelessness.

 

Do we sometimes find ourselves in the same situation as this elephant? Discouraged and Hopeless. Striving with much effort to pull against the peg and failing to do so time and time again, thus instead of moving forward, we move around and around, pacing and never getting anywhere…never moving forward.

 

At some point in this elephant’s life as a baby he gave up and concluded it was futile to ever try again. Have we ever concluded this same futility within our minds and hearts and then just “given up”?   Those parent advocates with children on the Autism Spectrum have felt as this elephant many times as they have struggled hard against the wooden peg that is “Autism”. We can almost imagine ourselves as that baby elephant, remembering the day that we first got the diagnosis that our child had Autism or was somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. We pulled and pulled as hard as we could to break free, to move forward and find success for our child…nothing would stop our struggling against it! We didn’t give up either as we had much stamina in the beginning…we were determined to never, NEVER give up!

 

 

The question is however, have we given up? Have we stopped struggling? Does the “peg in the ground hold us still…as it’s prisoner?

 

The truth is all of us, if we are “real” and “honest” with ourselves, will answer “Yes”. To varying degrees, all of us have been in a state of discouragement and hopelessness haven’t we? The even bigger question is: Do we stay in this state…tied to this wooden peg?

 

Many of us have struggled against this peg for many years…every day…every hour…every minute, and we are weary, exhausted, and tired. What we may not realize though, is that we have grown! In all the time we have been struggling, and without noticing, we have gained strength! We may not even realize it, and still view ourselves as “baby elephants”, but much time has past and through our struggles…we have gained the stamina to pull out the peg. However, the key is believing that we actually can move forward. Without the hope and optimism we once had in the beginning, we will never, ever try. Do we believe we can?

 

Oftentimes, to believe in oneself requires the assistance of others. We need support! Others may need to hold up a mirror to us and show us just how strong we have become, and just how capable we really are. Sometimes we need to see someone else tied to a peg just like ours and yet have broken free…then in turn, they show us that it CAN be done.

 

It is noteworthy that this elephant that the traveler came across, was all alone, without any other elephants around…he was isolated. Sometimes, in our struggles, we tend to isolate ourselves…DON’T!

We absolutely need the support of others to keep on mustering up our optimism and hope!

 

 The support of others in our same situation, and with pegs of their own, is vital…as vital as breath is to life and therefore breathes life back into our attitude and keeps the discouragement from getting the best of us.

 

Can we see with our minds eye, pulling the peg out of the ground? We may always carry with us the rope and peg, as it may always be attached to us, and then again it could fall off as we keep moving forward…Nevertheless…

 

Keep moving forward!

Never, ever give up!

“I cannot die!!! – and yet, I’m killing myself…” by: Kimberly Larochelle

“I cannot die!!! – and yet, I’m killing myself…”
 
If you have a child or children on the Autism Spectrum, I just hit a cord with you, didn’t I?  You understand this sentiment as well as I do and you think it everyday, you feel it with every fiber of your being, and you suffer with the inner struggle constantly.  It is the greatest oxymoron in the world, isn’t it? 
My child needs me…I am their only true advocate, and yet…
 
What would happen to my child if I was not here tomorrow…
Who would take care of them…
Would they know how…
Would they love them as I do…
Would they understand them as I do…and on, and on, and on…the questions the worries the stress!
 
The amazing amount of therapies, diets, and time spent to work, help, and advocate our child on the Autism Spectrum is staggering indeed.  It always seems like never enough as this frame of mind and heart plagues us constantly.  As we struggle, we kill ourselves, don’t we?  We kill ourselves, because we neglect ourselves.  We are not the priority…our child is!  Right!?  Of course they are!!! 
 
I will never forget speaking to a tearful mom one night at a support group meeting.  As we spoke, her hands trembled, and her eyes filled with tears that never stopped streaming down her cheeks.  She told me of her many struggles with her son, her marriage troubles, her woe-full journey, and of her many serious health concerns with her own health.  She was in her early 20’s and already had high blood pressure along with a thyroid condition, and if that wasn’t enough, she had started having heart palpitations with major anxiety issues.
 
Heartbreaking!!!  And she is not alone is she?  This situation is most common among parents with children on the autism spectrum.  We can’t imagine dying and leaving our child without us…and yet we “kill” ourselves everyday as we neglect ourselves and our health. 
 
Think of this scenario: Our child has an accident, they are bleeding profusely and time is of the essence.  We call an ambulance, and they arrive quickly.  However, on the way to the hospital, the ambulance breaks down, and because our child did not get to the hospital in time, they bleed out and sadly die.  This is a horrible situation, and what is worse, we find out that the ambulance broke down BECAUSE it did not get proper and routine maintenance! 
 
This story hits home doesn’t it?  I know for me personally, it hit me square between the eyes!  We ARE the ambulance, my fellow parents and advocates!  Our child’s life and well-being depends squarely on us NOT “breaking down”.  We HAVE to get proper and routine maintenance for THEM…
 
It may be hard to think of ourselves, and put ourselves first, but if we think of the airline oxygen demonstration it will help.  “Always put on your oxygen mask first…you cannot help your child if you lose consciousness or die.”  Therefore, we think of ourselves and take care of ourselves for the sake of our child.  In that way our child will get the best care from us and isn’t that what he or she deserve?  Isn’t it what we would demand that they receive from any doctor or medical facility?  Demand this quality of service from yourself, by taking care of YOU!!!
 
YOU are the most important person to your child so give them your best and live long and healthy…they want and need you to take good care of YOU…
 
by:  Kimberly Larochelle

Did the “Flu” Cause My Child’s Autism??? By: Kimberly Larochelle

Yesterday the news headlines were all about the latest study into the cause of Autism.  The findings of this particular study was very large and looked at 93,000 children!  The study found that mothers that reported having the “Flu” during their pregnancy were at least  twice as likely to have a child with autism as those who didn’t report having the flu.

 

So, what do you think???

 

I know in the case of my own child, this study really hit a nerve as I did have the flu when I was pregnant with him and he is my only child out of 4 that is on the Autism Spectrum.  My other 3 are not at all, and I did not have the flu with any of their pregnancies.  Coincidence or an Autism Factor???   For many other moms that I have spoken to, this is not the case at all, and they never got the flu during pregnancy.  So then, what caused their child’s autism?

 

We then are back to the mystery…“What causes Autism?”

 

***Could it be just one thing or a number of factors?

***Is it Environmental or Genetic?

***Do Vaccines cause Autism?

 

The questions are vast, and there are many answers, however, for our particular child, which answers fit our questions?  This is up to you, and your child depends on you to find that answer. 

Here is the news report that inspired me to write this article, and at the same time inform as many as possible of any and all possibilities of an answer to Autism Spectrum.  Spread the word!  Please watch!  Inform and arm yourselves  with knowledge in order to fight as the ultimate advocate for your child!

ABC World And Local News – Headlines – Yesterday…

  Autism – New Study Links “Flu” to Autism!

ABC Action News, Linda Hurtado interviews Dr. Nelson Mane’

Link to News Story:

http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/health/tampa-experts-on-new-study-linking-flu-druing-pregnancy-with-autism

 

YOLO… “You Only Live Once”, What Does That Mean to You? By: Kimberly Larochelle

It is the latest in casual slang, “YOLO”, meaning “You only live once”.  Most of us don’t think twice and use it quite frequently as it musters courage and spontaneity with regard to our lives and making the most of it…because, of course, you only live once…

However, this term takes on a whole different meaning when thinking of our society of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and if we have a child on the spectrum, what does it mean for you as their parent.  This life, the one that we only live once…What is it like for them???  As far as it is up to us as parents, of course we want it to be the best it can be.  A life that is full of happiness and laughter, and one with a bright future as well.  This love and resolve for our children is what drive us isn’t it?  Never has there been a greater quest and never has there been a harder one!  Nevertheless, we take this challenge open armed, and without hesitation!

Why?

Because we love our children more than life itself, and there is no one…and I mean NO ONE that knows them and loves them like we do, and are willing to go to the great lengths that we must go in order to ensure their happiness and well being.  Keeping in mind our children, parents, especially those of ASD children have these letters stamped on our minds and hearts at all times…OCOLO – “Our Children Only Live Once”.  This is the driving force isn’t it…the one that keeps us going…looking, searching, scratching, and fighting the fine fight for our children!

It is quite a fight too and many times we fight alone.  We face an uphill battle, because society and medicine as a whole have not caught up with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  While they may be trying, there are many roadblocks in their way.  Things like funding research, politics, greed, and narrow minds.  While these may be as boulders in the road, they do not stop the parent who is driven by heartfelt confidence that there is hope for ASD and therefore HOPE for our child!  There is nothing, no nothing that will stand in the way of that! 

Give us a mountain…and just watch us climb it!!! 

After all… YOLO!!!

 

 

Beyond Our Own Backyards… by: Kimberly Larochelle

From his book, “How to win friends and influence people”, Dale Carnegie wrote this, “Most people care more about the pimple on their backside, than in World Hunger.”  Shocking statement isn’t it?  However he made this statement not to make us all feel like selfish, egotistical louses, but to make a strong and clear point about how we as humans connect with things.  In other words, to look beyond our own backyards and truly empathize with a person or situation, we must experience their situation, or at the very least, look at it with our own eyes and heart.  Remember the old saying, “Walk a mile in my shoes…”

Recently, I had the experience of moving to another city, thus transplanting myself and my family “beyond my backyard” and beyond my beloved hometown.  Even though I know well of Autism Spectrum and have written many times of the alarming statistics on a world-wide scale, I was amazed at meeting  new neighbors and many new acquaintances in my new city that were personally touched by Autism Spectrum too!  There has not been even a day that I have not seen a puzzle-piece ribbon bumper sticker, a business card promoting an Autism Support Group, a parent struggling with their child of the spectrum in a store, or even meeting a new neighbor and her little boy affected with ASD. 

In my mind of course, I knew this was the situation everywhere and the prevalence of ASD is in “Everyone’s Backyard”, nevertheless, I have seen beyond to other backyards with my own eyes, heard their heartbreaking stories with my own ears, and thus have been affected with their situations in my own heart as well.   The horizon is far, it is wide, and it is endless!  May it never be the case that we are short-sighted in our own minds and in our own hearts.

As we go on living from day to day, keep in mind that you belong to a very large group of people just like yourself.  They struggle, they scream, they cry, and they search for answers just like you.  The fact that we are all living in the “Information Age”, and with the Internet at our fingertips does help us to see beyond our backyards a little easier, and makes our outlook a bit broader.  Keep in mind however, that while we can be benefiting others in a variety of backyards far and wide, we cannot truly sympathize with their particular situation, as we may be the same in many ways, yet different. 

Understanding and empathizing with one another is something we can become experts at however, and becoming a good neighbor amidst our vast array of backyards, thus supporting in a very helpful and personal way each other, as we have “walked the mile…or two…in these shoes”, these shoes of Autism.

Kim Larochelle 

 

 

Autism Study Links to Obesity in Pregnancy

A new research study at the University of California suggests that women who were obese during pregnancy were about 67 percent more likely than normal-weight women to have children with autism. They also faced double the risk of having children with other developmental delays.

 

The study involved about 1,000 California children, ages 2 to 5. Nearly 700 had autism or other developmental delays, and 315 did not have those problems.

“This is quite a concern”, said Tampa’s own Dr. Nelson Mane’, “especially with regard to the rates with which Obesity is increasing in our society, including pregnant mothers.”

More than one-third of U.S. women of child-bearing age are obese.

Since the CDC’s recent statistics on Autism rates increased to 1 in 88 chance of having a child with autism; the results suggest that obesity during pregnancy would increase that to a 1 in 53 chance.

 “There are many risks factors that have been linked with Autism, including genetics, premature birth, jaundice, maternal and paternal age, etc. however this particular risk factor of Obesity during pregnancy can be avoided and controlled by maintaining a healthy weight and diet during pregnancy”, adds Dr. Mane’.

When it comes down to any and all risk factors that may contribute to Autism and our children it is imperative to take note and take all necessary precautions.  Their successful future and ours depends on it!

That was “Yesterday…” By: Kimberly Larochelle

There is an old song and part of the chorus is this:  “But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.”  Yesterday, I wrote of some very sad and alarming news, and the title was: “Yesterday 3/29/12 – CDC says Autism is 1 in 88!!!”  But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone…

 

I also wrote sadly, that these staggering statistics have almost doubled since the CDC began tracking these numbers, a shocking fact that was brought out by the organization, Autism Speaks.  But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone…

 

Then as my tears fell, I tried to type the terrible truth that now, yes now, Autism has been declared an “Epidemic” in the United States.  As I sigh, I think…But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone…

 

I gasped and could barely fathom as I read the report of 1 million children that are now affected with Autism.  And, I scream for the relief of these children and their suffering families…But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone…

 

The anger, the shock, the deep sadness, were all but yesterday, and yesterday’s gone…

Gone?!

Yesterday’s gone perhaps…nonetheless…this news is gut wrenching and a day that will never be forgotten.  However, what needs to be gone, as gone as yesterday, is the paralyzing shock that comes to us when we receive news such as this.  What needs to be gone is any feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

 

Lets use this bad news for good shall we…Lets use it as a springboard to spring us into action and do something to stop this gushing wound that is the epidemic of Autism.  Don’t let yesterday discourage you from continuing to move forward!  Don’t let yesterday stop you from continuously cultivating in yourself “hope”!  Do not let yesterday be forgotten…But at the same time, always remember…Yesterday’s gone!!!

 

Let’s all work hard to make our future “Yesterdays”…better for our children…then as we look back on those yesterday’s…We’ll smile in our hearts, as we say to ourselves:

 

“But that was yesterday…and yesterday’s gone”.