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Oh Chattanooga of our dreams!!!

The Ambassador of Autism Tourism made it to this incredible town one more time… Yep, we could not stay away for long…

She conquered… She surrendered to the marvels of Chattanooga

We had to… The town screams take me, I’m all yours!

How? Why?

The Passage – Water Fall Stairs!

When you have a 10 year old, full of energy, curious yet also with fears… Chattanooga will delight and appease.

Chattanooga will entertain and force you to discover.

I’ve said it before… Nature is the force that drives this incredible town. It guides the interaction a family can create in its open spaces.

A family with a child or adult with diverse abilities can find its little corner or take over every open space it offers.

I will insist… Just own your experience. Plan A and B and C, etc is always a good idea — you know what your kids/adults can or can’t handle. Keep seeking quality of life — whether it is 5 minutes or 5 hours.

Our favorite stops this time:

Tennessee Aquarium

It has been Autism Certified – this means personnel has been trained and consideration, respect, tolerance, empathy is available to all…

The designers of these spaces get all my respect. What a great flow, how hands on everything is and the reminder we must take care of our environment is obvious everywhere.

The Ambassador can show anxiety in new spaces, with new sounds. We are so proud of her… today, it was all welcomed, handled, survived, enjoyed. Many factors were at play – she’s older, she had previous activities to release anxiety (IMAX Theater, pipe cleaners craft and Orbeez) and we talked about it. She did it. She saw everything. She enjoyed it all – even those areas with intense sounds or enclosed spaces.

I’m a proud mom. This is why I strongly urge all of you to visit this spectacular place stat!!!!

  • Sensory Bag

Chattanooga Autism Center

  • This powerful organization in partnership with the Tennessee Aquarium gave free tickets for families to enjoy a movie in the IMAX Theatre and access to the River and Ocean Journeys of the Aquarium! Beyond thankful we are!
  • The cute mouse – Cheesey – made with pipe cleaners – provided hours of entertainment and incredible stories will be told about its valiant approach to life!
  • Creative Discovery Museum – we plan to be there soon!! Was present with a great hands on activity!

Puckett’s

We love their pulled pork!!!

Always good and jovial service… Tasty comfort food. Close to everything. And Cheesey was the star!

Walnut St Bridge

In the heart of it all… So much to offer. Limitless beauty!

Thomais witnessed an accident on the bridge – something her brain had never seen in real life. She was impressed. Shocked. She wanted to help. There were many details that had to be explained – several times!

Exposing our kids to real life is a must. Explaining what can occur. What the expectations are is our obligation as parents. Keep it simple or be as detailed as you need to be. But keep the communication lines open.

 

Riverwalk and The Passage – Water Fall Stairs

 

Our day ended with peace, calm, delight, wonderment and many questions… Beyond thankful!!

When can we return? Why is this place so special? Yes, at times it feels magnetic and you want more…

On the road back home…  a distant rainbow…

the reminder we must keep dreaming and making it all happen…  Why? Because it is possible… Thank you Chattanooga…

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WE ARE ALL ART – Exhibit

Join Borderless Arts Tennessee and the Teapot Diplomats during the Opening of the Exhibit “WE ARE ALL ART”!

Thomais painting “DREAMS OF BRAZIL” will join the creations of countless marvels with diverse abilities.

Get your tickets here


Thu, October 4, 2018
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM CDT

LOCATION
Hotel Preston
733 Briley Parkway
Nashville, TN 37217

 

  • All paintings are for sale. Money for the sale of Thomais’s piece will be donated to Borderless Arts Tennessee.
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LOVE HAS NO LIMITS series!

Our presence in our relatives’ lives exerts a variety of influences…

The majority is positive as we all learn to handle, address, enjoy, discover, try to understand the diagnosis of autism and its nuances.

Our move to Tennessee has brought forth intense emotions and the reaffirmation that changes keep life vibrant – even when the challenges remain.

My brother is an example of facing the music and finding delight in life and all the love we have towards each other. He opened the doors to his life to us… wanting to be a part of Thomais’ growth and positive influences. As the days pass, the reaffirmation that the love of family has no limits is clearer than ever.

Charlie is an innate artist. Even at this stage of his life where his vision can be problematic (he does not distinguish colors!!).

And Thomais’ pace, flow, way of doing things inspire him to create a series of paintings called

LOVE HAS NO LIMITS!

Ballerinas move and flow in a space and the movement produces hearts.

This is how we decide to go about life.

We’ll move.

We’ll flow.

We’ll keep producing hearts and loving without limits.

 

  • Commissions are accepted – to inquire email: autismhappykingdom@gmail.com

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Let’s follow Ghana’s example!

I do not cease to be amazed by the brilliance and resilience demonstrated in so called (incorrectly) third world countries.

Presently, the country of Ghana has an incredible group of mothers (some fathers) who knock on all doors to guarantee future educators have the opportunity to listen about autism and the needs of their kids – – based on their reality!

This is one novel concept and one such group is the Special Mothers Project in Ghana. I have interacted with Mary Amoah, the incredible and power house mom of Nana Yaa. Nana is now a teen, on the autism spectrum, non-verbal. Their experiences in the last 15 years led Mary to pursue advocacy at its maximum level and share the many lessons learned with the upcoming number of parents raising children on the spectrum.

But, the main goal is to educate future teachers about autism and what their children actually need.

From what I understand, in Ghana (or the United States) there are no University courses educating about the academic and social needs of students on the autism spectrum. This is where Mary and her Special Mothers come in.

These super heroes have surpassed the  boundaries of bureaucracy and nepotism and have convinced academic leaders to open the doors to offer workshops to future and current teachers — yes, parents educating teachers to be about autism and learning how to learn — regardless of behaviors and countless challenges the diagnosis presents.

I mega applaud them. They have succeeded.

University settings in Ghana acknowledge they need to transmit a variety of messages to the future educators of their country. They also realize autism prevalence in their classrooms and the lack of trained educators. They realize they do not know what autism is all about and it is advantageous to work with those surviving it every day.

Say it with me… The PARENTS!!!

Why do I write about this?

I will continue to write to all universities in the USA requesting similar projects become a part of the curriculum of education.

These experiences shall determine how prepared teachers will be when reaching the classroom and realizing that 10+ of 25 students are capable of learning  but need to be taught differently.

Right now, the United States must replicate projects like the Special Mothers Project in Ghana.

What have I done?

Below find the letters sent to the Departments of Education of various universities in Florida.

Only one university responded – UCF.

We have not had the opportunity to meet.

I urge all of you to send similar or completely different emails to these individuals. They need to hear from all of us.

Changes will only take place this way. Books and researchers cannot be the only way future educators shall learn about autism and its realities.

We the parents shall always be a part of this equation.

 

———- Forwarded message ———
From: YADIRA CALDERON <racayadi@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, May 3, 2018, 11:26 PM
Subject: Fwd: My daughter speaks… Teachers in Florida…
To: <Brindley@usf.edu>, <dnull@usf.edu>, <mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu>, <ggood@coe.ufl.edu>, <pamela.carroll@ucf.edu>, <wsecada@miami.edu>, <heithaus@fiu.edu>

 

Greetings

Representatives of Education in Florida

I have a simple request…

Please read this email carefully.

My daughter and I are ready to meet with you to discuss the reality of many in Florida’s schools.

Our basic need…

Better training of future teachers.

What is being taught and highlighted does not reflect what the system is and prioritizes or what the actual needs of the students are.

Particularly, students with a variety of diagnosis who need Multisensory methodology so they can be taught how to learn.

Many parents end up investing in tutors outside of the school system in order to see our children reading, writing at grade level.

Additionally, teachers to be need sensitivity training to avoid situations like the ones described below.

Yes, I am the kind of parent the school system does not like because I give less praise and do more complaints.

My daughter and her needs represent money to the school. These funds are not properly used and federal law is being violated.

But you know this.

I welcome the opportunity to meet.

Thank you for your time.

Yadira Calderon and Thomais Moshopoulos

Palm Harbor FL

Read about us here…

Www.autismhappykingdom.com

I was a featured guest in a WEDU PBS broadcast

Wedu.org/autism

 

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AUTISM AND MARRIAGE (PARENT PERSPECTIVE)

By Yadira V. Calderon and S.A.

I was too innocent or dumb to realize what happens on TV and the theater does not always happen in real life.

Disney, Hollywood and social media have distorted my perception of real life.

The princess marrying the prince after he rescues her and living happily ever after is not true for many.

I’ve shared my thoughts with a friend and we stress the fact that highlighting the delusion of living a Disney life is VERY different from the perceptions of what represents a good stable marriage. Yes, what many consider the obvious… that world of smiles, comprehension, agreement, dreams being fulfilled, knowing that it takes a lot of work, full support at all times and commitment.

We both agreed, those who do not have a good understanding of the commitment of marriage – with all its possible definitions – may resort to the fairy tale world presented by Disney, Hollywood movies and social media. And we have seen how resilience is not sought and their lives are full of stress, they are in debt and they are never happy with the simple things life can offer.

On the other hand after living in 6 countries and traveling to another 27, I  met many couples who live the ups and downs of marriage, parenting, never ending love, commitment, responsibility, full support.

I always asked:

“How do you do it?”

They answered:

“We made the decision to be together. To be there for each other. No matter what.”

I  told them: “My respect. Keep us inspired. Your story is just like most Disney movies, but real.”

I am relieved I experienced this marvel. I consider this a feat and it should be admired and respected. I got an introduction to the basic tools that may be needed to have a successful marriage.

I could not say anything else. I did not grow up with a mom and a dad raising us. I did not grow up witnessing a husband and a wife making it happen, being at ease with each other, even in the midst of an argument.

Yes, I had discovered that stable couples also have arguments. They have the maturity to confront the situation. Handle the differences. Respect each other’s opinion. Just get along.

And I did not have the opportunity to experience this…

Now… let’s move forward. Let’s add key elements to the princess and prince story…

It’s time to spice this up!!

We all know a couple has strengths and weaknesses.

The problem is… both insist on not accepting the good and the bad of the relationship. For many reasons, their weaknesses become the priority in what is supposed to be a partnership. They keep comparing their life to the Disney movies. Plus, now they have children.

The water in the pot begins to boil because unlike the Disney or Hollywood movies, their children have special needs.

And they quickly discover…

Their children are not accepted by the majority of the population.

Their children are not integrated in schools.

Their children are not considered worthy of an education.

Their children are bullied.

Their children add stress to the marriage.

Their children are not cared for by both parents.

One or both parents do not accept the children with special needs.

One of the parents becomes abusive towards the partner or the children.

One of the parents wants to keep living the single life.

One of the parents rejects the commitment and responsibility.

One of the parents ignores the needs of the family.

One of the parents seeks sex, comfort and care outside of the marriage.

One of the parents leaves.

One of the parents ignores whatever good examples of stable marriages he/she may have witnessed growing up and insists on living life like Disney, Hollywood or social media dictate.

In some families, the parents decide to stay together, live separate lives and present a “united” front for the children and society while experiencing horrendous moments – harmful for all.

What I’ve described above is happening in countless households raising children with special needs.

This is happening in all socio-economic groups. Money and race do not guarantee marriage stability.

Not even age can provide assurance that a couple will remain together.

No doubt, there are many families that have both mom and dad caring for and living life regardless of the challenges presented by the diagnosis.  But in the world I live in, these are becoming less and less.

These are difficult times we live in.

These are times where common sense does not prevail.

I have not seen one single family succeeding in reuniting after going through therapy.

I do not have answers to this dilemma.

I read the scientific research and I find it unrealistic, not fitting the unwritten equation of what life is about in a household raising/caring for a child/teen/adult with severe autism, with behavior crisis, aggressive, wearing diapers (teen and adults), not being capable of handling social situations, sick, with organ failure, not having access to a variety of services that could provide some respite and worse, not having the financial resources to pay for respite.

And we all know, there aren’t enough organizations or funds that could actually support the high numbers of families needing help.

What to do?

Join me and break loose your dependence on Disney, Hollywood and social media.

Shatter their myth of marriage…

Demand shows and movies that will provide answers…

Shows that will make you say…

“Wow, that’s exactly how I’ve lived it. It’s been tough. I’m surviving. Others have it easier or tougher than I do.”

How can you help?

Let’s keep the dialogue open.

Let’s support each other.

Help us create TV or movies that are relatable, realistic, at times crude, not distorted…

I had many questions and I organized a parent panel –

Special Needs and Marriage (a parent perspective)

Read the useful posts in the link above.

 

Art by Thomais Moshopoulos –  Weddings of Love – 2018

My daughter is living the consequences of our family separating six years ago. It has not been easy.

She can now express how she feels about it. Her art always tells me what she wants and how damaging Disney and Hollywood can be — it is not always like this!!  But, I remain calm.

I explain to her the basics of relationships. She’s 10 after all and she has tons to learn. I believe in keeping her safe, loved and exposed to a variety of experiences that will in the future help her make wise decisions.

I’ll keep trying.