Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I edited this book, and I'm proud, but I already got paid -- so I'm just purely wanting to share a fantastic introductory book for those of you who'd like to learn some basics around autism - or who have people you'd like to enlighten:
 First Steps: Understanding Autism
You can purchase this book HERE

The author is a neurodiverse person with neurodiverse children, and her perspective is inclusive and wise. She's also written a memoir, which I've just begun to read and am enjoying immensely; I am especially relating to what it feels like to grow up "different" and raise kids who are "different," too. As she notes, so much work on autism comes from allistic people, and there's much to be said for work on neurodiversity from neurodiverse perspectives! 
Full Spectrum Mama

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Third Anniversary Lists IV: The Complaint Department

Welcome to the Complainable COMPLAINTS of 2015. I am your guest host of this blog post, Partial/incomplete Monochrome Persona, or PiMP. Full Spectrum Mama usually takes the free time afforded her by my guest posts to sleep and grade and eat the necessary chocolate to prepare to teach long, hopefully non-boring philosophy lectures travel to exotic locales where she combines saintly deeds with sybaritic indulgences. So here we are, just you and me, dear reader…ready?

Almost a year ago, following 2014’s COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT, PiMP got a COMPLAINT for apologizing to a Complainant about something cruddy in their life. This Complainant argued that such soothing and comforting hogwash was not PiMP’s way and I agree. Here, COMPLAINTS are about being heard -- not being answered sweetly  or fixed, especially when THE COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT (TCD) is only officially open one day a year (on the 32nd of Nevruary).

This year, your COMPLAINTS are all jumbled together, from pathos to bathos, giggles to grumpers, from COMPLAINTS about difference to COMPLAINTS about conformity to COMPLAINTS about, well, shopping…

We accept ALL acceptable COMPLAINTS here at TCD, and then we COMPLAIN them; although sometimes, people, you should stop flapping at the jib in public.


* Let us begin with a deceptively innocuous COMPLAINT from FSM herself, who has shared many of her COMPLAINTS in previous posts, although she is saving up some doozies: I could be doing any kind of housework and the kids are nowhere to be seen but the instant I reach into my secret [medically-necessary] candy stash  -- “What are you doing, mom?” – here they come!

* My complaint is I am too overly busy to complain.

* Online adoption groups that act all surprised that people are curious about inter-racial families.

* This. Winter.

* In dealing with the oh so numerous challenges of adult life (single parenting, chronic illness, work stress, etc.), as the parent of a child on the spectrum, I am held to an absurdly high standard.  Spectrum-y kids use their parents as a barometer, often co-regulating off of us, so we can never, ever lose it, or even falter a little, without throwing a wrench into an already challenging situation.
(NB: Neither Full Spectrum Mama nor PiMP wrote the above COMPLAINT?!)

 * Some special angel who has a son with Sensory Processing Differences sent PiMP an entire LIST of COMPLAINTS – MWAH!
Complaint #1: I HATE that he bites his hand. It drives me CRAZY!!!
Complaint #2: I HATE that he hits our puppy when he gets mad at her. She is a puppy and when she chews on something of his or tries to steal his food, he hits her causing her to go into attack mode.
Complaint #3: I HATE that he jumps up and down, biting his hand and holding onto his sister's head. Oh...and she hates that too.
Complaint #4: I HATE that we have no OT services in our area and have to try and make time to do all of it at home (except for the 30 minutes per week through the school district).
Complaint #5: I HATE how I feel like I am ridiculed for my parenting skills.
Complaint #6: I HATE unsolicited advice.
Complaint #7: My biggest complaint is that I still don't know or completely understand all of his triggers and what will send him into meltdown mode.

* My biggest complaint is the school system in ignoring undiagnosed children who have obvious learning disabilities, and blowing them off

* Family/"Family"

* Competitive Parenting

* The magnetic force that draws children/husbands toward their mother/wife when said mother/wife most wants to be alone.

* The crust that forms on maple syrup bottles after a few weeks and makes it impossible to close the cap all the way.

* Not having time to head outside to enjoy that heartachingly beautiful hour between 2-3pm on a sunny winter afternoon.

* Not being able to prevent pine needles from getting everywhere when you take the Christmas tree out, and having to do it anyway.

* Mucus. The sidewalks and stairs to and from my workplace, restaurants and shopping areas are all dappled with glistening puddles of sluggy oysters in such concentration that it's nearly impossible to preserve ones shoes.  Men of the earth:  it should not be news that this makes you more a vector of viral plague than a testosterone bomb.  I am not convinced of your genetic superiority by the volume of sputum you produce.  Furthermore, It is uncivilized to leave a trail of bodily fluids in your wake.  Please knock it off. Just swallow it already.  Keep your contagion to yourself.

* Husbands who are so Modern/Liberated that they don't mind their wives bringing in most of the income.

* People who stop their cars to force you to jaywalk on their terms. Dear Driver:  My skilled sense of timing was finely honed by the great city of Boston.  I am not a squirrel.  I need neither your permission nor your help.  So, piss off.  I'll cross when I feel like it.

* I hate oatmeal. I hate it. Every morning. Healthy. Disgusting. Hate hate oatmeal.

* People who say "no problem" instead of thank you , or you are welcome.  This isn't new, and it is getting worse!

* My son with Asperger's is just starting to understand the subtleties, ups and downs, and fluidity of friendship.  I am thrilled -- that's not my complaint.  My complaint is that he is looming on the cusp of puberty, and the rules he has worked so hard to learn and understand are about to start changing and shifting at a crazy fast rate. I don't think he can keep up.  Not only that, but before he got the hang of friendship, he wouldn't have cared.  The double-edged sword of helping my kid to a higher functioning level is that now he will notice and care more when he is not successful.

* I hate it when you are paying for something and the cashier asks you if you would also like "something else." Why would you?  Or asks u if you want to contribute to the supermarket charity? No I want to pay for my @/&;@$ item.

* Not enough snow [flag: unacceptable COMPLAINT]

* Non-stop Christmas music -
All day,
24 hrs.
Including the Salvation Army ringing the bell before Thanksgiving and you feel guilty because they are nice to you.

* Supermarkets don't want to double bag and the managers come over to tell the staff not to and the bags are thinner than ever.

* Men's bathrooms run out of soap all the time and how are the employees washing their hands?

* Professional offices where they have the large TVs on with news blaring.

* When you buy newspapers and they have all the ads and flyers in them, or when you buy a magazine and they have all those subscription things in them, and they all fall out.

* Cereal boxes that are hard to open inside and you rip them and the cereal explodes.

* I think we should find the person who invented the halogen headlight for automobiles, strap him to a chair, tape his eyelids open & force him to witness the birth of a star... From six feet away.  Because that's what my drive home is like.

* Having my early morning time (that I only take once in a blue moon) invaded by breakfast needing children would certainly be high on the list if I was compiling it today.

* Parenting a special needs child can put a hell of a lot of strain on a romantic relationship.  Mine didn't survive it (the relationship, I mean -- the kid is thriving).  Undoubtedly, there were other reasons the relationship fell apart, and I will never regret putting my children first, and parenting my children is the most important thing I have ever done -- but I just needed to complain about how hard on a relationship it can sometimes be to parent these wonderful, challenging, different kids.

* My friend received her new “County Gardens Magazine” on 3/13, while I received mine several days later.

* You are the only parent at every school event, every meeting every everything. Your ex calls during one such event – an event you have notified him of several times even though you yourself only know about it from investigation and hearsay – and leaves a message saying he just got your message and nobody ever tells him anything and so naturally he is not at said event, because it is your fault. Because, you know, he is very special and should be sought out and personally informed by both you and your child’s large, urban school, of every event that might interest him.
Then your kid asks if he can call his father, so of course you say yes. He tells his father, “Sorry you were unable to make it. I love you.” And gets off the phone. Then your kid says, “Isn’t dad awesome?” And you crack: “You know who’s awesome?” you say, “the person who drives you everywhere, who attends every event you have ever been part of, every meeting, every school supply trip, every, everything. And you know who else is awesome? the kid who forgives someone who lets him down! THAT is who is awesome!”
Later, you say. “Yes, honey, your dad is awesome.” And your kid says, “You used to think he was awesome, didn’t you?” and you say, “When I married him I did, but…and I still do. And he loves you very much.”

* With three sons I worry about each one having the same struggles the oldest one has. It took until he was in middle school for him to get a diagnosis.

* Dear Complaint Dept.,

I have diarrhea.  And I am at work.  Every time I run to the loo and attempt to achieve a modicum of relief, two people walk in.  I’m outraged, bloated, embarrassed and lurching.

Thank you,
Crappy Complainer

* People are so in search of acceptance and approval.

This concludes the COMPLAINTS for 2015.

It’s never too early to begin feeling outraged for 2016 – so bear in mind that while TCD is rarely open per se, COMPLAINTS are always being reviewed for possible acceptability at

Partial/incomplete Monochrome Persona

Guest writer/Troubleshooter @ Full Spectrum Mama

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


This month, for the Sensory Blog Hop, I thought I’d keep it light. Well, at least as light as it is possible to be when certain things that other people barely notice can make you completely nuts. Those tiny crumbs of cheese or vegetable dust from eating any sort of snack food that has a tasty coating (my favorites are Pirate’s or Veggie Booty; this category also includes Smartfood, Cheetos, Cheez Doodles…) that get on my hands make me CRAZY.

Here are some similar things I am actively choosing NOT to write about, or even think about, beyond this paragraph: unidentified particles on bare feet (there’s a long-told story in my family of how I stepped into a small puddle of water in the kitchen once and screamed. Well…yeah. Right?); seeing Booty Crumbs on someone else’s hands (shudder). This latter is a particular issue as my son falls on the strongly not-noticing Booty Crumbs (or any schmutz, anywhere) end of the Spectrum.

I imagine – the operative word being imagine – that a “normal” response to Booty Crumbs would be to notice a mild dust on your digits and brush it off or calmly wait until you have a chance to wash your hands. As in, not be completely consumed by the awareness thereof?

                                                      Figure I – Booty Crumbs, Typical

That’s not an option for me. The surface of the skin is an information-rich field. When I have Booty Crumbs, I can feel them (whispery, tickly, dirty), smell them (cheesysour), see them (ew! Scandalous!), taste them (still in my mouth, but also from smelling), even hear them (that oily-dusty sound)…Consequently, if I have Booty Crumbs, I cannot stop thinking about said Booty Crumbs.

                                             Figure II – Booty Crumbs, Sensory Sensitive

Like anyone, I like to eat a nice snack of cheesy or vegetal goodness. The various Booty snack foods are a common part of our family snacking habits. Yet how can I function when there are Booty Crumbs? I cannot.

But! I have the answer! Being a bit slow on the uptake, largely because I am often overwhelmed by feelings and environment, it has taken me, ohhhh, 45 years to, first, realize why I felt so discombobulated every time I had a snack of this sort, and, then, to come up with a solution: “drink” my snacks out of a cup.

Happy snacking – and please do check out the links below.


Full Spectrum Mama

P.S. I didn't receive any compensation or incentive from the snack company that makes Pirate’s and Veggie Booty, I just thought Booty Crumbs sounded better than Cheez Doodle Crumbs as a title – AND this is the snack food I actually eat, because I am crunchy.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Third Anniversary Lists III: Choosing your Battles

Does anybody else obsess over self-driven cars?

One of the battles I am most loath to contemplate is that with my son over driving.  As focused as G can be, he may be easily distracted, especially in unpredictable environments -- and his judgment and sense are “still developing.”  If those self-driven cars could just hurry up and become available and affordable, I could sidestep the whole thing!

There are a couple of other battles we are fighting here and now, though, reducing the free time I have to think about future technological developments. I do this particular yearly list because it’s a handy format to share some insights from the last year’s struggles. While there have been a number of individuals and institutions that the Full Spectrums might’ve considered deserving of a nice smack with the hateball bat this year, I am going to stick with the positive, dedicating this post as usual to stuff you can try at home.

The critical differences between my children – my son is autistic, socially-awkward and very open-hearted; my daughter was adopted from china and has an attachment disorder; she is very savvy, and kind of a tough cookie – necessitate a lot of soul-searching in terms of how to best parent each/both. Parenting these two very distinct persons may (best case scenario) help me see what sorts of parenting strategies might work with a variety of children.

Here are some battle-choosing tips for my FULL spectrum:

1.      BOTH children benefit from Tackling One Task or Trait at a Time. I have found it’s better to monitor/learn something specific like “making the bed” over a more broad category such as “neatness.” The way that I CHOOSE which tasks or traits are addressed rests on which skills and traits will be most necessary to their lives as they grow up. With G, my choices tend toward practical skills and self-disciplines that will allow him to live independently; with Z, I tend to focus on skills and traits that encourage her to “grow the good,” to feel safe and secure enough to be kind and generous.

2.      (Try to) Be Consistent and Patient. Once you’ve chosen a battle, stick with it. It can take a loooooong time for habits to become ingrained. I am still working with G on “making bed,” while with Z it took a few days. Consistency is key – and a challenge to maintain on top of everything else…

If you are like me, you get t-i-r-e-d. Sometimes you may need to take a break from enforcement and get back to it once you’ve recharged. You’ll know pretty quickly whether you’ve been at it long enough for something to become a true habit when you start that break.

3.      Find the Right Reward. Z’s pretty easy: food. For a long time I was using “common sense points” for G and “goodness points’ for Z, and when they reached a certain number they got to choose a reward. This worked really well with G -- so well that he chose to stop doing it “because I have so much common sense now.” But it was, I think, a little too vague for Z, who never seemed to get above 10, anyway. So now we have malted milk balls that Z gets when she listens in school:  Specific Goal (see 1) and the Right Reward (3). For G, gum and screen time are enticing rewards; he has a lot of Specifics to work on, though and I haven’t been as Consistent as I should…

(Oh, I’m sorry…was that new-mama-ME who vowed she would “never bribe her kids”??? Welcome to reality, my old friend.)

4.      Assuming you’ve truly chosen worthwhile battles, you’ll want to eventually find ways to make the battles you are trying to choose for your kids become Their Own. Transfer control to them eventually so that you won’t have to do whatever it is (making bed) or remind them of it (be kind!) FOREVER.

I see autonomy as an ultimate goal and challenge for G, since his neurology can make basic daily tasks a struggle (mostly in terms of simply remembering to do them).  So a big goal and challenge for me, then, is to help him see why he should and how he can take on practical skills.  

Helping Z develop her superego (that part of the self that has a conscience and promotes pro-social, ethical behavior), so that she will be kind and honest when I am not monitoring her, is also an “ongoing process.”

5.      This last battle is not a FULL spectrum issue, as Z is a voracious and completely un-picky eater. But G, as with many people on the spectrum and/or with sensory processing differences, would prefer to “live” on a diet consisting entirely of white, sweet, bland food.

So, here are the Food Battles We Choose:

a.       The “One ‘No’ Rule:” G is allowed to refuse one item at each meal.

Because he is by far the pickiest eater in the house, and the rest of us tend to eat all sorts of things, this seems reasonable.  On a given night, I may find myself picking spicy greens out of the mesclun, mushrooms out of the rice, eggplant out of the relish… before even presenting Himself with His dinner. Egg-zaust-ing. Now I allow one choice of a food that will not be on his plate; the rest is up to him as below:

b.      The “One Bite Rule” is the perfect corollary to 5.a. Sometimes it means at the very least that all the remaining foods offered will be tried, however reluctantly…Sometimes it actually leads to a changed opinion: one time, I made G try the romanesco cauliflower which had been his expected “no” choice and then, having decided he liked that better than expected, he chose not to eat the cooked bok choy.

Fascinating, I know, but the “One Bite Rule” does sometimes create such mini-revelations.

Coming up, the next Sensory Blog Hop plus… what you have all been waiting for!…the most popular, putrid post of the year! : THE COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT! FSM has been a smidge behind the ball these last few weeks and is very much still accepting last minute complaints at

Full Spectrum Mama

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Prosopagnosia! Prosopagnosia is one manifestation of Sensory Processing Differences wherein your brain doesn’t process faces in the standard way. It’s also known as face-blindness. And both G and I have it.

I didn’t realize how severe my prosopagnosia was until I moved to Vermont. Living in this state is harder for me, recognition-wise, for two reasons. First, the population is almost entirely white. Living in New York City and other more diverse, generally urban environs most of my life enabled me to identify people partly by skin color and hair texture. Second, there was a style factor in these cities which is, shall we say, not so much in play here: flamboyance of dress is not as common in Vermont as I’d like it to be – and not just because I can’t tell anyone apart. As my dear friend Fern once said when we were in graduate school at Columbia University – an environs that felt to us downtown denizens like a bastion of preppiness in the midst of a then-freaky New York City -- “I feel like a drag queen here.” Come to think of it, we need more drag queens in Vermont, too!

ANYway, in a state where most people are white and dress casually, sportily. I find myself frequently faced with a friendly person who knows me, and expects me to know him or her. Which I probably do. But not by face.

Oh and another thing: small towns. In small towns you don’t just see someone where they work or attend a specific activity with you, where you naturally might develop contextual identification. No…in a small town, you also run into them and are expected to recognize them IN OTHER PLACES.

                                             Figure I – Basic Distinctions – Weak to Strong Recognition

                                                    Figure II – Bonus Distinctions – Strong Recognition

None of these observations – from skin color to hair length or texture or color to age to gender identity…--- is a judgment for G or me (well, maybe style -but I celebrate style diversity!). We are generally much too engaged in attempting to navigate this neurotypical world to feel critical of others’ looks. Visual differences (there are others uncatalogued here that may be helpful: moles, glasses, braces…) are just ways to recognize people.

Once I get to know someone well, I am able to recognize them…most of the time. Certainly close-up! This is not the case for all people with prosopagnosia, some of whom are never able to recognize even their closest associates. G has thought other women were me from time to time, and continues to do so; only when he gets right in front of them is he able to see that he was mistaken. Disconcerting – but I get it. In fact, it was through watching G have some pretty notable encounters of this sort that I began to realize that I had the same tendency. Before this dawning, I’d been prone to wondering why I could not distinguish between most of the mothers at drop off (or their kids, or who went with whom…), but I’d just put it in my “quirky me” category, with a side of “pathetic.” Around the same time, there was a great article in the New Yorker by Oliver Sacks ****** on this very subject (which also goes into topographical agnosia – another form of visual agnosia [lit.: not-knowing] - that I also share, but, luckily, G does not), and I realized there was a name for what G and I were experiencing!

G realizes that he has this Sensory Processing Difference, and that it’s something I, too, deal with. He’s learned to check himself in this area, and he’ll often say, now, “…Is that? …No.” He’s become more careful over time of calling out to his peers unless he’s sure it’s the person he thinks it is, which, frequently, it is not.

As G grows, he will be able to develop tools for recognition and hone his skills in this area. As awareness grows, he’ll know his face-blindness is a sort of Sensory Processing Difference that is shared by many. He’ll figure out his own best Distinctions, recognition-wise – and never need to call himself “pathetic.”   

Full Spectrum Mama

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Dear Readers,

The Full Spectrums are moving. Given that we are a gang with a lot of feelings, a lot of stuff (where did it all come from????), and sensory and behavioral differences, there is PLENTY of “writing material” here. However, time to actually write is nonexistent, not to mention my pronounced lack of the necessary mental and physical energy for anything beyond the basics of mothering, my work, and moving.

Please bear with me while I post much, much less than I would like…

In just over a week, I will be publishing a Sensory Blog Hope post about face-blindness.

After that, as soon as possible, I will be writing my next Third Anniversary Post, “Choosing Your Battles.”

Full Spectrum Mama

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Third Anniversary Lists II: Attachment Disorders

[I apologize, again, for weird formatting - it seems to be stemming from my blogger template and I cannot seem to fix it without causing more problems...:( ]

During the bus portion  of the second leg of our mainland China adoption journey – from Nanchang Airport to Nanchang City – our guide, whom we called “Rose,” stood up in the front of our bus and announced “Girls from Jiangxi province are known for being beautiful. Oh – and your daughters are going to be VERY SPICY!”

Now, I don’t know so much about how little Ashley, Brooke and Jade turned out…And from what little I know they seemed to be coming along quite mildly…But I can assure you that Z [whose original Chinese name we kept] is most decidedly “spicy.”

The other day, she asked me, “Mama, why am I still so angry from being in an orphanage when that was so long ago?”

“I think part of it is that you are a really smart kid, who had a lot of feelings even at a very young age,” I told her, “and I think part of it is that you naturally have a strong temper!”

As with autism, if you’ve met one kid with an attachment disorder, you’ve met one kid with an attachment disorder. My Z would probably have been “spicy” no matter how she grew up. Still, some things tend to be shared by people who have attachment disorders, such as certain types of behavioral issues that may be otherwise uncommon. Attachment disorders in children often necessitate therapeutic parenting, which looks very different from “normal” parenting -- and was, for the Full Spectrums, a MAJOR revelation.  I’ve written every year on this specific topic to share our experiences and what we’ve learned. Here are the past two posts on this subject:

Here are some details on the three main strategies for attachment disorders that I have tried over the past year, restoring omniscience, channeling and venting:


To demonstrate the importance of this strategy, I offer this anecdote:

Full Spectrum Mama, having found Z in possession of something of questionable origin (i.e. not from known source and never seen before by FSM): “Where’d you get that?”

Full Spectrum daughter, Z: “In my room.”

FSM: “Well, I’ve never seen it before. So I am asking you where it came from.”

Z: [Blank.]

It’s that moment when your kid realizes you Don’t Know Everything. That moment gets more loaded when your child has an attachment disorder and the typical attachment disordered tendency to…appropriate things. LOTS of things.

The worst part of the blank non-reponse is, as several loved ones noted: Why not a better story? Something along the lines of “Someone gave it to me,” or, “I won it at school.”

Why not? Because I don’t even merit that! Anyway, she’s known for some time that if she gets too specific, her story may be refuted (see, most recently, new rhinestone hair-doodad collection, courtesy of “Ayi Fern”…”No! Full Spectrum Grandmother!”...”No…”).

Hence; “In my room.”

Back in the day when I could be convincing in my omniscience I was able to coax the truth out of Z. Then we could make things right by returning things whence they came and making amends. I would say, “In five minutes, I will give you a chance to tell the truth about that,” and, in five minutes, she would. Then we would figure out a solution.

We are entering a new realm now.

I have only one hope for a way out without getting professional help: RESTORE OMNISCIENCE. Just today, Z asked me, “Mama, can you fry stewed meat?”

“Why on earth would you ask me that? You know I am vegetarian…Oh, wait…because I…know everything?”

The response was something between an eye roll and a nod.

Sigh. I’ll be…in my room.

So let’s say OMNISCIENCE isn’t happening right now. What are some alternatives?

This may be a bit trial-and-error, but I have found that CHANNELLING disordered behaviors, especially compulsive ones, can be very effective. The idea with channeling is to replace a disordered activity with something more healthy and pro-social. You may have to try a bunch of alternatives before you hit upon one that works, or you may just get lucky! I wrote about one major 2014 success in WADS. 

Not long ago, Z was on an extended tear of “zesty” behavior: constantly testing, pushing, on edge…Having some experience with these cycles, I was able to keep her adequately on point, but only barely – and it was exhausting. As I have written in previous posts on this subject, boundaries are key; as I learned from our therapist, who specializes in attachment disorders, even small boundaries must be held in order to keep attachment disordered fears in check. So basically I have to be holding my ground on every little thing as she, typically, gets increasingly relentless…It’s not the most pleasant scenario.

Anyway, after a few weeks where I could sense Z was struggling quite a bit with something, she got angry (I don’t even remember what about) and stomped her foot and had the most comical expression on her face that I laughed when I looked at her. She became furious and stomped up to her room where she began to rage and throw and break things and scream ceaselessly for some time. After which she emerged, apologized, and has remained pleasant ever since.

I am not trying to advise you to send your child around the bend by teasing – which I did NOT mean to do! – just advocating for the occasional recognition of a tantrum as, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, a potential healing tool. The occasional VENTING session can be extraordinarily cathartic.

Next in the Anniversary Lists Series: Choosing Your Battles!!!

Full Spectrum Mama