About Me

I am the proud mother of 6 children. 5 of our children have autism. We do not feel our world has ended, but just begun. We do not chelate, intervene biochemically, give shots of any kind, practice ABA, etc. We treat them as we treat any humanbeing. We treat them with kindness and respect and expect the same from them. They are exceptional children.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I would like to thank the Anonymous commenters on my last post for giving me the idea for this post.
First, one of them questioned what made me an expert in Autism....DUH !!!!!
1). I am the mother of 5 Autistic Children.....2 Severe, 1 Aspergers and 2 PDD-NOS. At one time we had 4 severely autistic children. 2 of them are now labeled PDD-NOS.
2). I have been in the "business" of Autism for over 21 years...if you count the 5 years I spent working with them in a residential treatment center...
3). I have PROVEN results my methods of treating autistic children WORK. I have children that can cope in public situations without much trauma. I DO NOT let the excuse that these children have Autism deter away from the fact that they are indeed children who need to be parented.
4). I am now OFFICIALLY a paid lecturer with an Autism Conference under my belt and many more to come.
5). I KNOW Autism...inside and out. I can define it and I can describe it.

To become an expert, one must practice, practice, practice....been there, DONE that.
One must have a familiarity with the problems in this area...been there, DONE that.
It takes 10 years to develop an Expertise in a specific area...been there, DONE that.

An expertise takes time to develop..I have had much time in the area of Autism.
An expert sees the world differently from novices...that is without question.
Experts have skills that novices DO NOT...don't worry, you guys will get the skills required to raise your Autistic children. With maturity, your children will get better. You will learn that your children are amazing people, once you try to stop changing their dynamics.
Expertise is domain specific...

I started this post as a bit of a joke...but as I type on, I realize that it is not funny.
Anonymous cowards find it okay to come onto my blog and disagree with what I write. I am okay with disagreements, but not with people who are too "ashamed" or too "insecure" in themselves to face me for what they disagree with.

Some of you guys question the severity of my children's autism by what you saw on an hour show. With commercials, you had 45 minutes into my very "edited" life.
What you did not see are the hours it took to make sure Caitlin could handle the door-knock, the airplane ride, the limo, the hotels, the resort, the skiing, the ride back, the reveal and the move-in date....
You did not see the hours of time we spent with Kiernan to make sure he was happy and felt secure...
Obviously, we did this correctly.
Not with any medications, I might add.

You did not see Caitlin being told that if she could not handle the crowd, to tell the "amazing" producers and they would quiet the crowd. The crowd was told the same.

You also did not see the way our children were behaved in public. I have always gotten complements on their behaviors, but these children handled the Extreme situation like troopers. They did far beyond what we as parent's expected from them and everyone around us were amazed.

This took many years of working with therapists and teacher's, but boy did it pay off. This also is a testament to my husband and myself as parent's. We love these children with all that they are, including the Autism. If not for the autism, they would not be them.

Now, for the BIG question....
No, my husband has not been diagnosed with autism of any kind. We received alot of comments that people thought he might have autism also. You saw 5 minutes of a man who was interviewed on camera at a very special time. He was nervous. My husband is not the "media whore" I am. I love the camera, he hates it.
If he does have autism, it would not matter. He is a loving husband and father. He works 2 jobs to make sure we are taken care of. HE is the rock this house was built, but he is very unassuming and would like to stay that way.

So, to you naysayers who would like to challenge my EXPERTISE...think again......
To you who claim I pat myself on the back too much...OH WELL...I know I am a good mother and I know these children will excel in all points of life. They may have more hurdles to cross than other children, but that is what I am here for...to guide them over the hurdles.

My job, as their mother, is to make sure they are prepared for the life ahead of them. But, more important, my job is to make sure that life is prepared for them. By doing so, I must prepare Society for the O'Donnell children and others. If we expect Society to accept our children, we must teach our children how to adjust to their Society. This must work on both sides.
I gave birth to 6 children. The Autism label came after they were born. My job is to make sure they are well-adjusted and good people. That is not easy work, but I have been so rewarded by them. I believe Society will be rewarded by them also....stay tuned, they have alot to teach us.


VAB said...

Good post. You ARE and expert by anyone's standard.

When I read your first post, I did feel that it was not very realistic for all kids. Our guy (yes, just one -- I almost feel lazy :-)) is of the fanatical rule following sort, so he never does anything that anyone would label "naughty." (He considers me a dangerous maverick because I sometimes go in thought the out door at the supermarket. ) But that's just luck -- that's the way the stork delivered him. I do feel that other kids do need to be cut a little slack, and when I see a kid breaking social norms in public, I don't equate that with bad parenting.

But no matter where you come down, there is an interesting balance in embracing neurodiversity and parenting. It can be easy to forget that one of the main goals of parenting is to mold our children's behaviors, thoughts, knowledge, attitudes and ways of thinking so that they are as close as possible to what we believe to be optimal for them in the world. NT or ND, all of that is going to depend on their natural dispositions, styles and strengths. But just because a kid is not NT (whatever that means) does not mean that their parents should stop trying to mold them.

Some people might argue that parents should never try to mold their kids, no matter how they are wired, but very few actual parents would say that.

Beth said...

I can see what you are trying to say. Myself, I feel that my son is the expert and I am just the willing pupil. Beth

(btw having some trouble signing in today so may HAVE to be anon.)

Mom26children said...

Hi Vab,
I started this blog out as a tongue-in-cheek (so to speak) piece. But, the more I wrote, the more I got miffed.
I find it amazing how people can even think they "know" my family after 45 minutes on a Reality Show.
What they do not see is the 100's of hours spent with us and the "behind the scenes" where we worked with our children.
To insinuate that I do not have a severely autistic child is a false claim times 2.
We really do not want to mold these children, but make it possible for them to fit into society...but, I also have to make it possible for society to accept them.

Mom26children said...

Hi Beth,
Yes, my children teach me every day also...that is what keeps me so darn young...
Who needs a gym, I have Kiernan !
Hope all is well with you and your family.

Domestic Goddess said...

Um, when it comes to your own children, who else is an expert but you? I consider myself to be an expert, too. First because I worked in the field for eight years, then went back to school to finish for three, working with autistic children again. Then I had my two children both autistic. So I am an expert because NO ONE know about them but me. No one has spent countless hours reading and researching and learning from every angle so that I could make educated, well-formed decisions backed up by science. No one checked out appropriate services and therapy but me. No one else takes them to their various appointments, gets up with them in the middle of the night, rocks them to sleep when they are ill and nurtures and cares for them but me. So therefore, I am an expert!
You go girl. I cannot stand it when people go to your blog and make anon comments. And they are hateful and rude and have no flipping idea what they are talking about. It has happened to me, I've axed anon comments because of it. YOu got something to say? Then don't hide behind the anon tag. DOn't like what I am saying? Don't read it.
Thanks for writing what you write. I find you and your family very inspiring and very positive. I strive to be more like you. Thanks for having the courage to give others a glimpse into your life. Not all of us think that a 45 min program is the "real" you. I mean, are people kidding when they say that? That your children don't "look" autistic on that show? How the heck would they know? I guess you were just making it up and they are all good actors...I mean, really! C'mon, folks!


Great post.
I personally feel that the more I read about autism the less I seem to know(too much in-house fighting for me).I feel I have learnt the most from my daughter, I have learnt the really important things that matter to her.

Mom26children said...

Hey Domestic Goddess,
I get my best ideas from the Anonymous cowards who visit my blog. They don't realize it, but it fuels my fire, so to speak.
It has taken me almost 47 years to be as confident as I am. I hope my children learn at a younger age that they do not have to be bullied by others.
Thanks for your comments, I look forward to them.

Mom26children said...

Hello Mother of Many,
I think the main goal of some parent's is to one-up the other. I just spoke at a conference..there were ND moms and biomedical moms in my audience. Not one fight amongst us.
We have one goal in mind, healthy happy children.
They asked me questions and I answered with the best of my ability. I think it went amazingly well.
Parent's with newly diagnosed children are afraid of their children's future. But aren't we all....
That is my passion....getting my children prepared for their future.
Thanks for your kind words.


The great irony is that no credence is giving to the 'traditional' approach; no way that doing JUST that could help your children; yet none of the blame could be heaped on the EXCLUSIVELY 'non traditional' therapies for some of the issues that happen to the Best of them. Dazzling bit of illogic Fore Sam...

At the very least Jeanette, you are an expect at behavioral and the ebb and flow of issues for your corner of autism. I do feel that there are many sides to the disorder, and what works for one (even five!) might be a different story for others.

It's comforting to know that I might get some sort of 'degree' out of this after 12-18 years. I feel like after that much time, the only I will be certified in will be INSANITY!

Lolasmom said...

Hi Mom26children -

I've read both posts, and I don't think the anon commenters actually think your kids aren't autistic, or that you are not "expert" enough to talk about your own kids. I think that anon comments were their way (albeit boorish and rude) of responding to your critical and judgmental post. You told the world that your kids are well-behaved in public because of your good parenting, and insinuated (I'm being generous here) that other kids misbehave because their parents have given up on parenting them, relying too heavily on the "they're autistic" excuse. C'mon - you had to know you were going to make a lot of your readers feel very defensive.

I'm sure most readers, like me, thought of the times our kids have acted up in public, and wondered if there was anything we could have done to prevent it. Just about everyone who commented showed some such defensiveness (i.e. relating their acting-up-in public stories)- the anonymous commenters just were more forceful. In their defensiveness, they told themselves, "those kids aren't well-behaved because of good parenting, but because they aren't as autistic as MY kids." Surely you can see where they were coming from. It is bad enough to be publicly judged by strangers who do not understand autism, but to be judged by one of our own is a bitter pill, indeed.

Of COURSE there are some parents out there who refuse to parent their kids - autistic and NT alike. But the proof of good parenting is not always in the pudding, so to speak. Our kids come to us with certain strengths and weaknesses, and we can only work with what we were given. I think a better indication of good parenting is not whether your child ever misbehaves, but what you DO about it when it happens.

Also, we should carefully define what constitutes "misbehavior" - harmless stimming is not a cause for discipline, IMO, even if it does make other people uncomfortable. Too many parents out there keep their autistic kids out of the public eye as a way of avoiding an embarassing "incident." What a disservice to our kids and the community of which they are part.

Mom26children said...

Hi Lolasmom,
I wrote the Parenting post because of what I have been observing in public. Because autism is everywhere, I see autistic children everywhere. I also see people become very defensive when their children are misbehaving and people look at them.
My children are free to stim and flap anywhere. That is not the disruption I am talking about. I am talking about downright temper tantrum behaviors.
I know this happens to all children, but some parent's believe that because their children have the autistic label that behavior is acceptable.
I have seen tee shirts that read "I'M AUTISTIC, WHAT IS YOUR EXCUSE?", or I'M AUTISTIC, I CANNOT HELP THE WAY I ACT".....
The tee shirts, in MY opinion, might as well read "I'M AUTISTIC, MY PARENT'S CANNOT CONTROL ME" or "I'M AUTISTIC, SO I CAN MISBEHAVE IN PUBLIC"....
I do appreciate you comments and will take into consideration the way in which I presented this. But, when I am criticized in other arenas for not parenting my child because I do not intervene biomedically, I must explain myself. I find my blog the best way for me to say my peace.
If no one else reads it, that is okay, I have written from my heart.

Lolasmom said...

Hi Mom26children -

I think I do understand where you are coming from. Seems like no matter what we do, we have half the parenting community mad at us ! :) I do think that we parents of autistic kids can be knee-jerk defensive, ready to do battle over the slightest perceived critcism of our kids.

Sadly, I have seen the "well, she's autistic, so what can we do" attitude in regards to my daughter - from her teachers! A few months ago I noticed Lola (age 3) had started hitting a lot more when frustrated - something she used to do when she was 2 but I thought she had outgrown. I have zero-tolerance for violence, and Lola certainly understands that hitting is wrong. She has some real problems with her impulse control, though. I mentioned it to her teachers, to see if they'd noticed it, and they were like, "Oh, yeah, she does that at school, too." !!???!! It didn't even concern them enough to write me a note about it. And they were doing nothing about it other than redirecting her. I wonder if they don't expect too much from her because of her label, which totally depresses me. "We never know how high we are 'till we are asked to rise..." How can she achieve her full potential if it is not required of her by her teachers, because they assume it is out of her reach? sigh...

I, myself, am trying very hard not to be so concerned about what others think when it comes to my parenting. (Coming from the girl who has always worried what people thought of her, this is an ongoing battle!) I am doing my damnedest to ignore perceived slights and focus on my kids. I can certainly tell from your blog that your family has your full focus and attention as well - good luck to you and your merry band!

Dadof6Autistickids said...

We consider ourselves 'Experts in Training'. We hope to learn from you especially because you deal with a large Autistic family like us. And many years of experience do make a difference and does create experts.

We are doing the best we can at honing our parenting skills, and yes the t-shirt line we created was originally for us to deal with the looks and comments that just irked us. But, others have found that it helps them as well.

Maybe one day our expertise will be enough and the children will be better in public where the t-shirts will no longer be necessary. We have only been in the 'business' for about 2 years so far. But because, SOMETHING happens EVERY day...we will be experts very soon as well.

From what I read around the blogs, etc., it looks like we ALL get our dander up from time to time. I recently got into a bit of a tiff with a woman that didn't like my opinion on the Autism community needs. I feel we have a vested interest because of our large number of children with needs to be addressed. She was very disagreeable and said "I don't care if you have 20 Autistic kids!" After that I took a 'consider the source' attitude and ceased any additional contact.

If you have any advise on how to be a 'media whore' please write soon. A national magazine will be spending a few days with us the week after next to do our story.

I wish I could work more to help our situation but Mom can't handle it without my help. I'd like to find a stay-at-home job where I could be there for her more often. Her Zoloft helps but we think she has fibromyalgia. She's exhausted ALL the time and needs a couple of naps a day to just get by. As soon as we get insurance we'll be checking on that.

We don't really pat ourselves on the back, BUT we do use the 'we have SIX Autistic kids' excuse A LOT. And you know what? It's a darn fine excuse! If anyone out there says we have a 'poor us' attitude too often...well come over to our place and spend just ONE day. You change your tune real quick.

This getting involved and long, I should use some of this on our own blog!

You're great! Hang in there and we can all learn from your example.

Mom26children said...

Hey Dadof6,
Sorry I have not kept in communication...I had major surgery on Monday and am resting at some good friends home.
Good luck with the magazine. We were approached by a nat'l magazine last month. We opted out, because we have had enough "attention". Not quite the media whore everyone puts me out to be.
The kids are home with daddy and doing nicely.
Just be open and honest with the reporter. They should do many background checks and honesty is the best.We never hid anything, from financial on, and they we pleased. One reporter spent 18 months with our family and she is now like family.
As far as Zoloft, I have no idea. We do not use any medications, short of melatonin, in our home.
My husband works 2 jobs, so he is home less than he would like to be. This week, he took some time off for my surgery. That and 2 caregivers for the kids. But, usually, it is just me at home.
I also have a few "enemies" on the web. I frankly do not care. They sort of give me ideas for my blog. The whole "media whore", "attention-seeking", "horrible mother" thing gets boring after a while. These people just love to "hate", if you know what I mean?
Well, I need some breakfast...hope you weekend went well..

JoSlaight said...

I didn't see you, nor your family on television-- but you sound like the *most* beautiful mother, wife, and woman I've ever heard! I'm a 40 yr. old autistic female in Houston, TX. My Dad taught me the same way you're teaching your children. Love and discipline-- without punishment or reward. I learned how to use curiosity to motivate my mind and body. Dad was right there in step with me, showing, explaining, and being. I have Savant Syndrome, and I'm an artist. I enjoy reading, and through speech therapy (12.5 yrs.) I'm able to talk now. My parents were told I wouldn't walk, talk, attend 'normal' school, or ever live independantly, but I'm college educated, and I've been married 12 yrs. You are right! Don't ever let anyone tell you what your children can't do. Thanks for *being* by Jo Slaight.

Mom26children said...

Hi Jo,
I am honored to meet you. I have a savant in my home also...Caitlin is 16 and an amazing artist.
Jo, I am so glad you are showing the world that diversity is the only way. I hope to instill this in my children.
There is NOTHING they cannot do. They will ALL be contributing adults in our society. Whether society is ready or not....but, as their mother...that is my job.
I would love to see your artwork...

Anonymous said...


Did your family get to ride horses at Fanasty Outfitter Ranch?, while you were in Colorado.

The ranch is the same town as the adptive sports center.

Mom26children said...

No, we did not ride the horses. We were kept so busy, we had time for skiing and filming.
We were on the slopes from 9am until 4pm...they plum wore us out.
I joked to the producer of EMHE that they sent others to Disney World and sent us to Extreme Sports....
We had a blast though...would not trade it for the world.
The people at Adaptive Sports were the best...they embraced our children and made skiiers out of 5 and a snowboarder out of 1 of our children.
The kids were in good hands and we will forever be greatful to them for that.