Category Archives: ASD events

Spontaneity really is overrated

Way back in my twenties I took a creativity course wherewe ‘practiced’ being spontaneous. And man, did I need practice. I’ve always loved having a plan and a recent conference helped me realize how much Ryan needs one too – and not just at school.

I’ve always known how helpful checklists and plans are for kids on the spectrum, and we often use them to plan unstructured time and to prepare for new events or happenings. But I’ve been reluctant to be too rigorous about everyday use at home – feeling it would be too restrictive and controlling of Ryan’s time and choices.

Then I attended the Autism Awareness Centre’s annual Halifax gathering in April and heard what education expert Catherine Faherty had to say on the subject. Faherty shared an amazing letter she received from one of her adult clients about how his daily checklists are lifesavers for him: how they help him use his time effectively, reduce his anxiety, and support him taking better care of himself.

Well, two days later I was in Staples picking up clipboards and laminate and working on checklists with both of my boys. And guess what? They LOVE them (especially my neurotypical son!). We have morning routine and a bedtime routine complete with boxes to check off when an activity is completed and they both include lots of choice time. We named the lists after their favourite Wii game (The Kirby Morning Routine and the Waddle Dee Bedtime Routine) and they each got to pick their favourite picture off the web to decorate their lists. (That’s what took the most time!)

The lists are helping them track their time better, rather than me nagging them all the time. And they are helping Ryan integrate some important activities into his daily routine without being constantly reminded . Mike went to the conference on the second day and the key message he brought home was about mastering skills – where an activity or behaviour becomes so engrained and known that reminders or prompts are no longer needed.

Ryan made his bed without being asked several times this week and automatically took his dishes to the counter – small, practical achievements that I couldn’t help but see having implications for organizing his time in high school and later on in his life.

The boys even realized that getting dressed before coming downstairs for breakfast means more choice time and less time spent going back upstairs to get dressed later, so we changed our checklists. The boys played for 30 minutes before school and were thrilled, and for the first time in years I got through an entire newspaper – my very own choice time. Like I said, spontaneity is overrrated: Long live the list!




Filed under ASD events, Family, Planning for the future, Social stories

Join us at Atlantic Minds Wide Open on Friday, Nov 25th

Atlantic Minds Wide Open: Friday, Nov 25th

Next Friday night Ryan is going to be in his first music video! In a post a few weeks ago I mentioned that several families in our parents group are participating in the Atlantic Minds Wide Open film festival next Friday night at Alderney Landing.

The film fest starts earlier in the day and features workshops, short films and an awesome feature. And it’s all for only $15!

Although Asperger’s Syndrome is not a mental health condition, many people with ASD have mental health challenges as they grow older because of the anxiety caused by their neurological differences.

We wanted to make a short film about ASD for the film fest and one of the parents came up with the amazing idea of doing a music video – and then she actually wrote a song about Asperger’s. The song is just beautiful and once the video has had its ‘premiere’ I’ll post the lyrics here, so you can see what I mean.

But for now, visit the Atlantic Minds Wide Open website and see if you can book a babysitter for next Friday night. Tickets are $15 and our film will be shown in the Neighbours & Neighbourhoods segment at 6:45pm.

Hope to see you there!

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Filed under ASD events, Celebrating Difference, Films & docs

Atlantic Minds Wide Open: Friday Nov 25 @ Alderney Landing

Last weekend some members of our parent’s group got together at Alderney Landing to shoot a music video – yes you read that right. We’re participating in Atlantic Minds Wide Open , an exciting film festival focused on mental health and building vibrant communities.

The one-day festival is open to everyone and features screenings, panel discussions, and a showing of Crooked Beauty, a documentary that chronicles artist-activist Jacks McNamara’s transformative journey from childhood abuse to psych ward inpatient to pioneering mental health advocacy

You may have read about the festival’s organizer, Dr. Andrew Starzomski, in an article in the Herald last week. This is a man after my own heart, who is using his own love of music and film to help folks tell and share their own stories.  

There’s a great quote on the film fest’s Facebook page that feels like such a good fit for ASD kids:

“I attribute my sudden boost in scholastic achievement to the fact that I had finally become comfortable with myself through my movies and cartoons… I had a better self-image and my grades went up.” – Robert Rodrigues, American filmmaker, “Rebel Without a Crew”

Cartoons are a huge hit in our house and I’ve heard of several ASD kids whose self-confidence has been unlocked by theatre and film. Last week’s ‘film shoot’ was a perfect example: kids who normally shy away from the spotlight were there, eager to stand up and share a slice of their own story. They, and their parents, had created bold black and white signs with messages about their gifts and challenges and there were many take-your-breath-away moments when they stood side-by-side grinning in front of the camera.

I can’t wait to see our kids’ faces on the big screen and I thank Andrew and everyone who is supporting the fest. Creating the film festival has already widened our Circle of Friends by introducing our group to a great new ASD family, connecting our group with three awesome film industry folks who donated their time on a sunny Sunday, and given us some exciting opportunities to think about in the future. And it’s given us yet another opportunity to marvel at the many talents of our beloved kids.

The festival is just about to launch its website, but you can keep in touch with the latest on Facebook. See you on the 25th!

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Filed under ASD events, Celebrating Difference, Films & docs

Atlantic Conference on Learning Disabilities: May 12 – 13

We can all benefit from a better understanding of learning disabilities.  Parents, teachers, psychologists, social workers and others who want to do more to help support youth living with learning disabilities are encouraged to attend the Atlantic Conference on Learning Disabilities, being held May 12-13, 2011 at Mount Saint Vincent University.

This conference will bring together more than 25 experts from the Atlantic region in the fields of psychology, education, justice and social work. Presenters will offer practical advice on how to support the learning, emotional and behavioural needs of youth with learning disabilities.

Here’s a sample of the workshops:

Navigating the School System: The Art of Advocacy for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Identifying LDs in the Classroom – And What to do About It

Supporting Social Skills Development

Making Connections: Successful Transitions to Post-Secondary Education for Students with Disabilities

Thriving, not Just Surviving: How Parents Can Help Children With LDs Achieve Future Success

From Goggledygook to G-Force: Teaching Science to Students with LDs.

Managing Executive Function Deficits: Helping Students Organize, Prioritize and Succeed

Recognizing Mental Health Issues in Youth

Keeping Students Connected: How Teachers Can Help Students Feel Good About School…And Why It Matters

Parenting 911: Managing Learning Disabilities at Home

How Learning Disabilities Affect Behaviour

Opening the conference will be well-known and well-loved author Sheree Fitch. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this conference, as a writer, a learner and a parent,” says Fitch. “We’re all on a huge learning curve. As educators, we need to be educated. As parents, we need to be informed. And as learners, we need to be supported.”  Sheree will also offer workshops during each day of the conference.  Registration for, “Tell Me About It!  Breathe, Stretch, Say and Write!” is limited to 20 participants per day.

Special guest, actor Danny Glover will make a keynote speech on Friday, May 13. He will discuss his experiences living with a learning disability, his views on education and his work as a social advocate in conversation with his friend and fellow actor Felix Justice.

Justice Merlin Nunn will also share his thoughts on the importance of supporting youth at risk in the community. Justice Nunn served as the Commissioner under the Nova Scotia Public Inquiries Act to the Nunn Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the death of teacher’s aide Theresa McEvoy.

Registration for the conference is now open.  Participants now have the option of registering for either one or two days of the conference. 


   For more information, please contact:

Rhonda Brown, Director of Communications – w (902) 465-4800 or cel (902) 483-7800


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Viewfinders festival features Aspie flick & panel

A friend told me this morning that Halifax’s Viewfinders International Film Festival for Youth is going to feature an animated film dealing with Asperger’s and a panel discussion after the flick.

Viewfinders Film Festival, April 12 - 16th, Halifax, NS

The film is called Mary & Max and features the voices of some of my favourite actors including Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

But before you go and buy a ticket – which I was just about to do – the film is really for older kids (12 and up). I checked out CommonSense Media to find out some of the themes/issues in the film and you may want to check that out before going. They give a great synopsis (major spoiler alert). I’m definitely going to see it, but Ryan will stay at home.

The event is part of the festival’s Family Day on Saturday, April 16 and takes place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Empire Theatres Dartmouth Crossing. At 4 p.m. the ‘Friends, Enemies and Asperger’s Syndrome Panel’ begins – also for ages 12 and over.

 If you take your child, or if you and/or your child have seen Mary & Max I would love to hear your thoughts on the film.

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Filed under ASD events, Education, Films & docs

Autism conference coming up in Halifax

A friend in our Asperger’s parents network recently mentioned an Autism Conference for parents and professionals that’s taking place in Halifax on April 15 and 16th.

The conference is one of several taking place across the country, organized by the Autism Awareness Centre Inc. I had never heard of the group but one of the parents mentioned it at our last meeting and I’ve now signed up for their eNewsletter.

I personally don’t know much about the event speakers, Dr. Jed Baker and Dr. Lori Ernsperger but the workshop titles and descriptions definitely caught my interest.

Let me know if you’re aware of their work and if you’re planning to attend!


Filed under ASD events, Managing Anxiety