Bee Morse Farm

Learning to live a little more country

Community of Support

The Morse house 2013 wm

SUCCESS!!! As you know yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day, the most important day to Light It Up Blue,  and didn’t this town LIGHT IT UP BLUE!!!!!!!!!  I can’t tell you how stunned I am by the show of support that our little communities have shown for this spectacular event.  Way back in February I ordered 75 light bulbs hoping to be able to sell at least 50 of them.  Those first 75 bulbs were gone inside of 4 days!  The people I have seen wearing our bracelets, pins or t-shirts is nothing short of amazing to me. It sends me right over the moon every time I think about all the love and enthusiasm that people have shown for our autistic community! I am so proud to call Houlton, Maine my hometown.  I can’t thank our local radio station, WHOU-FM, enough for their hard work and dedication in helping spread the word. They rustled up radio sponsors to help get the word out, sold merchandise for me and mentioned how awesome Lighting It Up Blue is at every chance they got.  Without our local media, especially WHOU, this event would not have been as popular as it was, no doubt about it. My goals for this year was 15 businesses and 25 homes.  Goal accomplished!!!!!

Ready for some of our stats?

(Registered) Individuals with ASD in Aroostook County: 111

 Number of Bulbs sold: 250 (sold out!)

Radio sponsors: 20

Participating Businesses: 23

T-Shirts sold: 85

Countries that viewed this blog during the month of March: 12

Amount of money that was raised: $903.50

2 LIUB 2013

Next year will be bigger and better! I had a LOT of people asking about t-shirts. I only focused on Dominic’s school for this first year but next year it will be town wide, I promise!  My biggest mistake was taking this task on all by myself but I honestly didn’t think LIUB would catch on as fast as it did!  Next year there will be teams, sponsors, plenty of bulbs and merchandise galore!  More businesses will be selling the merchandise as well.  These are my goals for 2014! If you are interested in being on a team please contact me beemorsefarm@gmail.com. I am hoping to have 3 people in each of our smaller communities: Island Falls, Patten, Oakfield, Smyrna, Littleton, Monticello, etc. and I think we’ll need at least 20 people for Houlton.  We have a lot to cover: the hospital, banks, Main Street, each school, etc.  I am also going to be looking for sponsors to help with the cost of merchandise/t-shirts.  This year t-shirts were pre-order/pre-paid only – next year I would like shirts to be on hand and sold on a as needed basis.

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Businesses that participated in Light It Up Blue

Lisa’s Hair Design

Pioneer Broadband

Main Street Fitness

Jean’s Serendipity

Houlton Town Office

Machias Savings Bank

AKI Kickboxing

FA Peabody

Houlton Farms Dairy

Shin Pond Pub

Hangar Pizza

Bells Chiropractic Office

Houlton Post Office

WHOU- FM

Chadwick’s Florist

Bowers Funeral Home

York’s of Houlton

Grammy’s Country Inn Restaurant

North Country Gifts

Aroostook County District Court

Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office

Spring Break Maple & Honey

Stepping Stones

Houlton Police Dept.

Kim’s Kare

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Don’t forget that Austim Awareness month is ALL month long (April)!  We are continuing to sell our light up pins ($3) and silicone wrist bands ($2).  I am more than happy to do mail orders but I must RECEIVE payment first! I am researching online stores and will hopefully have one up in the very near future so you can just order online.

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THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!!!!

You just don’t realize how very much this means to me. To have my goals not only met but blown to smithereens….that is a powerful feeling :)

2013

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Light It Up Blue Houlton, Maine

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It’s almost that time of year again :)  April is Autism Awareness month and April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day!  Autism Speaks (visit them here) launched the Light It Up Blue campaign roughly 4 years ago.  We celebrate by lighting up business, monuments, homes and political buildings blue to show support of autism awareness. In 2012 more than 3000 iconic building and landmarks in over 50 countries on six continents turned their lights blue.  How is that for popularity :)

This year the Morse Family is launching our own Light It Up Blue campaign for Houlton!  We have set a goal of 15 local businesses and 25 homes that will turn their lights blue to show their support for autism awareness. However, just because we are concentrating on Houlton doesn’t mean I don’t want the rest of Maine (or beyond) participating!

 

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How can you Light It Up Blue?

Lighting It Up Blue is as simple as switching your outdoor lights from white light bulbs to blue ones, wearing blue clothing and tweeting or posting on Facebook about Lighting It Up Blue.

 Where can you get light bulbs?

Home Depot has linked up with Autism Speaks and sells blue light bulbs as well as Coleman lanterns. Bulbs start on sale March 1st and lanterns start March 15th. Most Wal-Mart’s carry blue party lights. I am also selling them at not only a discounted price but 60% of the proceeds will be donated to the Autism Society of Maine. To get light bulbs from me you can swing by Bowers Funeral Home, 10 Water Street, Houlton, call 532-3333 or email me at beemorsefarm@gmail.com. We are currently working on getting local stores to carry as well.

Is there any other merchandise?

You can visit Light It Up Blue (visit them here) for their official merchandise. We will also be selling T-shirts, pins and other autism merchandise, with 20% of the proceeds going to the Autism Society of Maine.   T-shirts are pre-order/pre-paid only this year so please contact me if you are interested.  All orders must be received by Monday, March 25th at noon.

To share your pictures of how you Light It Up Blue

LIKE us on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/LIUBHoulton

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Our t-shirts – Youth (S,M,L) $10 – Adult (S,M,L,XL) $13.50 – Adult (2XL and 3 XL) $16

For more information please contact me! You can comment below, email me at beemorsefarm@gmail.com or call (207) 532-3333 and ask for Jacquie.

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PicMonkey Collage 2

462476_10150623949566483_1743556517_oThe Morse household Lighting It Up Blue – 2012

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Dominic’s Story

For those of you that have read the About Me section you know that my oldest son, Dominic, is autistic.  He was diagnosed when he was 4 months shy of 4 years old…..a little later than I wanted but at least he was finally diagnosed.  A fellow “autism mom”  ( as I like to call us) told my mom that she was giving a seminar to teachers on how to better understand/help autism children when one teacher approached her and asked “What is autism?”  Um, excuse me?!?!?!  How, how, how!!! could a TEACHER not know the basic fundamentals of autism?!?!?! Unbelievable. This story obviously touched a nerve so I really feel the need to share Dominic’s (and my) story to help raise awareness. It’s a doozy of a post and I am so, so, so grateful that you will take the time to read it.  If you can gain some knowledge or better yet, help some other autism mom/dad/family I have done what I set out to do.

Definition of autism: Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. Every autistic individual is different, just like a snow flake :)  There is a saying in the autism community: if you know one autistic individual, you know one autistic individual.  Just because they all have social/communication problems doesn’t mean they are going to present the same way, eg. one child might not speak, at all, their whole life, while another might learn to speak at 4.  It is so crucial to diagnosing autism early – the earlier you start therapy the easier the road to “typical” will be.

When I was pregnant I though about autism a lot, I mean bare minimum of once a day.  There was no purpose for it as I knew only one kid, Dustin, who had autism when I was growing up and basically I only knew him through church.  I didn’t have any friends who had autistic children – in fact among my group of friends I am the only one with an autistic child still to this day, an amazing fact as 1 in 77 children have autism in the state of Maine               (national average is 1 in 88 children).     Anyway, back to the pregnancy thing.  I literally would see the word float around in my head and I frequently thought about Dustin.  At the time I had no idea why – this was 10 years ago, there was no autism awareness in the media. I never told anyone about it, I mean what would I say… I think about autism but have no reason for it?  Looking back I definitely wish I had, at least when we finally did get the diagnosis I wouldn’t have been the only one prepared.

I was 20 years old when Dominic was born.  He was perfect. I had a ridiculously easy pregnancy and a pretty smooth delivery.  Looking back there was a lot of things that were “off” enough that if you strung them together you could see clearly that something was a little different with him.  He didn’t show the stereotypical “symptoms” that have plagued the autism community, you know those “symptoms” like an autistic person doesn’t want to be held/touched, doesn’t show affection, ect.  My little Dommie-do loved to be held – too much sometimes, I swear I never got a chore done until he was walking.  He was super affection and loved to give and get kisses. My biggest grip with my infant: he NEVER slept…..like, never.  He would sleep maybe 6 hours  a night and take a single 2 hour nap during the day and by the time he was 18 months he cut out naps altogether. Turns out that for some reason autistic people just don’t need/require/want a lot of sleep.  To this day he will fall asleep around 9/10 p.m. and wake up at 4:30 am – and he’s up for the day, going like no tomorrow all day long.  When Dom was 3 months old we moved to a new apartment.  He loved to watch things go in circles so we stuck him under a ceiling fan – he was there 2 hours, watching it go round in a circle,  wide awake.  How many 3 month infants do you know that you could stick under a fan for 2 hours with no people interaction?  I don’t have a clue why that didn’t strike me as odd, in fact I was rather pleased with it.

As an infant Dominic hit the important milestones on time.  He crawled at exactly 6 months and started walking 4 days before his  first birthday.  He was a big guy, always at least at the 95th percentile for height,weight, head size and the combination of height/weight.  To this day he’s still a monster- at 9 1/2 years old he wears a size 7 men’s shoe, weighs 100 pounds and is just a hair shy of 5 feet tall.  BUT he never, ever talked.  Of course he would make noises but he wouldn’t even attempt sounding out a word. He made no eye contact and loved to flap his hands.  He like laying down on the floor and running trucks 2 inches from his face so he could concentrate on the wheels turning in front of his eyes.  This is called self-stimming (self-stimulation).  He liked to drop things in front of his eyes; crayons, cars, blocks, any object would do, and concentrate only on the ones falling in front of his eyes.  And he was a jumping bean….bounce, bounce, bounce EVERYWHERE, just like a Tigger.   By the time he was 2 if you let him, he would go the whole day without coming to you for anything other than food/drink.  He didn’t care if he was in a soggy diaper, have snot running down his face or if he was naked. He was so indifferent to everything – he could take it or leave it, nothing really mattered to him, including me.  When I dropped him off at the sitters or daycare he rarely cared if I stayed or left.  Food was a HUGE issue with him.  He only ate white stuff for the most part: mashed potatoes, pancakes, etc and he would change it at the drop of a hat.  I cooked spaghetti (with sauce) for supper one night, one of his favorite meals.  He scarfed it right up. Literally the next day for lunch he refused the leftovers and it was years before I could get him to eat spaghetti again.

At his 2 year well child visit I talked to Dom’s pediatrician, we’ll call her Dr. X, about how concerned I was that he wasn’t talking. She literally told me, word for word, “Don’t worry about it.  He’s a boy, boys develop slower”. While I’m aware that boys do in fact develop slower, my blood boils every time I think about it, why didn’t she ask any further questions?  Just one or 2 questions answered the wrong way and there would have definitely been red flags.   As a 2 year old Dominic was a great little boy.  Although he didn’t “play” with other children he didn’t mind being in the same room as them.  I put play in quotes because Dominic didn’t know how to play properly, he would only self-stim. Later, his therapists would teach him how to play appropriately.

At 3 he still wasn’t talking. Bonus side to autism though is he never had the terrible 2 or 3’s – just one even tempered little guy.  Just before his 3 year old well child visit I looked up autism online.  There was 13 symptoms on this particular website and Dominic displayed 9 of them.  This sealed the deal for me – he was autistic.  I basically came home from work that day and said “Dominic is autistic”.  There was a lot of “No he isn’t” and “Yes he is”.  I basically dumped what I knew already in my heart right onto my family with no warning.  Hindsight I feel bad about how that went down.  My mom was convinced that he had a hear problem and he wasn’t autistic.

The year he was 3 was hell.  After hearing, again, that just because my son wasn’t speaking not to worry because, after all, he’s a boy and boy’s develop slower, I grew some *ahem* guts and told Dr. X  that we need to start looking into getting him diagnosed (and then we got a new pediatrician). First lesson I learned on this long, often times lonely road: DON”T BACK DOWN!!!!! Never, ever, NEVER let a doctor talk you out of your concerns.  YOU know your child inside out and backwards. This started the long, arduous journey of getting my son diagnosed.  I was so overwhelmed, where did we start???? Dr. X was only so kind enough to schedule a hearing evaluation (a.k.a. eval).  But at least that was a step in the right direction.  Getting evals scheduled is next to impossible.  We are very, very, very rural here and the waiting list are literally years long.

  • So hearing is our first step – Aural Rehabilitation Services, 45 miles away, and they couldn’t get conclusive results with the first round of testing because Dominic didn’t know how to respond.  When they put the headphones on and asked him “when you hear the beep point to that ear”.  Hi….number 1 he’s THREE! and couldn’t understand those directions if he wanted to and number 2 he’s not listening to you because he’s self-stimming!!!! So yes, epic failure first time around.  We had to wait another month to do the 2nd round because we had to wait for another technician’s schedule to open up for a different type of hearing test.  Now what???  That was all my doctor set up for him.  This was my second lesson: there aren’t very many people in the healthcare industry who are willing to go the extra mile for you and get you information.  You need to do all the leg work yourself.  It is so important that you do whatever it is you need to do to dig up the required information.  After asking a million and ten people I finally found out about Child Development Services (CDS).  This agency was my ticket to success and without them we would be stuck back in the land of no talking, no diagnosis, the whole nine yards.  I’m not even remotely embellishing that.  CDS set up our next round of evals and coordinated all of our services.
  • So….next stop, OT, a.k.a. Occupation Therapy.  After the eval to see where we needed to start, Dominic had weekly 1 hour sessions.  Here Dominic was taught how to hold utensils: be them drawing, eating or cutting and they worked on proprioception  (the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement).  The theory is that he basically didn’t feel like all his body parts are connected….like maybe his leg is floating away to space…..so he would bounce to help compress the joints to feel more connected.  We actually did exercises with a surgical scrub brush and joint compressions way back in the beginning but we have since bought a mini trampoline and I make him jump on that instead.  We also purchased a weighted blanket that he sleeps with every night.  He sleeps with an extra 30 pounds of weight on him every night.
  • Then came speech therapy……that eval took forever to get…..4 months.  There is a serious shortage of speech therapist up here in Northern Maine.  We finally got one but she was 8 months pregnant and was getting ready to take a year hiatus :(  Great for her- big bummer for us.   Even though it took so long to get the original speech therapist were were able to get right in with another speech lady once the first went on maternity leave, whom we dearly, dearly love  (downside, Suzie was 60 minutes away from us).  This was also once a week for 1 hour.

After all those evaluations we still didn’t have an actual diagnosis for Dominic.  He got these services because he  qualified without the diagnosis of autism.  To get into the stuff he really, really needed we had to get an official diagnosis.  To get the Psych Eval it was a 8 months waiting list but once we finally got it everything opened right up for him.  He started Developmental Therapy (D.T.) and Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy (A.B.A.) right away.  D.T. is basically a small school type setting and works on his developmental skills such as learning colors, days of the week, counting – all that pre-school type of stuff. A.B.A. – this therapy is INTENSE!  Any A.B.A. therapist needs to be inducted into sainthood A.S.A.P.  The therapist sets a schedule of things to work on – let’s say the alphabet, counting to 10, 5  different colors, and teaching him that HIS name is Dominic.  Each topic has a certain time frame ( say 2 minutes).  They repeat it over, and over, and over….and over, and over, and over.  A.B.A. is basically all about repetition, similar to muscle memory. You keep repeating it and eventually it will sink in.  I don’t know how anyone can go to work everyday knowing that they will be counting to 5 about a million times in one day – just thinking about it makes me a tiny bit insane.  Dominic was taught basically everything a child under 5 should know through this particular therapy.  They taught him his name, colors, alphabet, how to play appropriately, shapes, animals, POTTY training….the list goes on and on.    I can’t stress to you how much teaching all these therapists had to put in to Dominic.  Do me a favor and think of a “typical” 3 year old – think of how they play with dolls or trucks, how they communicate, how they are busy little bodies exploring everything.  Dominic literally had to be taught how to do all of this.  He was 5 when he was finally able to get out of diapers and 5 1/2 before he called me Mom.  I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt the first time he called me mom – I still tear up thinking about it.  To teach him other family/friends names we made flash cards out of photo and would spend hours working on them with him.

From August of 2006 until September 2008 Dominic had Developmental Therapy 3 hours a day, 5 days a week; Applied Behavioral Analysis 3 hours a day, 5 days a week; Speech Therapy 1 hour a week and Occupation Therapy for 1 hour a week = 32 hours of therapy a week from the time he was 3 1/2 years old!  Kinda unbelievable isn’t it.

First ever school photo .  Love this kid so much

This little boy of mine is so charismatic.  Adults love him, kids love him.  There is just something about my Dominic that draws people too him like a moth to a flame and with every year that passes more people jump on the I-Love-Dominic-bandwagon.   It wasn’t always so apparent to me though. I grew up a social butterfly – school meant nothing more to me than catching up with friends. Just before school started I really started to worry that Dominic would never have any friends, I actually cried about it.  In 3 weeks time all the kids in his class were fighting over who got to sit next to Dominic during lunch.  *Whew*  Now everywhere we go I hear little voices go “Dominic! Over here! Hi!!!” or adults ask him for a hug – he’s a lover of hugs 😀  He still doesn’t know most of the kids names and 90% of the time I have to remind him to say hi back….poor kids.  It continually amazes me how accepting everyone is of Dom, especially the young kids that know something isn’t quite right with him but they love him anyway.

He went into pre-school a year later than your typical child but, obviously, the wait was worth it.  Ever since he started school Dominic has had a one on one aide.  When he first started school he wasn’t allowed to go anywhere by himself, simply because he’d get side tracked and you wouldn’t see him again for hours.  Now he has graduated and he comes into school, goes to recess and does lunch line all by himself.  Lunch line was tricky because he usually wants something other than what he ordered when he gets up there, lol.  Our elementary school has been amazing. I’ve only had a few bumps in the road with them and for the most part if I have an issue it’s gets corrected right away.  There are so many parents with special needs children who say they have had terrible experiences with their schools.  I don’t know why but we have definitely been blessed with a cooperative and friendly staff.  I’m sure it helps that everyone loves Dominic to pieces.

Phew!  I know this is long.  I’m wrapping it up I promise.  I just want to bring up one more thing and then I’m done.

The autism “mascot” is a  puzzle piece.   Meanings for the autism awareness puzzle piece are interpreted differently by different people. To some, the symbol is simply a reflection of the idea that autism spectrum disorders are puzzles that have not yet been solved. To others, the autism puzzle piece, reflects that children who have autism are themselves pieces of the puzzle that do not fit in.

Did you know that National Autism Awareness Month is April?  For the last 10 years the Autism Society of Maine  puts on a Walk for Autism.  We have participated for a few years and this year we raised over $900!!!  Well over our $500 goal :)

(Dominic sporting a blue mohawk for his Walk for Autism)

(This year’s Team Dominic in the Walk for Autism)

And there is actually a World Autism Awareness Day – April 2.  For the past 3 years Autism Speaks has been busy working on the Light It Up Blue campaign.  On April 2nd everyone is encouraged to Light It Up Blue to show their support for autism to help shine a light on autism. For the past 2 years we have participated in this event here at the Morse household but we don’t stop on April 3rd;  we light it up blue year round.

Showing our love and support and raising awareness through our local newspaper

Even though we have had lots of therapy and support Dominic is still not mainstream in school.  He still requires an aide when he is in the classroom and he gets pulled out to go to the Special Ed room during certain subjects (such as math and reading).  Although his skills aren’t up to par with his peers, Josh and I are extremely, incredibly proud of this boy, after all if he wasn’t willing to do the work, he wouldn’t be where he is today.  This summer I have taken to Facebooking Dom’s speech therapist his “Dominic-isms” that he has been cracking us up with.  His speech and sentence structure has come so far it’s unbelievable.  I am eternally grateful for all of his therapist and teachers and I can never say thank you enough.  I love them as much as they love Dom :)

Today Dominic is an amazing big brother to Jace. In fact he’s more concerned with Jace’s safety than of his own.  I was majorly concerned the whole time I was pregnant with Jace about autism but after the first week he was born I knew without a doubt in the world that Jace wasn’t autistic.  Honestly, when J.J. was first born it took me a while to get over the mad I felt at all the parents who had interaction with my infant Dominic for not knowing something was wrong with him.  How did my mom not notice?? She had 4 typical children! Why didn’t his any of his sitters say “I’m concerned about Dominic” ( *sigh* we went through a lot of sitters)?  Baby Jace was so alert and wanted to know everything that was going on around him, even though he could only see a foot in front of his face.  He responded to noises almost instantly and recognized Josh or I by our voices.  As an infant, Dominic did none of these things.  I really wish someone would have had the nerve enough to step up to me and say “I think Dominic might need some help”.

In this day and age autism is running rampant all over our country.  A few weeks ago I took J.J. in for a well child visit and upon check-in they handed me an autism check list. Did my child flap his hands? Does he make eye contact? etc, etc, etc.  I cried and cried and cried – right there in the waiting room.  This little checklist is going to get so many children the help they need in a timely manner.  That does my heart so much good 😀

I just want to say thank you, again, for reading our story. There is so much more to it but this was getting long and rambly enough.  Questions or comments are always, always welcome – no question is too stupid. I love hearing other autism families successes and even failures.  We all can benefit from sharing.

~Jacquie

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