AUTHORS GIVE BACK: KASSANDRA LAMB AND AUTISM SPEAKS

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Kassandra LambMy Authors Give Back guest today is Kassandra Lamb. I’m excited to welcome Kass back to my blog. She previously did a wonderful post for me, Why Do We Hurt The Ones We Love?, which continues to get viewed weekly.

As a retired psychologist, Kassandra Lamb knows it’s not good to hear voices in your head, unless they’re the voices of your characters and you’re a writer. When Kass isn’t at her computer, dreaming up new challenges for the people in her head, she spends time with her husband and her dog, Amelia. She’s a ‘reverse snowbird,’ living in Florida ten months of the year, and spending her summers in her native Maryland.

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One of the greatest thrills in life is becoming a grandparent. As one of my friends once said, “How can you not love the child of your child? He or she is doubly precious.”

When my oldest grandchild was three months old, I helped his parents pack and move their household across state lines, where my son had a new job waiting. Amidst the boxes and chaos in their living room, my grandson lay in his Pack-and-Play, playing with his feet (it always amazes me how flexible babies are!)

Grandma paused in her packing to grab the camera. I got off one shot by sneaking up on him. Then he saw me. He let go of his feet and gave me a huge toothless grin that said clearer than words, “Hi, Grandma!” His eyes were sparkling and looking right at me.

At 12 months, he was on schedule with talking–saying a dozen words, including “Grandma.” But by 15 months, the sparkle was starting to fade. Eye contact was less frequent. And he was talking less, not more. When he was 20 months old, my bright and  beautiful grandson was diagnosed with autism.

AUTISM AWARENESS
AUTISM AWARENESS

I’m sure any parent or grandparent can imagine how heartbreaking it is to watch a child you love become more and more trapped inside themselves.

For the central problem for kids with autistic spectrum disorders (which include other related developmental disorders such as Asperger’s) is that their brains don’t process the social world very well. They don’t pick up on social and emotional cues. They don’t imitate words or actions well (except as mimicry).

The glazed-over look that we associate with autism is caused by overwhelm. The child isn’t able to process the rapidly changing array of sounds and movements going on around them. In self defense, the child spaces out, and may use repetitive behaviors to create a self-soothing, trance-like state. They may also throw temper tantrums, out of frustration because they don’t know how to interact with this confusing world around them.

Years ago, it was believed that autistic children didn’t want social interaction, especially touch. It was also believed that they were mentally retarded. Neither of these beliefs is true. My little grandson is very affectionate, and he’s shown many signs of being a bright child, before and since his diagnosis. But there is no way to truly assess his intelligence, because the IQ tests designed for typically-developing children don’t accurately reflect the intelligence of ASD children.

Twenty-five percent of autistic kids never learn to talk, although they can learn to communicate in other ways. My precious boy is using PECS cards (short for Picture Exchange Communication System), along with several dozen nouns and a few verbs, to express his desires (he’s almost five years old now). He has made tremendous progress and I am so proud of him, and of his parents for all they go through to deal with him and to help him learn and grow. They are using every resource they can find. These resources would be prohibitively expensive to my son and his wife, and to most middle-class families, if not for the assistance provided by state and federal programs, and by non-profit groups.

There are many wonderful organizations out there to help kids with ASD and their families. But I have chosen to highlight Autism Speaks. Founded just seven years ago, this organization has grown to be one of the largest of its kind. They provide advocacy, hook families up with the resources they need, and, most important of all, they fund research seeking a better understanding of the causes of ASD and better ways to treat it.

To see just how much the right interventions can accomplish, check out this video in which singer, Katy Perry, accompanies 11-year-old Jodi Dipiazzo, singing Ms. Perry’s hit, Firework. Jodi has autism and her parents once believed she would never talk. But just look at her now!

 

For the month of February, I’m donating the royalties from my latest release, Celebrity Status, A Kate Huntington Mystery, to Autism Speaks. So please purchase a copy, either e-book or paperback. I’ve gotten great feedback on this book so I know you’ll be getting an enjoyable read, and you’ll be helping children like my grandson live a fuller life!

Here is the link to Autism Speaks ( www.autismspeaks.org ). If you’d like to donate directly, that would be totally awesome!

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Thank you so much for the wonderful post and for sharing your grandson with us, Kassandra! As the great-aunt of children who have been diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome (“the most common known genetic cause of autism or autism spectrum disorders”), I can certainly attest to the challenges involved. But I can also attest to the love and affection shown by them. They really are the sweetest children. I suppose I could be a little biased. Nah. 😉

And how generous of you to donate your royalties from CELEBRITY STATUS for this month to Autism Speaks! I haven’t read this one yet and just purchased it. 🙂

For those that haven’t read any of Kass’s books, I can tell you, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve read the others and can’t wait to read this one, which is the 4th book in the Kate Huntington series. All of the books are stand-alone novels and you don’t have to have read the previous ones to enjoy this one. Just look at the creepy cover! Isn’t that awesome?

Celebrity-Status-533x800 small

Kate Huntington is remarried and life is good, until her new husband’s private investigating agency attracts its first celebrity client–a pop singer whose anonymous stalker has a twisted concept of love. Before he realizes just how twisted, Skip involves first his psychotherapist wife and then their lawyer friend, Rob Franklin, in the case. Soon they are being hounded by the paparazzi. As they try to cope with this onslaught of unwanted attention and an unrelenting stalker willing to commit murder, Kate and Skip must face the reality that you can’t always keep those you love from harm.

You can purchase the book at Amazon in Paperback or Kindle Version or at Barnes & Noble

Want to find out more about Kassandra Lamb? She also hangs out a lot on Twitter and Facebook. You can also find more info about her and read her blog posts at Misterio Press and on her website.

Your turn…do you know anyone with autism? Ever benefitted from services through Austism Speaks? And wow! Isn’t Jodi Dipiazzo amazing???

As always – thanks for reading!

 

Disclaimer: I have no connection with any charity mentioned in the Authors Give Back segment of the blog unless noted. I have not personally researched any charity mentioned unless otherwise noted. If you plan to donate to ANY charity (mentioned here or elsewhere) you should research it thoroughly and decide for yourself if it is a legitimate and worthy cause.

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Follow Rhonda Hopkins:

The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

34 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your family’s story with us, Kassandra. I recently watched this documentary about GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article33850.htm

    GMO’s are now fully integrated into the American diet. Basically anything that has corn or soy, and now I’ve heard, wheat, contains GMO’s too. These foods have been linked to many health problems and the list is growing. They degrade the intestines, making them more permeable and leading to digestive issues and inflammatory conditions (both of which are common in autistic children), GMO’s damage cell walls and lead to a host of problems such as birth defects and infertility. It has been reported that completely removing GMO’s from the diet of autistic children makes a tremendous difference in their overall health and behavior. It requires work and is an added expense to ensure only organic foods be provided, but I’ve read of really miraculous changes. it’s worth looking into. Best to you and your family and good luck with the book.

    • Good morning, PJ. My daughter-in-law has looked into this but my grandson has no digestive problems.

      The problem with sorting out the causes of ASD is that there appear to be multiple causes. We are probably looking at not just a single disorder but several similar disorders, with somewhat different causes (thus the change to calling them autistic spectrum disorders). They are definitely thought to be genetically-predisposed, but even that is complicated–a combination of different genes in some cases, mutations in others.

      And it is likely that not all predisposed kids actually develop the disorder. Some stressor seems to trigger the genes during the vulnerable early years of life. That stressor can be different for different kids. In a certain percentage, it is digestive problems, and yes for them the changes in diet can produce remarkable results.

      But I am totally with you on the GMO’s in general. I find it very disturbing that we feel the need to mess with Mother Nature in our food supply, without always knowing the long-term consequences of such changes.

    • GMO’s are really scary. Thanks so much for the info, PJ and for visiting today. Take care!

  2. This is totally awesome post and I loved finding out about autism since I don’t know much about it. Now I have a much better understanding. It sounds like a great organization and very much needed.
    Thank you so much for telling us.
    Patti

  3. Excellent post on the charity and autism. thank you for sharing the information and that there is always hope.

  4. Hiya Kass! Thanks for your post and for your work supporting this cause. It seems that autism rates creep higher every year. If we are not affected directly with an autistic family member, I think we all know more than family who is, yet we still have so little factual information about its causes. I have three close friends with autistic children, and I must admit that it is more mysterious to me than electrovalent bonding, or… I don’t know… Women. 😉
    But I digress. This is a worthy organization. Thanks again for spreading awareness and raising support!

    • Hi, Gregory! Yes, the prevalence figure has been going up lately. This is one part better detection, which is a really good thing, because the earlier the intervention, the more effective it is. But there is also an actual increase in cases, and I don’t think anyone’s quite figured out why, although theories abound.

      And yes, what makes the other gender tick is one of the eternal mysteries of life. 😀 I suspect scientists will figure out the causes of autism a lot sooner than they will discover the answer to that quandary.

      Seriously, this is one of the reasons I picked Autism Speaks to support. They put a lot of their resources into funding research.

    • Thanks for visiting today, Greg…and for always making me laugh. 😀

  5. Wow! Great post and video! Thanks for sharing, Kassandra. I know of a few young people, toddler to young adult, who have either autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.

    • Thanks, Kim! I am also noticing more kids and teens (and even adults) with these disorders. Again, partly due to raised awareness. I think a lot of children that we just thought of as “weird” when we were kids were actually on this spectrum. Now they’re being identified and getting the help they need!

    • Hi Kim! Thanks for stopping by today and taking time to leave a comment. Enjoy your day!

  6. Thanks for sharing ladies. All 3 of my sister’s boys have been diagnosed with autism. Her oldest didn’t exhibit any signs until after he was two, but she noticed almost right away with her twin boys. School and therapy seem to help the most. 🙂

    • My hat is off to your sister, Coleen! She has her hands full, for sure. Definitely getting them in school and therapy is a must, as early as possible. I see so much progress in my grandson every time we go to visit.

    • Thanks for sharing, Coleen. Glad you stopped by. One thing that I noticed has helped my niece with the Fragile X is horseback riding. It’s been great therapy. I’ve seen her self-confidence grow and it’s helped emotionally a ton. I don’t know if it has similar effects for autism, but Kass may know.

      • I don’t know anything specific about this with ASD kids. But from what I understand, therapeutic riding can be helpful for a lot of kids with various kinds of challenges. It helps with physical coordination and with confidence. And autistic kids sometimes do really well with animals, where they can connect without so much pressure or the need to communicate with words.

  7. Hi Kassandra! I just wanted to thank you once again for the wonderful post and for being such a great guest. You’re welcome back anytime. 🙂

  8. Thanks you so much for having me, Rhonda! I love your Authors Give Back series.

  9. This just tears my heart out. And I don’t know exactly what to say. Autism sickens me. I cannot imagine what you and your family are living through and that precious grandson of yours. There are so many studies. I’m sure your family has investigated so many theories. I have my own suspicions. I feel that most of the cause is environmental. And I don’t trust the mercury in those immunizations. They’ve practically tripled the amount of shots required since my sons were born. The body can only deal with so much before something happens. My mother’s doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, his practice deals with Autism. He’s well known in his field and has had the most amazing results. I think it give out hope for so many who are dealing every day with this tremendous challenge. I wish your family all the best Kassandra. Thank you Rhonda for inviting Kassandra back so she could share her personal experience with all of us. 🙂

    • Aw, Karen, you’re such a sweetie! Thank you for your concern and support.

      But let me put to rest the whole issue of the immunizations. The suspected possible trigger in them was a preservative that is no longer used. And a couple of very large and well-designed studies (one was done in the UK, with records from their socialized medicine program) have shown that there is the same percentage of autism cases in kids who are not immunized as there are in immunized ones. Indeed, the research on which that theory was originally based is quite flawed.

      Unfortunately, the whole hoopla over immunizations caused by that theory has led to hundreds of deaths of children from preventable childhood diseases. And others have been disabled.

      It is quite possible that some of the cases of ASD are triggered by immunizations, but the risks involved when a child is not immunized are far greater. And the genetic predisposition has to be there first.

      In a lot of cases, the trigger occurs during prenatal development. This can be from a lot of different things in the environment. The fact that the causes seem to be multiple and complicated is what has stymied researchers so far. But progress is being made!

    • You’re such a sweetheart, Karen. Thank you for stopping by.

  10. Many thanks for highlighting autism. It is more known these days for children to have autism and Asperger’s (the low end of the spectrum) than adults. I know this because I was diagnosed with AS a couple of years ago as an adult. I have no idea how I come to have AS.

    • Hi, thanks so much for stopping by! A lot of milder cases on the ASD continuum were missed in years past. That is part of why the prevalence rates are going up now, because such cases are being caught much earlier. I hope this diagnosis is helping you to get some useful information. Take care!

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Julie. I hope you’re able to find the resources and info to help you adjust. Hugs!

  11. My son is autistic, so I always appreciate seeing people bring attention to it. I have no idea what caused it, only that it was evident before he was six months old. After two years of waiting for the promised tests by the school district, I took him to MSU for an independent evaluation, hoping a diagnosis would help everyone come up with a plan to help teach him better. Yeah, not. Mostly I’ve felt alone in all of this, but that’s okay. He actually talks a lot, and is very knowledgeable about a number of subjects. Social skills…let’s just say we’re still working on that one. But even that improves over the years. 🙂

    Let’s hope I remember to buy your book on Friday, Cassandra. I’m always up for supporting a worthy cause…and autism is one of the best. Not only do these groups help the kids, they help educate the idiots who prefer to think of them as retarded, or avoid them for fear they might catch it.

    • Hey, Kristy! I hear you about feeling alone. It can be so frustrating, trying to figure out what is going on and get your child what they need. Another great thing about groups like Autism Speaks is that they help parents know there’s somebody out there who gets what they’re going through.

      You can buy Celebrity Status anytime during the month of February and the proceeds will go to them.

      I’m glad to hear your son is doing so well with language. Social skills can be a bit tougher. Then again, a lot of us so called ‘normal’ people are sometimes lacking in that area. LOL

    • Hi Kristy. I know it’s a struggle, but you’re definitely not alone. Because of my great niece’s inability to function in a classroom setting (too much stimulus and problems with social skills) my niece decided to home school her. She does much better with that. But then she got her involved in the therapeutic horseback riding which helped tremendously with final and gross motor skills, her self-esteem and social skills. She also got her involved in Buddy Ball which also helped a great deal and then they have the same sort of program for cheer-leading where they live. With buddy ball, the team is made up of kids with disabilities of all kinds and they each of a “buddy” (another kid) to help them during the baseball/softball game. With the cheer-leading, they’re on a regular pee-wee squad, but they work with them to make them feel included. All of this has done wonders with her social skills over the last few years. She’s like a different kid. Well, except for the sweet part. She’s still a very loving and affectionate child. Your family will be in my prayers, Kristy.

  12. Coming in late as usual, but I wanted to thank you both for highlighting this great cause! One of my writing friends has an adult son with autism, and has a great blog about caring for special needs adults: climbingeverymountain.com. There are a lot fewer resources for adults with these kind of needs, and she chronicles her experiences, along with help for others.

    • Hey, Jennette, never too late to jump in here. Thanks for sharing that link. So true that there are not enough resources for adults! And the families trying to care for them.

    • Just saw this Jennette! Thanks for posting the link to your friend’s blog. I’ll def. check it out. And thank you so much for stopping by and all your support. 🙂

  13. […] Rhonda Hopkins hosts Kassandra Lamb in Authors Give Back: Kassandra Lamb and Autism Speaks. […]