Why I thank God for Netflix

Tristan at 16 months old.

Tristan at 16 months old.

As parents, we hear all the time how horrible it is to let your kids watch copious amounts of television. But what if, through television we are able to cross the border of no words to talking in sentences? My son, Tristan, has Autism. At 17 months old, he stopped talking. He used to say words for milk, Grandpa, eat, various colors and shapes, letters, animals and their noises, plus many other things. I remember taking him Trick or Treating at 15 months and he would say his version of “trick or treat!” at each house followed by “thank you.” Both of these words were very mispronounced because he was so young, but the point is…he said them. Then at 17 months, all language stopped. He wouldn’t sign the few signs he knew either. He wouldn’t say “bawk bawk” when we gave him chicken for dinner or “Gra Gra” when his Grandpa walked into the room. But 17 months was the same time that his brother, Graham, was born. So we pushed the language backsliding to the back of our minds. “He doesn’t want to talk because the baby doesn’t have to” we’d say. It sounded right.

Deep in thought over the flavor of the chocolate croissant

Deep in thought over the flavor of the chocolate croissant

At almost 3 years old, Tristan still wasn’t talking. We started to notice that he avoided eye contact with strangers and ignored other kids. I had an itch at the back of my mind when I read an article about Autism. The itch said “this is Tristan.” After a brief questionnaire at his pediatrician’s office, a speech evaluation, and finally an Autism eval, we had a diagnosis. Autism. The itch had been right.

But Tristan started talking. It wasn’t anything we said. It was from Disney movies. He would sing “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony” from Fantasia 2000 when they put it on Netflix. He even sang it at his special Pre-K teacher to get her attention one day. Now, Tristan says sentences that the characters say and then looks us in the eyes so that we repeat him. Progress. I don’t know when I would’ve heard Tristan say “Happy Birthday” if it weren’t for the Disney short films collection that is on Netflix right now (Anna sings happy birthday to herself in the Frozen short).  Now that he is in therapy 32 hours per week, plus 4K (half days), we’ve been hearing more and more. He has even begun repeating us when we say things! It’s amazing!

I truly believe that Netflix and Disney have helped him get this far.

An almost two-year old Graham

An almost two-year old Graham


An almost three year old Graham

Now, we just received news about Graham, who will turn three on December 5th. Graham has been in the Birth-3 program since he was two. He never spoke as well as Tristan did before he was 17 months and we wanted to help him as soon as we could. But Graham is the exact opposite of Tristan, so we never dreamed that we would receive the news from his IEP evaluation at his soon-to-be school. Educational Autism. This means that although Graham doesn’t have a medical diagnosis of Autism, he is showing all the signs, so the diagnosis is given so they can begin treatment when he starts school after his 3rd birthday. Can you imagine getting this news? Again? Luke and I can and it’s definitely a punch to the stomach at first. We know that Graham hasn’t changed. He is still the same amazing and lovable kid. I know this. Luke knows this. But Luke still tried not to cry in front of the evaluators giving the diagnosis and when he called to tell me. And I still felt my heart jam up into my throat as I tried not to sob all over my keyboard at work. People tell me it’s ok to mourn what could have been. Or not to feel guilty. That it wasn’t anything we did.

12185058_10204758790721864_7234474855946109913_oI get home that night and give my kids a hug. Nothing has changed for them. We are watching the Disney shorts again and the one about Nessie comes on. The boys like the part where the friend of Nessie says “Only wee babies cry…” and then coughs all over the place. They look at me to say the line with the character. Tristan repeats what he can. And Graham copies the character’s ragged cough and grins at me.

I grin back.

It’s going to be ok. Because the boys are right. Nothing has changed.

I also want to thank my gigantic group of online mommy friends (you know who you are). You helped me get through my initial freak out over the whole thing this week. I don’t know what I would do without your love and support through both good and hard time. I love you all!

I am not affiliated with Netflix or Disney in any way. I just really like them. 

32 Hours PER WEEK

“Those who qualified for the State funding ABA waiver need to have 32 hours of EIBI therapy per week.”

I almost choked on my snack sized pretzels.

I’d arrived first at the parent orientation for my son’s therapy. ABA stands for “Applied Behavior Analysis.” This is one type of therapy that works really well for kids with autism. The reason for so many hours is EIBI or Early intensive behavioral intervention. This means get them as much therapy as possible while they’re young so it’ll have a higher chance of succeeding.

Tristan was diagnosed with high-functioning autism last July, just after his 3rd birthday. We waited one year on a waitlist to be approved for this funding, because we definitely couldn’t afford therapy on our own at $200 or more per hour. His name was finally at the top of the list and I couldn’t be more happy!

Arriving at orientation, I donned my name tag and grabbed a handful of pretzels. I didn’t know what to expect. Would there be lots of parents here? Should I have made Luke come with me? The chairs slowly filled up. Three other moms filled those chairs. Moms going through the exact same thing as me. But, none of us talked to each other. We all stared at our phones until the presentation started.

We introduced ourselves briefly when pointed to and then listened to one of the intake coordinators tell us about ABA therapy. It sounds awesome. Then they dropped the bomb. Tristan would be in therapy 32 hours per week, for a total of at least 120 hours per month. I was excited! This is going to change his life for the better. School (4K), combined with ABA is going to change his life.

The significance of that was mind-blowing!

Then that bomb made impact as the common sense washed off some of my elation. I work full-time. Luke works full-time. Will one of us have to quit our jobs? Will we be struggling to pay bills again? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

What are we going to do…11703571_10204293173161716_8076268094690388178_o

After freaking out for a little bit (at home, not at orientation. I am good at being ALL SMILES in public, even if I’m freaking out on the inside), I took a deep breath. Luke and I prayed about it. No, we still don’t know exactly what we’re going to do, but whatever happens with our jobs or money, one thing is certain.

This therapy is going to change Tristan’s life for the better. Anything is worth that.

Hey all. I haven’t posted a Tristan update in a while. He is doing great, but I am ready for school to start! He is ready too, I think. I am not the best at routine and tend to just “go with the flow” when I’m home on nights and weekends. I am working at getting better at that.

Later this week, I have another author interview planned so be excited!

– Katy

T is for Tristan

Tristan, almost four years old, is my first born son. I wanted to feature him for the letter ‘T’ of the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

The Good: Tristan is amazing. I can’t believe he’s almost four already! His joy radiates off his face at all times, which is infectious. Tristan attends school near our old apartment for the remainder of the year, which is a bit of a drive, but we felt it was important to finish out the year at the same school he started with at the beginning. It feels like Tristan should still be a baby, but now he is tracing letters and helping with chores. When did this happen? Where was I?!

The Bad: Ok, this isn’t really bad. It is a challenge, but it definitely isn’t bad. Tristan was diagnosed with autism in July of last year (a week after his birthday). He is very high-functioning, learning a lot in special Pre-K, and is signed up for Kindergarten next year. I still don’t know everything about autism, but we are pretty much a “figure-it-out-as-we-go” sort of family and it seems to working for us so far. Tristan does make eye contact and interact with others, but doesn’t say many words (getting more and more words each day though). He also isn’t potty trained yet, which people say will happen when he’s ready. He seems pretty dang content in diapers at the moment. SIGH

The Katy: We named Tristan after the main character of the same name in the movie “Stardust.” Luke proposed after the credits, which was a perfect moment in time. It was only fitting to name our first son Tristan (yes, I know it’s actually Tristram in the book, but we liked this version of the name better).
I am starting to think about Tristan’s birthday party theme. Last year, it was a popsicle theme, which turned out AWESOME. He likes a lot of things and I know he will have fun no matter what theme I choose. Party planning is my (not-so-secret) joy. Love you, Tristan.

Happy New Year! 2015 is Here!

2015 is here! Last year was an equal mix of good, difficult, and awesome. I know 2015 will bring more of the same and I am ready! But first, some highlights:

1. Luke, the kids, Juice, and I moved to our own apartment (like real adults, people!). It felt awesome to have some space to kick around.

2. Graham started sleeping through the night! SCORE. It is amazing how more hopeful I am now that I get a full night’s rest.

3. Luke and I celebrated 6 years of marriage in July. Luke is pretty cool. I guess I’ll keep him.

4. Tristan turned 3 in July. He also was diagnosed with Autism (ASD) this month. It was a heartbreaking thing to hear that my child wasn’t “normal”, but it was a good thing to get an early diagnosis. He is in special Pre-K now and improves his language skills everyday! Walker_071

5. July was a busy month! I also got a new job at Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod as their Missions Event/Production Coordinator. I schedule speakers for events, make things pretty with graphic design, and other awesome random things. It feels nice to be using my degree (even though I miss my Starbucks family).

6. Graham also started therapy for speech. He is also improving. Hopefully, his language skills will explode soon!

7. After watching the show, FaceOff on SyFy, I decided to give Special FX makeup a try. I love it and am very excited to keep growing in my skills! Halloween was a lot of fun. My cousins, Nicole and Natalie, and I were a zombie hoard. I got a lot of compliments on my makeup, which felt great. (See some FX makeup posts here and here.)

8. In November, I joined thousands of people from all over the world for National Novel Writing Month. The goal was to write 50,000 words in one month to win and I did it! (See post here)


Generally, I don’t make resolutions. Resolutions feel like they were made to be broken and I want to better myself without that pressure. Saying that, here are some hopeful goals for 2015.

1. Stop renting! I am sick of wasting money on a place I am renting. We are throwing money away instead of into something that we own. Yuck. Done. We are making baby steps towards a house for us to grow into!

2. Hear those babies talk! Both Tristan and Graham are getting better each day with talking, but still have a long way to go. Tristan is getting pretty good at repeating things he hears, but isn’t consistent yet. Graham babbles a lot, but doesn’t make clear words or sentences. With some more help from school and therapy, they will be pros soon!

3. Travel. We hope to meet Luke’s parents halfway (ish) this summer! It’s been awhile and I am excited to get out of the state again.

4. Finish my novel.

5. Get better at creating special effects makeup magic.

6. Get more involved in church stuff.

7. Get in shape (on everyone’s list)!

I just know this year is going to be amazing. 😉