There's an App for When Mommy Is Away on Business

I am leaving this afternoon for two weeks of whirlwind international and bi-coastal conferencing. If you're going to be at the March 5th National Autistic Society conference in Harrogate, UK, where I'll be talking iPads & apps; or at the March 7th UCSF Developmental Disabilities Conference in San Francisco, where all four TPGA editrixes, myself included, will be discussing Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, social media, community, and outreach; or at the UN Foundation's Shot@Life Champions Summit to discuss vaccine policy and outreach in Washington DC March 9 - 12, please do say hello. (If I was to wear a communication badge, it would be Green, as perfectly outlined by ASAN -- I am not great at initiating conversations, but am happy to chat if approached.)

My husband and mother and a whole squadron of friends and helpers are covering for me -- the documentation for How To Run This Household When I'm Not Here is seven pages of 10 point text. So I'm not worried about being gone, and am profoundly grateful to everyone involved. I am worried about missing my family, though, and having them miss me.

So of course I made Leo a Kid in Story interactive book about going on a trip, where I'll be, why I'm going, how long I'll be gone, who will be with him while I'm gone, and that I will definitely be coming back. He liked the story, especially the part about me going on a train in England (that Thomas the Tank Engine conditioning perisists, it does). Since I will be 8 hours ahead of Leo for the first week, FaceTime will not always be an option. But with the Kid in Story app, he can independently see my picture, hear my voice, and reassure himself that I'll becoming back soon -- as many times as he wants to reassure himself. I also made him a bunch of KiS versions of his favorite books, so I can "read" them to him even when I'm not there.

I talk about the Kid in Story app all the time -- even in Bay Area Parent just this week -- with good reason. It's an affordable, easy-to-use story creation app. And its free companion Reader app lets you share any story you've made with any person who has access to an iDevice. It took me 30 minutes, tops, to create a nine-page story with custom photos, text, and voiceover, and then share it with Leo's grandmother, dad, and teacher. Leo will be able to reassure himself I'll be coming back, wherever he goes. And knowing he'll be reassured makes it less difficult for me to leave his side for such a long stretch.


The Problems With "To The Woman And Child Who Sat At Table Nine"

Leo loves going to his favorite restaurants
A few thoughtful souls have forwarded me the Anti-Jared story about the restaurant manager who treated an autism family with kindness after another table complained about their noise. Here's the heart of the story, from the manager's perspective:
"I started to walk to your table. You knew what I was going to ask. You saw the table I just spoke to pointing at you. I got to your table and you looked at me. You wanted the first word. You said…

"'Do you know what it is like to have a child with Autism?'

"You were not rude when you asked the question. In fact, you were quite sincere. Your daughter could not have been more than five years old. She was beautiful and looked scared that I was at the table. She looked like she thought she was in trouble."
I did not "like" this story on Facebook, or share it, and I wish you wouldn't share without a comment, either. Why?

I appreciate stories about kind people doing nice things, but I would have handled the situation differently than the autism parent in the story:
  • I certainly wouldn't say or imply anything negative about autism or being Leo's mom in front of Leo.
  • Nor do I want people to feel sorry for me because Leo is autistic; he is awesome and I want people to know that. 
  • It's so important for people like Leo and families like ours to be out in public, without proactively or automatically feeling shame, or the need for social approval. 
  • However -- If Leo needs accommodation, or if we are disturbing people and we did not notice, I would hope both Leo and I would respond appropriately, in the moment. 
I hope the mother in the story finds some positive, acceptance- and understanding-focused community. She seems like she could use it. I'd suggest you visit and share the following Positive Autism Parenting Sites:
And, for the takeaway: Stories like this, in my opinion, are reinforcing pity by smothering it under feel-good. They reinforce the social segregation of autistic people and autism families. And that's not the world Leo or his autistic friends or our autistic families deserve to live in.