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I was trying to recall the list of the most important words a person could say and I remembered the three most important words, “I love you”.  Since I have never heard a list of words you would least like to hear, I will supply them for you:  “Your son has autism”!


Once you hear those words,” Your son has autism”, your world will change.  The need to know everything about autism in plain English becomes all consuming. Although the internet hosts an extraordinary amount of information on the subject, navigating the research can be overwhelming.  What I needed most after learning my son had autism was clearly written information that I could easily understand and digest; but I didn’t know where to begin. 


The need to know the truth of the what, the why the how, the who and the where is what has driven me to share Ryan’s journey!


Ryan at 6 mos.

Ryan 1982-87

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Did you know...

For children 18 months through 4 years of age, the M-CHAT screens for the possibility of autism spectrum disorders and focuses on language, communication, social skills, and how a child relates to people and the environment.
This site will directly take you to the on-line CHAT screen.

Our Journey

In January of 1982 a little baby boy announced his arrival on a cold snowy day.  He was 7lbs 12oz and was 22 1/2 inches long.  We named him Ryan Peter Tessmer.  Ryan was a happy baby in spite of chronic ear infections.   Ryan had his first ear infection at 2 1/2 weeks old and his first set of ear tubes by 6 months.

Although Ryan developed some skills within the time expected, others were acquired later than my first two children.  However, I recall Ryan learning  "dada" and other simple words on schedule.  At around 3-4 years of age,  I noticed he had a turn in his right eye, and when he talked, there appeared to be a "stuttering" or dysfluency.  I was told it was a developmental stuttering and that he would probably "grow out of it"!  Those are always the famous last words. However, I learned later that sometimes a dysfluency can be a language based problem.  (At that time, my pediatrician was satisfied with Ryan's development.)

During this visit, I indicated that I would be taking Ryan to see an eye specialist.  When the doctor examined Ryan's eye, he concurred with my decision. The eye specialist immediately fitted Ryan for glasses and Ryan was "signed-up" for eye therapy for the next 2 years. 

Ryan had an incredible activity level;  I used to refer to him as the whirling dervish!  His joy and energy put a smile on everyone's face.  But as Ryan grew, his energy increased.  He was unable to sit still or focus on different activities for any amount of time.  When he used language, he talked about "nothing" (called empty speech).  By mid-kindergarten, we began to consider medication for his safety and for learning.  His teacher was reluctant to suggest medication. We took Ryan to his pediatrician and he was diagnosed with ADHD.  By the end of the first week of taking Ritalin, the teacher remarked that it was like a miracle drug.

This was good news.  However, Ryan's medication needed to be adjusted every couple of months to be effective. (It wasn't until junior high school that another doctor found the perfect "cocktail" to stabilize Ryan's ADHD).

I struggled with guilt about medicating my son. Since the decision had to be what was best for my son rather than what I was feeling, I ignored the bad press about ritalin and proceeded with my decision.


Ryan's fine motor skills were also very poor.  He had an immature pencil grip and his handwriting was illegible.  His gross motor skills were also unusual and he had a clumsy gait.  Ultimately, these were signs of autism, but I knew nothing about autism! 

You might be asking yourself why I would be concerned about attention and fine and gross motor skills.  My concern was that his skills were well below his same aged peers.

Ryan was under the care of a physician who specialized in ADHD, but again, unless you were familiar with Autism/Asperger, it looked like severe ADHD.  The symptoms are very similar and overlap.



Elementary Years

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Elementary School

When Ryan entered the first grade, I began to question the teacher about Ryan's academic progress.  She thought Ryan was a little slow; I didn't "buy" that one.  Ryan could do amazing things not related to academics, outside of school.   In addition, Ryan wasn't making any friends at school so I decided to sign him up for soccer.  He could run all he wanted and he was engaged with same-aged peers. At this time other behaviors emerged!

I noticed that if I didn't have Ryan to practice at the right time, he would have a major meltdown. Ryan could read the calendar, and knew exactly where he needed to be, and at what time.  I didn't think this was slow!  Ryan, however, was making me crazy!  I prayed every time we left the house that we would not run into traffic or some other delay!

No one suggested nor indicated that Ryan needed an evaluation, even though he was obviously very different from his peers. A teacher friend suggested we take Ryan to a developmental clinic for an evaluation.  Again, I must remind you that Asperger Syndrome was still relatively new, so he was misdiagnosed again as having severe ADHD.  The developmental team, of course, shared that Ryan had poor fine motor skills, an unusual gait and an average IQ.  I already knew this, and now I had to pay for the validation. It was also suggested that I monitor his language skills. 


The rest of his elementary school years went downhill.  The most horrible statement a teacher made to me was, "Did you know Mrs. Tessmer, sometimes when you drink and take drugs while pregnant, you may cause this?"  I was utterly "speechless". 

Later, I learned that recommendations made by the teacher consultant were never followed. (The consultant shared this with me out of concern for Ryan and lack of support from his classroom teacher. The teacher consultant said she would deny this statement if I brought it up to the administration.)  In other classrooms, Ryan's desk was moved further and further away from the rest of the class, and thereby, excluding him from his peers.  One day he came home and said, "Mom, I don't know what's wrong with the janitor, but every night he keeps moving my desk closer and closer to the radiator!"

My frustration today is that I didn't know the law;  Ryan still had the wrong diagnosis; and, folks were not addressing his needs ~ hindsight!



Did you know.....

Arm yourself with information and understanding of school terminology.  Knowledge is Power!  This is a good site:

Junior High School

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Junior High Years

Ryan had average intelligence and he was making educational gains.  Ryan's difficulty was with social relationships and understanding the social rules. This was very unfortunate for him, but part of his disability.

Ryan's first placement in junior high school was in a general education setting.  There were some accommodations made for him such as frequent stops to his locker so he could better organize himself for the next class;  pencils provided by teachers; and, increased communication with me.  His teacher called every single day to complain about him forgetting assignments, forgetting pencils, forgetting books, and having illegible handwriting, etc.  There was never one positive comment.  I dreaded his phone calls.  Finally, one day I received a phone call from school and I was told that my son was attacked in the gym locker room. The teacher added that the gym teacher was absent that day and there was a substitute.  What exactly did that mean?  Except for the fact Ryan was crying in the hallway, no one would have known about the incident. However, another teacher did see him and asked Ryan what had happened.  I was tired of dealing with this particular resource teacher and had my husband go into the school.  The other two boys lied and said that Ryan started the fight, but Ryan never even initiated a conversation, so why would he fight!  Several days later, the boys recanted their stories.  All the boys were suspended including my son.  What was most devastating was that his teacher would not believe Ryan; it broke my heart.

Another IEP,  another placement...

The following year Ryan was placed in a self-contained classroom for students with severe ADHD.  This was a new pilot program in our school district. Great idea I thought.  Ryan would be in a classroom with similar peers and wouldn't have to be concerned about the general education population.  I felt a tremendous relief!  As with all new programs there are always glitches that need to ironed out.  Ryan's academic skills were decent so it was decided to mainstream Ryan into a regular mathematics class and a gym class within that building. That was a nightmare!

Ryan had all he could do to keep himself together when students changed classes because of the crowded hallways and the noise level. In gym class he met the local "bully" who terrorized him.  He did not enlist any help from a counselor or teacher.  In any event, Ryan brought a knife to school and was showing it to his classmates.  One of his classmates informed the teacher that Ryan had a knife and Ryan was suspended.  Everyone assumed that Ryan brought the knife to school for protection.  However, this was a serious infraction.  Ryan underwent a new MET and IEP, and eventually he was sent to a center-based program for students with emotional impairments.


Even with the new evaluation, AS/ASD (asperger syndrome/autism spectrum disorder) was never considered.  Yet Ryan was still different from the other students.   The other students seemed more "street wise" and tougher.  However, with the class size ratio and the support of the classroom staff Ryan thrived.  The teachers used a positive behavior support system, and because the learned skills were concrete, he did well.  Still, Ryan had unusual behaviors. He was chewing on his shirt, making vocal noises and his self-care skills were undesirable.

However, my gut said there was something else that the prior evaluations were missing, so I had Ryan evaluated at a center-based program for students with autism.  This program was beginning to see students with asperger syndrome and I had begun reading and hearing about this disorder. Ryan appeared to fit the criteria.   Ryan agreed to allow the testing team to video the evaluation for use as a training tool for other professionals.  At last, his diagnosis was Asperger Syndrome.  My reaction was anti climatic ~ now what?

The current center-based program for emotional impairment was not happy that we had had an outside evaluation. I was informed that Ryan would have to retain his current label of EI (emotionally impaired), or he would have to leave that program.  I was now sitting on  "the other side of the table" and I was feeling that I had done something that was "underhanded". However, I needed an answer. In hindsight, had I known about Wrights Law (see below) I would have understood our rights. I would have been able to access and research what we were entitled to as parents of an autistic child.

 Check out this site:

Did you know....

 Nick Dubin, an "Asperger Guru", states according to statistics people with Asperger Syndrome are incredibly easy targets for being bullied in almost any educational or workplace setting.  From a statistical point of view, the vast majority of individuals with AS will experience repeated bullying and victimization at school and some will suffer in the workplace as well.  Nick Dubin gives the following reasons for bullying AS population:  Low Frustration Tolerance, Monotropism (inability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time), Motor Difficulties, Gullibility, Auditory Processing Difficulties, Problems Reading Nonverbal Cues, AS Special Interests, Lack of Dating Experience, Cultural Illiteracy, Lack of Imagination, Odd Use of Language.

Nick has recently written a book and his site address:

In Between

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Between Schools

The center program was anxious to move Ryan out of their program, and Ryan really wanted to attend high school in his home school-district.  Ryan met all the goals established by his IEP (Individual Education Plan) including his noise making and chewing on his shirt.


I, on the other hand, did not want him to attend the regular education setting. Ryan continued to have difficulty with large crowds, noises, and his social skills were still rough. I was afraid he would get "lost" in a regular education system.  My gut said no!


It certainly wasn't responsible for me to hold Ryan back, and since Ryan truly believed that he could be successful in the regular education setting,  I gave in!  His label was changed to AI (Autistically Impaired). New goals and objectives were based on his new diagnosis and his needs.  We were given many reassurances regarding his safety and continued success in the new environment. The resource consultant provided a place where Ryan could get help with social problems and academic supports as needed. He was strongly encouraged to report to her every day!  He did!

The night before Ryan was set to return to his district high school, he asked me:

 "Mom do you think the other kids have changed?"

Did you know....

Looking back, I can see that an advocate would have been a really good support for us.  An advocate is a third party person who can help you understand the process and the types of services your child may benefit from.  The advocate will also attend the meetings with you which may help reduce your anxiety. Advocates are free.  You will want to visit this site many times:

High School

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Did you know.....

Mainstreaming is a placement option and sometimes used synonymously with inclusion. Mainstreaming is participation in a general education classroom with typical peers with minimum supports. The student is expected to behave appropriately, be near grade level, high functioning and have moderate social skills. Inclusion is a placement option in a general education setting with typical peers. There are typically significantly more supports with possible 1:1 aide and an adapted curriculum.

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High School Years!

Because Asperger was such a newly recognized disability, a "best practice" for educating and treating for students was haphazard at best.   Ryan left the center-based program for emotional impairments and was now mainstreamed with supports into the high school. 


The resource room teacher in the high school read all the material I provided on Asperger Syndrome.  She provided information to his classroom teachers regarding the necessary accommodations and strategies that Ryan would require based on his disability.  Very few of the general education teachers would implement  the necessary accommodations he needed to be successful.


Although Ryan had his first transition meeting at the age of 14, at 16 the focus of his IEPs involved future career options and independence.  As part of Ryan's transition plan, Michigan Rehabilitation was invited to attend Ryan's IEPs until he graduated.  Michigan Rehabilitation's purpose was to assist Ryan after graduating from high school with additional education and/or job placement supports. Today, transition planning is much more sophisticated.

In the meantime, we had many more IEPs, (almost weekly) because Ryan was quickly losing academic ground.  One of our requests, as part of his transition plan, was that the school assist Ryan in transitioning into the local community college.  However, that never happened.

During this same time, (2 month period) Ryan was the victim of some serious bullying activity by other students. First, someone took a bat to his 5 yr. old car in the school parking lot.  There was extensive damage.  And, of course, no one was caught or seen. The second incident was a message on his class computer monitor, "I wish you were dead"!  Again, the school was unable to find out who was doing this.  Finally, after graduation exercises when all the students picked up their diplomas, his was missing; someone had taken it.  He was absolutely devastated!  So were we!


Ryan's attempt at attending the local community college was unsuccessful. He would not seek out help from the tutoring center nor ask questions on navigating college life.


Ryan eventually attended Michigan Career Technical Institute to study computer repair.  This is a state-funded facility to habilitate folks to develop job skills.  Mi Rehab created and followed through with a new transitional plan and Ryan completed this program.  This was not without trials and tribulations. 


A well developed transition plan is essential for you child's future.  Check out this site:

Special Ed 101

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Intro to School

I wanted to give you a little more information regarding the types of placements that are available for students. The whole process of education will probably seem daunting at first, maybe even beyond  daunting.  Special Education has certainly evolved over the past fifteen years, and as soon as you think you have it all figured out, something changes.  Most of the time, changes will be for the better.


When you first have your child evaluated in the school system, the folks that do the testing are called the Multi Evaluation Team (MET). When assessing a student for autism, the MET team at a minimum involves a psychologist, social worker and speech language pathologist.  You will be asked to sign the Evaluation Review (ER) so that they can proceed with the evaluation.


When the testing is completed, the professionals meet together to discuss the results and determine eligibility for special education services.  The IEP will address educational placement with the least restrictive environment in mind.  At this time, leave your emotions at home, and make sure any decision you make are based upon your child’s needs, not what you need. 


At first, Ryan attended regular education with supports.  Had I known the nature of his disability when he was younger, I would have requested a placement in a more restricted environment, such as an AI classroom. Ryan would have received the appropriate interventions, and therapies that were relevant to his disability.  Hindsight!


Check these sites:


Did you know...

Program and Placement Options:  How students with ASD are served   


From 1975 until now, services for students with ASD have changed dramatically.  As we learn more about ASD my hope is that all persons involved with the evaluation process and educators to continue improvements educating and proper place students on the spectrum.  The evaluation process still needs to be more in tune to the deficits of ASD.

Over the years students have been misdiagnosed and been placed in programs that were not really able to support the needs of our students.  Many were placed in CI or EI or even hospitalized. 


The state requires the following in regards to placement:


R 340.1722 Placement in special education

programs and services.

Rule 22.

(1) The individualized education program team determines the educational placement of a student with a disability in programs and services from a continuum of alternative placements, such as instruction in general

education classes, special classes or special instruction in general education classes, special classes or special schools, home instruction in hospitals and institutions, resource rooms, or itinerant instruction with general education class placements.

(2) The superintendent or his or her designee shall appoint a staff person to be responsible for the implementation of the individualized education program, including services provided by other agencies. The person shall be either the principal of the building where the primary educational program is provided to the student who has a disability or other staff person who is

generally accessible to the staff and who will be working with the student who has a disability.


Wayne County Guidelines:


Placement Considerations

(IDEA 300.551) Different types of placements: general education, resource program, self contained in general education building, separate facility, home and hospital or institutions.

(IDEA 300.552) Team Members to consider

_ student _ receiving principal

_ parent(s) of student , receiving classroom teacher(s)

_ sending classroom teacher(s) , receiving school students

_ sending support staff  , receiving building staff

_ LEA director/supervisor  , receiving support staff




Information team members need to know or understand

_ Orientation to the disability

_ Student’s needs: academic, social, communication

_ Student’s medical needs

_ How to support the student’s learning

o supplemental strategies and accommodations

o potential support personnel

_ Information on how the student learns

_ What the student’s current day looks like

o instructional strategies used to support successful learning

o behavioral strategies used to support a successful day

_ What the expectations are

o rules of the receiving school

o rules of the receiving class

o curriculum in the receiving district/school

_ Staff expectations/understandings/involvement

_ Physical size of building and student population


Questions to Consider in the Transition Process

1) What supports need to be in place for the student to be successful?

2) What supports need to be in place for the teachers to be successful?

3) What supports need to be in place for others (i.e., other students, family, administrators) to be successful?


Placement Process:

Different types of placements have different referral processes that the resident district must follow. First, the team would need to consider the least restrictive environment; general education, resource room, self contained in general education building, separate facility, home and hospital or institutions.


The current coordinator/lead person of the process would:

1) Contact current special education director, program supervisor, or placement department to discuss:

a) Student needs

b) Available options within as well as outside current district/program

c) Potential actions

d) Next steps

2) Meet with the parent(s) to discuss:

a) Student needs

b) Available options within as well as outside current district/program

c) Potential actions - If applicable, parent(s) tour is arranged to proposed placement

d) Next steps – Parent(s) will report back to discuss proposed placement(s).

3) Receiving program coordinator communicates with sending program coordinator to discuss/identify team members who need to be involved in the process.

4) Sending program completes paperwork for referral.

5) Receiving program reviews referral paperwork for accuracy and completeness.

6) Receiving program schedules the IEP and the meeting is held at the receiving program/ placement and the IEP is completed on their paperwork.


 The above information comes from the Wayne County Guidelines on Autism. In our state students with disabilities are served 0-26 yrs of age.  For the very young, WCRESA has an Early On program for students suspected of disabilities and developed from that program the “Child Find Program”. 



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Did you know......

Social Skill Stories are a wonderful way to introduce a new social situation and social expectations. Carol Gray has several books with created social stories that can adapt for your child's needs.

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How to fit in...

I should start this by saying it doesn't matter whether your child has the "typical autism", high functioning autism, PDD NOS, or asperger: students on the spectrum will demonstrate some type of sensory behavior.   One type of  behavior you might observe is the need for  pressure on the body.  For instance, Ryan would pile up sofa cushions and  lie under them.  He would also sleep at night in his pillow case with the pillow.  As he aged up, I would discover a large number of rocks in his coat pockets and in his back pack.  He would wear his coat all day long in school and keep his back pack on as well.  However, looking back, this sensory input helped Ryan function in junior high and high school.


Ryan had a very low tolerance for noise, large gatherings of people and new situations (welcome to life).  Ryan disliked going to the malls, church etc.  Any where there was a noisy and crowded environment Ryan's anxiety and behavior would change.  However he was not going to learn about social navigation with these over shadowing sensory issues.

When we visited out-of-state relatives, rather than join in with family activities, Ryan would escape to find a computer game. It was quiet and no one bothered him, but there was a seconday issue. 

What I didn't understand was that Ryan didn't know how to navigate the social rules of family gatherings.  What I did was supply him with a behavior to replace his escape behavior. The noise level and physical closeness was not like schools or malls instead, I told Ryan to take a plate of snacks and sit and listen.  He looked appropriate watching the interactions, and he began to participate and contribute to the activities. This took some time! This is another example how every skill needs to be taught with ASD individuals.  At this point there were two different issues.  One issue was sensory overload and the other he did not have the social skill. 




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Did you know.....

If you are connected with a local agency such as community services, you can probably arrange for someone to come into the home to assist with behaviors. You may also be able to arrange respite services to provide you with a "break".

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Aggressive Behaviors

Ryan was an easy going and happy child.  When he was upset or angry he had quite a temper.  Of course, when he was younger, he was more easily redirected.  However, by the time Ryan was in junior high school he was quite a bit taller, stronger and heavier than me.  There were two separate incidents when Ryan pushed me.  He was obviously very angry, but, we couldn't allow that. My husband and I decided to call the police. We needed to make a point with Ryan.

The police were very kind and asked what was "wrong" with him.  When I explained the disability to them, they assured me that if I needed any help while my husband was at work, not to hesitate and call them.  Whether it was the presence of the police, or fear of them, we never had to call them back and there were no other incidents.  I am not encouraging or suggesting any one to go this route, but knowing my son, I believed this was the right decision.


Over the past few years, management of behaviors in schools has come under fire.  As of the reauthorization of the IDEA 1987, the government has made recommendations to use Positive Behavioral Supports.  This program recommends the use of functional assessment and positive approaches to encourage good behavior.  With this intent, PBS was developed to change behaviors of students who would otherwise be excluded from activities.


Since I am part of a center-based program and our school is linked closely with the county, we have been using such a system in our school.  With this program, we are able to explore antecedents to the behavior and develop a plan of action to avoid future problems. At Burger School there is a behavior team in place to review student progress on behavior plans at least monthly or more frequently as needs arise.  Parents are also invited to be part of the process in the development of a plan.

Of course, the process is more complicated, but this type of analysis can be very helpful.


Check out this site:


Good News!

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Programs and Treatments

The good news today is that there are many therapies and programs for helping children on the spectrum.  However, not all treatments or programs fit every child.  You need to be a discerning parent and investigate the type of program you believe will benefit your child.  Only try one treatment at a time. It's important to be able to distinguish which program made the difference or responsible for  progress. 


Children on the spectrum have different ability levels, so outcomes and the rate of learning will differ.  Therapies can be very time intensive and costly. Whatever you choose, you need to be able to commit to the program. 

Early intervention is very important.  You can access early intervention through your school district/county.  It is at this time that the brain continues to develop.  Although I am not endorsing any particular program, here are some other early intervention programs to investigate:  TEACCH, ABA, PECS, diet, and vitamins.  I will include these and others in the bookmarks. Just remember, there are no guarantees.

Did you know...

There are many different types of interventions today. Knowing which one to choose is where a differential diagnosis is so important.  In addition there are those who will take advantage of families and of course all their financial means. It is important to make an informed decision.  These are in no particular order.

ABA   (very intensive at young ages)

PECS (not really an intervention as much a methodology using pictures ~ excellent for language learning)

Speech Therapy

Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy

Educational Programming


Social Skill Training



PECS – The basis behind PECS is to teach initiation using pictures.  We use PECS along with UDL (Universal Design for Learning).  It is a perfect marriage.  UDL moves with PECS to improve and encourage interactive communication and learning with incidental language.  It’s fabulous to see the progress in low functioning students (adults).


Occupational Therapy can assist with sensory needs/feeding needs and later the Handwriting without Tears method.


Why Me?

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Did you know...

There are support groups for families who have a member of their family with autism. Many school districts have parent groups to support families as well. Depression is especially common in mothers of children with autism! Site is listed on Bookmarks!

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Welcome to Holland!

Welcome To Holland
Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to
Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to

Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!  I'm supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan.  They've landed in
Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place.  It's slower-paced than
Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from
Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned." 

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever  go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to
Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

*     *     *

©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved.  Reprinted by permission of the author.



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There are many theories regarding the cause of autism, but to date no one particular cause.  The two most controversial causes that were shared many years ago was the case for the “Refrigerator Mom” and the most recent was related to the MMR vaccine.


The “Refrigerator Mom”, mothers who don’t hug and nurture children, was a “slap in the face” for parents.  In fact you would be very surprised to learn that there are still some people who continue this notion to blame mothers.  The new comments might be, “if you hadn’t done, or if you had ….Let me clear this up right now for you…..YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT


The second controversial issue was that of the MMR vaccine.  This issue continues because of the timing of the MMR vaccine and the onset of autism.  However the extensive research has said that the vaccine is not the cause of autism.


At this time research is focusing on the brain in regards to brain circuitry, “brain glitch” during gestation, interplay of genetics and environment on brain development, brain abnormalities, the nervous system, environmental toxins, and genetics.  This is not an exhaustive list, but given the variety of research there are, two things that are safe to say: “we’re not exactly sure”, and YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT!


People have different definitions for "cured".  You may see big changes in your child's progress.  However, that doesn't necessarily mean they are cured.  I would expect, with intensive treatment, that you would see good progress.  What some folks don't realize is that as your child ages up, there are continued developmental milestones to gain, as well as maturation of the existing learned skills.  One of the major areas of deficit is in social development.  How we socialize and navigate our social world at 3 will not be the same at 15 or 16 years of age.  The ability for higher level learning and thinking skills are not the same at 3 as they are at 16.  These are particular areas that seem to be most difficult for people on the autism spectrum. Acquisition of social and language skills continue beyond 9 or 10 years old.  So, you would have to wonder when a parent of a 4 or 5 yr. old child claims they are "cured", what do they really mean? This can be a premature statement when you consider there are later developing skills.

As the current research indicates autism is a life long disability.  It is a neurological problem.  Can you shape it, sure;  can you see progress in learning, sure; but it is still there!

There is a great deal of research that is happening in the autism community to discover the cause of autism.  If there were truly a cure, there would be no reason  for this site!  We would all be in line for the cure.  One day, I am sure someone will find it and develop preventative measures against developing this disability!  Never give up the hope!


Check out these sites:





SLP Thoughts!

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Did you know...

A certified Speech Language Pathologist will have the following credentials after their name: CCC, SLP (Certified Clinical Competence, Speech Language Pathologist). Along other governing boards, they are governed and certified by ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association). A speech language pathologists employed by schools should also have a teaching certificate.

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Let me interject!

1.  From a professional perspective, The Test of Problem Solving is the most sensitive instrument I have used as part of a diagnostic evaluation especially for AS.  This test examines those areas that are typically difficult for students on the autism spectrum.  I would also suggest that a good language sample be collected as well, since a therapist can thoroughly assess the quality of conversation and language skills. 

2. Two good predictors of success for communication are: joint attention and initiation.

An example of joint attention:  If you see a train going by and you point at the train and say look at the train and your child does, that's a good sign.
An example of initiation:  if your child grabs your hand and leads you to a desired object, that is a good sign.  This demonstrates intent to communicate.

3.  Photo Albums are a wonderful way to enhance language.  Photograph visits, vacations, trips to roller skating etc.  Put in a photo album and make this available to your child.  You will be surprised how many times he/she will independently seek it out.

4.  When seeking out a Speech Language Pathologist make sure they have experience working with students on the spectrum, it will make a difference.



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About the Author

My name is Betty Tessmer and I am a speech language pathologist at Burger School for Students with autism. For sixteen years  I have loved my job every day, and I have learned so much from the students.

My husband and I have three adult children, two sons and a daughter, and a dog named Max.  My youngest boy  Ryan, now age 27, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was 13 yrs. old.  At that time, this disability was not very well known or diagnosed.  Because Asperger  was a new diagnosis, accurate assessments and meaningful programming were hard to find.

This site is our story of what life was like for us as Ryan grew up, and about what we know today!  Looking back, I felt like a pioneer lost on the prairie.  Hopefully, your journey will be less stressful than ours.

As you open each journey box, there will be site(s)  listed on the bottom that you can visit for additional information relate to your situation.These sites are quite reliable and provide the most accurate and up-to-date information on autism.

As you move along in the world of autism, I hope that you get what you need and that you know you are not alone.

These same sites and others will also be posted on the  Bookmarks page.

Good luck on your journey!

Betty Tessmer, EdS., CCC-SLP


To stabilize and open boxes, go to the upper left corner and change the triangle to a square.  If you need to enlarge a text box, go to the bottom right corner and pull the arrow down.  I Hope this helps.


Betty Tessmer



Autism Sites

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ABA: Applied Behavior Analysis 

APE: Adapted Physical Education

ASL: American Sign Language

BIP: Behavior Intervention Plan

ESL: English as a Second Language

ESY: Extended School Year

FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education

FBA: Functional Behavioral Assessment

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEP: Individual Education Plan

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment

NCLB: No Child Left Behind

OT: Occupational Therapy

PBS: Positive Behavior Support

PECS: Picture Exchange Communication System

PLP: Present Level of Performance

PT: Physical Therapy

PWN: Prior Written Notice

SLP: Speech Language Pathologist

504: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act





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Did you know....

A medical diagnosis of ASD does not necessarily guarantee special education services. The disability must impact educational performance to qualify for special education services.

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As it turned out, Ryan was a text book case, a poster child if you will. He was finally given a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome.  When the DSM IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) was published, Asperger would be put under the umbrella of Austism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) along with the typical autism and pdd nos, (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) in the DSM IV.

Students with asperger present with a normal IQ and higher. They are very aware that they are different from their peers, and most importantly, do not understand the perspective of others.  Their language deficits are in the pragmatic area which is how you use your language and social problem solving and reasoning skills.

There are still other characteristics that are part of an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)  diagnosis, so please check out the site and explore the world of Asperger Syndrome.

For me, I felt a sense of relief that there was finally a name for his disability.

Check out this site:  p://


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