Autism · Uncategorized

Zack Cooks: How To Make Breakfast Fast, Easy And Healthy

Adopting a healthy lifestyle has not been the easiest of concepts for my son to adopt and learn. Every day he wants to eat out. Not only is a daily dose of Mcdonald’s unhealthy but I really can’t afford to take him out every day. So we are starting small with quick easy breakfasts that are tempting but not too unhealthy.

Fortunately he likes oatmeal so we have been preparing overnight oats on Sunday evenings.


The biggest expense was the mason jars but they will last forever so that’s a pretty good investment. We pick up a lot of add ins to keep it from getting too boring. They’re not sausage biscuits but they still take pretty good.

We start with a base of 1/2 cup of oatmeal and 1 TBSP of chia seeds. Our favorite flavor combinations are:

  • ginger, date and pear
  • strawberries with mini chocolate chips
  • apple, cinnamon and caramel
  • banana and maple syrup
  • blueberry peach
  • raspberries with mini chocolate chips
  • coconut, cocoa and honey
  • apple cranberry or raisins

We can’t include any nuts because of our allergies. We top it off with 3/4 C soy milk.

So far we’re off to a good start so hear is hoping it will become a habit. I’d love to hear how everyone else helps their loved ones adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Have a great week!

C.A., Zack and Izze

© Chantelle Porter 2016





Autism · Uncategorized

I Am A Superstar

I love this one.


Autism · Uncategorized

Caregiver Shortage

I am looking for someone right now so this was very timely.

Autism · Uncategorized

Feeling A Bit Overwhelmed

I’m really feeling my age today. I would so much appreciate the help but I believe in our state it’s a minimum of 10 years. Hope I last.

Unfortunately, Illinois is not the only state with problems.

C.A., Zack and Izze


The Hidden Links Between Autism and Genius

One: that autistic children and child prodigies may be understudied in adulthood

Source: The Hidden Links Between Autism and Genius


6 Reasons Why A Toy Poodle Makes The Best Pet



From time to time you will be hearing about my dog, Izze. We adore her and if you are thinking of getting a pet, you may want to consider this:

They Are Not Designer. They Are A Tried And True Breed.

The Poodle hails from Germany where it was actually first bred and was referred to as a Pudl. Pudl is German for “to splash” and Poodles were widely used to retrieve water fowl. The “fou fou” haircut that is typically associated with Poodles was actually designed to keep their joints warm while in the water while not having too much hair to weigh them down. Though a German dog, Poodles gained fame in France for being “trick dogs” and were a favorite of King Louis XVI and Queen Anne.

They Love Hard

Toy Poodles love their people. You will be the center of their universe. Sure, they will romp with other dogs given the opportunity, but given a choice between you and “the other dog” they will always choose you. They will endlessly bring you toys to throw because they love to play with you. They will spend endless hours on your lap simply to be near you. They will smother you with kisses and you will love every minute of it.

If you want your next dog to be affectionate and playful, this is the breed for you.

Their Coat

Poodles don’t actually have fur, they have hair. What this means for you is they do not shed. Ever. Their hair will keep growing, just like human hair, so you will need to get them groomed every 4 – 6 weeks. It’s a small price to pay for clothing and furniture that isn’t covered with fur.

Because they have hair and are groomed frequently, they are very allergy friendly. There is no truly hypoallergenic dog and if a breeder or pet store owner tells you otherwise, they are misinformed. Some people can handle poodle mixes with ease, but for those who have asthma,or very severe allergies, a poodle is probably your best first choice. If you buy from a reputable breeder, they will allow you to purchase your pet and return it if you are allergic to it. But then, of course, you’ll have a broken heart.


10 Most Popular Dog Breeds In The US

Labrador Retriever
German Shepherd
Golden Retriever
Yorkshire Terrier
French Bulldog


They Are Smart

The Poodle is in the top ten smartest dogs, right behind Border Collie and German Shepherd. Training is a breeze with this breed not only because they are smart but because they are such people pleasers. My Toy Poodle was house trained in two days and was only 8 weeks old. While I’d like to take the credit for training her so well, she is really just that smart.

The Poodle’s intelligence is best on display in obedience classes and agility. Take your new puppy to an obedience class and she will shine. Because Poodles are long legged and bright, they also make great agility dogs. Agility is the sport where you guide your dog through an obstacle course that includes tunnels, weaving, hurdles, etc. Agility courses are also timed tests and because your Poodle loves you, she will run her heart out for you.

Top 10 Smartest Dogs
1. Border Collie
2. Poodle
3. German Shepherd
4. Golden Retriever
5. Shetland Sheepdog
6. Labrador Retriever
7. Papillon
8. Doberman Pinscher
9. Rottweiler
10. Australian Cattle Dog
Source – Animal Planet

They Are Portable

This may not have occurred to you as a characteristic you would like to see in your next pet, but it’s a biggie. Once you bring that little ball of fur home you are going to want to spend all your time with her. If you have an active lifestyle, the last thing you will want is to be leaving your new pet home all alone while you’re off having fun.

Love to bike? Toy Poodles, at their largest, are 10 inches at the shoulders. Some weigh as much as 9 pounds while others weigh as little as 5. We have a special basket for our Poodle that attaches to the front of one of our bikes. A 20 mile bike ride is fun for your Poodle because she is with you. The amount of weight they add to your bike ride is negligible.

Love to shop? Carrying your Poodle with you window shopping is a breeze as they make many fashionable portable dog “purses”. Many establishments in bigger cities will let you bring your dog inside their store as long as they are in their “purse”. They love being around you and are easy to take just about anywhere because of their size. You can’t carry a Labrador through Macy’s.

Love to travel? Toy poodles can easily fit under your seat on an airplane. You will need to purchase an airline approved carrier for your pet as well as have your vet fill out health forms assuring your dog is healthy for travel. Picture yourself strolling in Miami, or sitting beachside with a cocktail and your best friend. Heaven.

My sister has alway s had large dogs. The last three she had were two Weimaraners, Ruby and Piper, and a Molly, a Black Labrador Retriever. They were wonderful dogs. When the Black Lab got older she developed hip problems. Going up and downstairs was extremely painful for her so my sister would carry her up and down the stairs. Molly weighed 80 pounds. You can imagine how challenging it was for my sister to carry her up and down multiple times per day. (She lived in a split level so there really was no avoiding the stairs on a daily basis.) As my sister aged the carrying became harder and harder for her to do. The moral is, is you’re somewhat “older” the size of the dog you choose can really matter.

Their Lifespan

A Toy Poodles average lifespan is from 12 – 15 years. You will find that many Toy Poodles, with high quality vet care, are living to 18 and some as long as 20 years. Larger dogs have shorter lives, sadly. The Great Dane averages a mere 9 years. The longer you can have your best friend stick around the better.
The Poodle is actually one breed with three different sizes – Standard, Miniature and Toy. The Toy is any purebred Poodle that is 10 inches or less at the shoulders. Poodles come in 10 different colors – apricot, black, blue, brown, cream, gray, red, silver, silver beige and white.

If you are interested in making a Toy Poodle puppy your next best friend, please visit the AKC website to find a list of reputable breeders in your area. AKC (American Kennel Club) has notated what they refer to as “Breeders of Merit”. They have been singled out as breeders with the highest of standards and who strive to maintain breed integrity and the health of their puppies.

If your heart is set on a puppy, it may be necessary to purchase one from a breeder. It is hard to find pure bred poodle puppies at rescue shelters. If you are a bit more flexible, there are many rescue agencies that have poodles waiting for their forever home. While many rescues suffer from trauma and neglect, with love and good vet care, they make incredible strides and make loving and grateful forever friends. Go to Petfinder to find a dog in your area that is just right for you.


Having trouble choosing a name? Here are a few suggestions that may tickle your fancy.

Top 20 Dog Names Of 2014

Whether you decide to rescue a poodle or purchase one from a breeder, please remember to spay or neuter your pet.

© 2016 C.A. Porter


10 Things A Person With Autism Wishes You Knew

cropped-img_05221.jpgI’m Still A Person

“Autistic people love to swim”. I have heard this from special ed teachers, aides, speech therapists and family members. My son hates the water. This has been going on for 23 years so I hold no hope that will ever change. He is a person first and foremost. He likes girls, being invited to parties, to bike, to read, to play “Clash of Clans”, to travel, and dine out. This all seems pretty typical to me.

I don’t know why we as a society tend to see people as their disease rather than as an individual. I think it helps us understand things that are intellectually and emotionally difficult to process. My son is as similar to other people who have autism as are two diabetics. Similar symptoms? Yes, but he is still an individual like everyone else.

My Senses Can Be Out Of Whack

So much of my son’s unusual behavior results from a cropped-img_0061.jpgneurological system that processes stimuli incorrectly. Odors, from perfume, to foods, to plants can result in nose holding and nausea. My son is also particulary sound sensitive with static from radios, the noise of high winds and off-key singing actually causing pain. The texture of rough clothing, like jeans, hurts. Textures of certain foods can cause gagging. Lights, like bright sunshine, can cause pain.

Not everyone with autism has these problems just like people with migraines do not have the same altered neurological experience. So if you see someone covering their eyes, holding their nose or covering their ears, they may be having difficulty coping with painful stimuli.

The Difference Between Can’t And Won’t

Difficulty with language is one of the core symptoms of autism, both speaking and listening. Some individuals with autism, will also have cognitive impairment. Often people with autism are labeled as uncooperative because they refuse to “join in”. People who don’t know how to play tennis don’t ordinarily jump into the middle of a match. People who can’t dribble don’t enjoy taking the ball down the court.

I always operate under the assumption that my son doesn’t understand if he refuses to comply. We work on individual skills a lot before we put them together to try an activity. People with limited comprehension can still feel inadequate to the the task just like the rest of us. Once he has learned the skills required for the task, I then feel comfortable knowing he either doesn’t like that activity or he just doesn’t want to (think clean his bedroom). So much of the problems in life are simply misunderstandings.

I Am Literal

Years ago there was a mad cow outbreak and we decided to temporarily stop eating beef. Scan 26I explained to him that beef came from cows so no more spaghetti for awhile. He thought it was hysterical that we had been eating “cow spaghetti”, as if an actual cow was served on a plate.

Euphemisms like “johnny on the spot” or “kicked the can” lead to confusion and endless questions. Where is the spot? Why is he on the spot? Who is Johnny? What kind of can? Did it have food in it? Is it a game? I always try to keep my language as exacting as possible to lessen his confusion.

I Am Visual

80% of the information we take in on a daily basis is visual. People with autism are no different. What they have tremendous difficulty doing is listening. My son has been reading since he was four yet his spoken language lags far behind. When we go to the doctor, I bring a pad and paper to take notes for him to read. I want him to understand what the doctor is saying. All our activities are written down so he knows what’s happening when. Closed captioning is always on our TV. When learning a new song, he can’t get the lyrics by listening. We always print out the lyrics for him.

While it may seem like a lot of work, the benefits that result from reduced confusion and lessened frustration are worth the time and trouble. If you do have a conversation with someone with autism, keep your sentences short and concrete. If you are giving directions, write them down.

Please Focus On My Strengths

All of us have weaknesses that we work on. People with autism usually have many. cropped-img_0887.jpgMost of us don’t spend all day trying to ameliorate our shortcomings. It’s demoralizing. We have always tried to strengthen his interests and abilities. It builds confidence and a feeling of self-worth. Zackary loves geography so we studied all 50 states and then proceeded straight to the countries. He loves maps and is a reliable navigator. He loves carpentry so we bought a small vacation cottage that we are rehabbing. He is in heaven.

People with autism aren’t diseases that need to be cured. They are people with some extreme challenges and unique interests and strengths just like the rest of us. They deserve to be treated as such.

Help with Social Situations

When my son was quite young, we participated in a study at the University of Chicago. They were training practitioners to detect the signs and symptoms of autism in the very young. They hoped to ensure children got help as young as possible. They did a good job. Dr. Catherine Lord, who was heading the project, could diagnose a child as young as 12 months as having autism.

One of the activities we volunteered for was a “play session”. At the time my son was six and were were asked to play with toys together while clinicians observed. My son had no facility for play at that time so he repetitively stacked blocks into a tall tower and knocked them over again and again. Despite my best intentions to get him to join me in play, I was not successful.

While toys might seem like “child’s play” for my son they were not. Imagine how much more challenging the social stiuations must be for adults with autism trying to navigate life after school. We teach and rehearse all anticipated settings. From going to the dentist, to playing board games, to ordering in a restaurant, everything, for my son at least needed to be directly taught. We have been laughed at, cursed at, and have had mean epithets hurled at us for our lack of understanding. Instead of condemning, your help would be greatly appreciated.


No parent is unfamiliar with a temper tantrum. The difference for us is that they can go on for far longer and for what seems incomprehensible reasons. My son once had a very loud, and as I’m sure many of you can relate to, temper tantrum at the checkout of a grocery store. While he was throwing his fit a couple of elderly women were loudly complaining about what a terrible mom I was to have such an awfully behaved child.

Sometimes the challenges my son faces in life build up and overwhelm him. Should he have a meltdown? No. Can I understand why this is happening? Yes. While we are actively helping him to handle frustration and disappointment better, please be kind. If you really want to insert yourself into our experience, please simply offer your help and not your condemnation. He is having a hard time coping and so are we. We would greatly appreciate your help.

Behavior Is Communication

As our speech therapist always said, “You can’t not communicate.” All behavior is communication. The challenge is trying to figure out what the person is saying and help them say it.

When my son was little he loved Cheerios or so I thought. He ate them for breakfast every day. Every day he would have a fit when he got them. Obviously he couldn’t say what he really wanted and I couldn’t figure it out on my own. So I put pictures of his favorite foods on the refrigerator and when he asked for Cheerios, I would bring him to the fridge and have him repeat what he wanted. Naturally he didn’t want Cheerios. He actually picked a wide variety of foods for breakfast instead of the same thing each day.

Just because a person’s behavior seems “aberrant” doesn’t mean it is or that you are seeing the situation correctly. Always assume that “what we have here is a failure to communicate” what they want or mea in a way that is easy for the rest of us to understand.

Just Love Me

Sometimes we parents get so caught up in curing our child,

Zack’s 21st birthday celebration in Vegas
worried as we are about their future, that our homes become somewhat like basic training. Militaristic structure and rules that suck the joy out of life.

Despite their challenges, people who have autism deserve the same love and respect as everyone else. I have seen so many friends not celebrate their child’s birthday with a party, or skip vacations entirely, or refuse to go to the movies until their child was “better”. Autism is a lifelong condition, love your child and celebrate their milestones and successes just like everyone else does. They deserve it. It may look different from the picture you had in mind, but don’t skip it. Love them as they are.

© 2015 Chantelle Porter


Going To Be Slammed This Week

Usually Mondays are tough days at our house. Transitioning from the weekend to Monday can be tough for Zack. The result? He wants to spend all of Monday at home relaxing. I think his Sunday is our Monday.

So this weekend we went to the the cottage we are rehabbing. We have a long way to go but we do have a great time there. We finished our sliding door. Zack and I built it, but we had to have Dad help us install the hanging hardware. (We are both too short.) Here’s a pic:


You can see we have quite a ways to go in our rehabbing efforts but we love it. Zack is so proud of his handiwork.

This week I am going to be crazy busy. I’ll try and get another article posted.

Have a great week!

C.A., Zack and Izzy


Happy Friday


We are off to the cottage. Have a wonderful weekend.

C.A., Zack and Izze


Sleep issues

10 Easy Steps To Better Sleep When You Have Autism



Despite the fact that so many children with autism have trouble sleeping, there seems to be little attention paid to the adult population. Though my son is now 23 years old, he still from time to time cannot sleep through the night. While we are now better able to cope with his nocturnal wanderings, we still need to practice what we preach and adhere to the following tips.

These strategies are not meant to be a substitute for medical help. I am a parent and hope that you can benefit from our experience.

Follow Your Natural Rhythm

From the time my son was 12 months old, I vividly remember him never falling asleep before midnight. It was like his biological clock just didn’t wind down until 12:30 am. Unfortunately my clock would wind down at 10:30 pm so we were quite the mismatch. Getting him ready for school in the morning felt like being sentenced to hell. For both of us.

Instead of fighting his biological clock, we switched his schedule around. So instead of getting up at 7:30 am, he now sleeps until 9:30 am. The change in his quality of sleep and mood during the day has changed dramatically. He’s less groggy and in a much better mood.

Not everyone can simply change their schedule to accommodate their unique sleep pattern. As you can also see, he needs a full ten hours of sleep. If you can change your sleep schedule to fit your natural rhythm, do it. It works.

Our school district was extremely accommodating. When my son was in the third grade, he was in a self-contained classroom with 5 other boys who had autism. None of the children attended school for a full day. Some started late, others left early and one left in the middle of the day for private therapy. If you are looking for strategies for someone who is still in school and feel your child could benefit from an accommodation, ask! It could make all the difference.

It’s easier as an adult. If you’re attending college you can choose the classes that fits your needs. If you’re not a morning person, you don’t get a job cooking breakfast in a restaurant. It’s somewhat easier to taylor your life once you are out of school.

Try And Stay On A Sleep Schedule

Have you ever gone to a concert and come home still excited by the fun of the evening? Then you and your friend spent time talking about the evening until the wee hours. My son, and many people with autism, have trouble regulating their emotions. So if he has a very exciting evening out late, I already know his sleep will be disturbed for the next couple of days until he adjusts and gets back on schedule. That is why I always try and keep him on a sleep schedule.

He is always in his room by 11:30, now on his own volition, and up by 9:30am. If he does have a difficult night where he just can’t sleep, he watches Netflix on his iPod touch with headphones so he doesn’t disturb the rest of the house. If he does have a bad night, it’s up to me to get him up at 9:30 am and get going with his day.

Try Not To Oversleep Or Nap

Some days don’t we all just want to stay in bed? For many people with autism that simply is not a good idea. The later you get up, the later you will fall asleep that night. That also goes for napping. My son can have a brief cat nap of twenty minutes but anything longer than that and he won’t be sufficiently tired to sleep at night.

Oddly enough, that also goes for going to bed early. Not 10:30 early but 8:00 pm early. Once his body has hit the ten hour mark it will be awake and ready to go. 4:00 am is just too early to start the day. So do try to sleep only at night.

Black Buffalo Burger at Black Sheep Lodge
Black Buffalo Burger at Black Sheep Lodge

Avoid Processed Foods

I’m not a chemist so I can’t explain the medical basis for why some people can tolerate chemically processed “food” but not only does diet soda, with or without caffeine, render him incapable of sleeping, but it also causes bouts of aggression. He has been soda free for a year and has had no problems.

He is additionally sensitive to dairy. He has eczema and if he eats cheese it can cause a flare. Having itchy, hot skin is not conducive to sleep so if you have any underlying medical condition, whether it is affected by “food” or not, you’ll need to get a good handle on it so you can sleep well.

Many years ago, our doctor told us that our son was extremely sensitive to his environment and we listened. We focus on eating fresh, organic vegetables and fruits and limit our intake of meat and sweets. He hasn’t gotten a virus in 6 years, so while that may not affect sleep directly, I’m sure being unhealthy can.

Give Up All Caffeinated Products

Though caffeinated products can have an adverse effect on sleep, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will bother you. Try giving up all caffeinated products for two weeks and see how it goes. That will give you plenty of time to see if you are sleeping better or not. Everyone has their own tolerance and threshold. Experiment to see what yours is.

For my son, even one Diet Coke will keep him up until 3 am. For him, it is easier to never have caffeinated products than to have them every now and then. We focused on finding something that’s not caffeinated that is a good substitute so he wouldn’t feel deprived. Now, he drinks Izze instead of Coke. We substitute carob for chocolate. Experiment and find what works for you.

Coffe for Love
Black Buffalo Burger at Black Sheep Lodge

Keep Your Room The Optimal Temperature

As far back as I can remember, my son was the kids who was out sledding with no hat, not mittens and a wide-open coat. He just didn’t feel very cold.

20 years later and nothing has changed. We blocked the heat vent in his room because the heat aggravates his skin and he just simply likes it colder than the rest of us. If his room is too hot, he simply cannot sleep. He will even open a window in the middle of the winter to let in some cool air.

We decided rather than knock our heads against the wall, we would just keep the heat down and close his vents. We decide it made more sense to work with his biology than fight it. I don’t know if this is common or not on the autism spectrum, but it may be worth changing your room’s temperature and see if it helps.

Exersize Even Just A Little

My son is an avid bicycler. However, here in the Midwest we usually don’t bike outside from November to mid-March. He is naturally a somewhat sedentary person by nature so when he can’t bike, he doesn’t want to do anything active at all. Which simply translates into him having difficulty sleeping.

Our health club plays loud music which really grates on his nerves. So we bought him a bike trainer that attaches to his bike, creates drag, and allows him to bike in the house while he watches his favorite shows or listens to his iPod. It’s much easier and so much kinder, to focus on a person’s interests rather than trying to force them to do activities at a gym they can’t stand. He doesn’t need to exercise hard, but a gentle bike ride inside every day helps him sleep more soundly.

Try Supplements And Medications

We have never gotten to the point where he needed to try a sleep aid. However, I know many people with autism who have tried Melatonin and swear by it.

Sleep is an essential bodily function. If you feel you or your child could benefit from a supplement or medication, give it a try. Never feel guilty for doing what you or your family need. Everyone will have an opinion on how you should live your life but your opinion is the only one that matters.

© 2016 C.A. Porter