Today is World Autism Awareness Day

Today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day. In late 2007, the United Nations decreed that April 2, 2008 would be the first World Autism Awareness Day to coincide with National Autism Awareness Month, which is recognized every April. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 110 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum. I am the mom of two of these children.

My two children on a New Year's Day hike in the beautiful Arizona desert.
My two children on a New Year's Day hike in the beautiful Arizona desert.

I was an attached parent prior to the time that my children’s autism symptoms presented and I’m an attached parent still today. I actually thank my attachment parenting style for helping me understand my children a bit more. Now this is not to say that mothers of children on the spectrum that don’t practice attachment parenting don’t understand their children but for my children, and me, my parenting style has been a tremendous help.

I’ll be sharing more of my story in an article that will appear later this month on The Attached Family online but I also want to share a bit of it here with you, the readers of API Speaks. My youngest child, now six, was diagnosed with classical autism the day before her third birthday. She had very little language and most of what she had was echolalic and not functional.
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Attachment Parenting in The Rural Areas

I understand that many of you likely live in an urban area, and so this post may sound a little odd to you. I live in rural Nebraska – smack in the middle of farm country. There aren’t a lot of people here. For example, I drove 250 miles the other day and saw perhaps a dozen cars. I live on the edge of an average-size town, and the population is 450.

apruralareasWe’re used to isolation here. In some ways, it makes attachment parenting easy – not a whole lot of people here to pass criticism; in some ways, it makes attachment parenting hard – not a whole lot of people here to go to for support. The people who are here tend to have the same views, some rather narrow-minded, because there simply aren’t enough people to split into separate interest groups!

But I know there’s a need for AP support here. I get calls here and there, sometimes from parents, sometimes from La Leche League leaders, who want community AP support. Problem is, there aren’t enough people in any one town or even county, or even group of counties, to hold a formal Attachment Parenting International support group. So, I’m faced over and over with the decision, do I try to start a support group here?
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Parent Support is Prevention

Lydia and Zariah Schatz and children like them need our help now.  Their story underscores the critical urgency for evidence-based parenting support and information to counter physically and emotionally dangerous parenting tactics that proliferate.

Our hearts were ripped open to learned of the torment that Lydia Schatz,7, and her 11 year old sister Zariah suffered at the hands of those who were entrusted to love and nurture them safely into adulthood.  For Lydia, we are too late and we wish for her and other children like her, sweet peace and love at last.  For Zariah and other children, there is still life and hope here in our midst. **

Billions of dollars in public funding goes toward the physical health, crisis interventions, treatments and the related judicial processes for children and youth in our country.  Comparable spending and intense focus indicates that education is considered a real solution to the problem of helping children.  Meanwhile, it’s a well known secret that early experiences -especially parenting – are the most profound influences on learning capacity and social, emotional and psychological functioning.

Parents and caregivers are not passive guardians of children in the earliest years; we’re active participants in building their learning foundations and we need support, not blame, in this extraordinarily important role.  In the most simplistic view, spending on education can only be as successful as its antecedent:  early care. The void in parent education and support cannot be back-filled by more education and what’s more, the social pressure of school that many children face without a secure foundation can compound the challenges.
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Keeping Balance with a Natural Life

For many AP families, green living, natural parenting, and life learning are more than a fad – they represent a lifestyle that endures even when mainstream society doesn’t find “going green” to be so popular. Like Attachment Parenting, the benefit of natural living is best achieved when practiced consistently. Planning for an adventure, here we are with our custom safaris just combining your ideas and our years of planning expertise will give a unforgettable experience with the luxury African safari and much more to your way.

Where does this fit into Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting? For those families who choose to live naturally – certainly not a requirement, mind you – they find it helps them particularly keep with the Eighth Principle, that of striving for personal and family balance. You feel better about yourself when you know your impact on the earth and the people around you is a positive one.

Natural Life magazine is a great resource for AP families looking at a lifestyle that is supportive of their childrearing choices. Some of the articles you can read are about going solar, organic food, gardening, relocating with a green attitude, and learning for the sake of knowledge. In the March/April 2009 issue of Natural Life, I read an interesting article about raising eco-conscious kids. Author Alison Bayne gave these tips for parents:
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Seeing API in a Whole New Light

A week ago, Friday morning, I kissed and hugged my husband and children goodbye and boarded a plane from the Lincoln, Nebraska, airport on my way toward Attachment Parenting International’s 15th Anniversary Gathering in Nashville, Tennessee. Besides a mix-up on gate numbers during my layover at the Minneapolis airport, and then being seated next to the lavatory on my second flight down (what’s that smell?), it was a good trip. It gave me several hours of reading and a great view of the earth that can’t be seen in any other way than in an airplane.

Knowing that I was going to be picked up from the airport along with Dr. James McKenna, well-known cosleeping expert and author of Sleeping with Your Baby, I made a dash to the bathroom at the Nashville airport to change out of my jeans, tank top, and sandals into an outfit in which I would be more comfortable shaking hands with a renowned parenting expert. So glad I did, too, because not only was Dr. McKenna in the vehicle but also author of Let the Baby Drive Lu Hanessian and API Co-founder and co-author of Attached at the Heart Lysa Parker!

We drove over to API Co-founder and author of Attached at the Heart Barbara Nicholson’s home for supper, where I saw the most wonderful sight of API Board of Directors president Janet Jendron and her daughter Claudia, API Executive Director Samantha Gray, and API Membership Coordinator Stephanie Petters, among others, joining together in a fury of fresh vegetables and greens, and pots of spaghetti and tomato sauce, making supper.

Throughout the night, people fresh from airport pick-up made their stop in Barbara’s beautiful home, greeting one another like everyone was old friends. I was a little overwhelmed to be in the company of so many of these parenting experts who helped to make API be what it is today – an organization working to educate and support parents worldwide in attachment-based parenting practices to benefit not only their children lives in profound ways but also their families.
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Growing Attached Through the Years – AP Month 2009

In October 2008, API celebrated the first annual Attachment Parenting Month (AP Month). We are already gearing up for AP Month 2009 and this year’s theme is “Growing Attached Through the Years.”

How does your family grow? With bicycle bells and hairstyling gels and jam-packed days all in a row? Tell us and join us in celebrating our second annual Attachment Parenting Month!

This year we recognize, appreciate and celebrate the long-term and multiple gifts of growth parents experience with children each day over a lifetime.

It’s easy to participate in AP Month! The whole family is encouraged to enter one or more of our featured contests to demonstrate our theme of growth. Entries are accepted now through September 30 and we’ll post our top picks for public voting during October.

About AP Month 2009 – Growing Attached Through the Years

Attachment Parenting International (API), along with the Sears family and other prominent AP supporters, will celebrate the second annual Attachment Parenting (AP) Month in October.

This year’s theme “Growing Attached Through the Years” reminds us that building healthy, secure attachments between parents and children is a dynamic process that continues through childhood and does not end in infancy.

Join the celebration! AP Month Central shows you how!

AP Month Goals

1. Unifying the AP community in celebration.
2. Supporting all parents by building their confidence and raising awareness.
3. Promoting positive, strength-based, healthy parenting as advocated by API and other AP Month sponsors.

Looking forward to the API 15th Anniversary Gathering

So, the big event is coming up quickly…Attachment Parenting International’s 15th Anniversary Gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. I’m very much looking forward to it, although it’ll be my first trip anywhere without my husband and kids. Known for my uncanny ability to get lost in the remotest of places – I have on more than one occasion called up my husband in a panic as I was driving around the barren countryside of Nebraska in search of a town of less than 60 people to interview one for a local newspaper article – I am more than a little nervous about trying to navigate a city as large as Nashville.

Despite these concerns, the weekend holds a lot more promise. I get to hear from experts on Attachment Parenting and parenting in general during an afternoon think-tank discussion. I get to listen to performances by country music artist Vince Gill and song writers Gary Nicholson and Mary Nielsen Chapman and their children during an evening event. I get to listen to kids music artist Roger Day. I get to meet other AP parents and their families, including API Co-founders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker. I get to meet other API leaders, and I am super excited to meet some of the API staff members who I have only known so far through phone calls and e-mail messages!
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Thank you, Pam Leo!

Parent educator Pam Leo’s book, Connection Parenting, was the first Attachment Parenting book I ever picked up and it helped to change the course of my parenting journey – just as this book has influenced the thousands of parents before me, and after me, who flipped through its pages.

Connection Parenting brings together all the knowledge and experience of a woman who not only promoted attachment-promoting interactions between parents and children in her community but who saw success in her own home…not unlike so many attached parents who share their stories on API Speaks, in The Attached Family, and on the API Forum. What makes Connection Parenting stand out is how easy the concepts in the book could be taken off the pages and put to practice in real life, particularly for those parents who grew up in a home where punishments, such as spanking, were used. Many of us know how difficult the transition can be when going from a punishing mindset to one of true discipline, communication, and loving parenting.
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