Tag Archives: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Surviving and the In-between

It’s been a while since my last post…and a very long while with my writing project.

My kids seem to need me more as they grow up, especially on how to survive life in general. So they will always be my top priority, and I’ve put aside my writing for the time being.

Trifold Book Report on ASDUntil now.

Since it’s the end of Autism Awareness Month, I decided to write a post about my son. He’s 10 years old and I have not told him about Autism Spectrum Disorder, or that he has it. I didn’t want Ray to think he was “broken” or “flawed” because of his condition. I only wanted to explain his “uniqueness” to him.

For this school year, Ray must do a book report on different book genres assigned for each month. There is a different theme for each report to make it interesting for the student. For the month of April, the assignment is a trifold book report on a disease that includes information that will teach others about the disease.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to teach Ray about Autism Spectrum Disorders, especially for Autism Awareness Month.

Now just to clarify, ASD is not a disease. It’s a group of developmental disorders that can cause difficulties in communication, socialization, interests and behaviors. The book I used to help Ray with his report is:

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and Their Parents) by Elizabeth Verdick & Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.

Survival Guide for Kids with ASD and Their Parents

This was a wonderful book for Ray and I to read together. The book is a guide for kids with ASD and their parents. It gives strategies for communicating, making friends, and succeeding in school. My son struggles with these issues, and he will be able to use this book when he has questions or needs help on a topic like facing challenges, symptom management, social skills, “stims,” handling feelings, how to relax, or resources. The guide was definitely helpful for me to break things down to Ray’s level of understanding. If he receives anything positive about doing a report on this book, I hope he learns that even though he is “different,” he is still “unique.” His diagnosis doesn’t define him. Autism is just a part of him. It’s a his way of being and how he experiences the world. I hope Ray knows that he has the potential to live an awesome life!

Helping my son do the trifold book report on ASD was a terrific learning opportunity for me and Ray. I was able to see how much he’s grown, the improvements he’s made, and the pleasure of understanding this remarkable boy. The experience was enlightening and it inspired my follow-up poem for Black, White, and In-between written last year on the post For Autism Awareness…

I wrote the poem for my son and my original intention was to write a follow-up poem to infuse a sense of hope. I may have gotten sidetracked, but here it is a year later.

Dedicated to Ray


It’s the in-between I view his charm
I see humor
It’s a giggle, a smirk, a glimmer

It’s the in-between I feel his tension
I see fear
It’s a fidget, a stutter, a tear

It’s the in-between I notice his strength
I see endurance
It’s a spark, an excitement, that makes a difference

It’s the in-between I sense him fading
I see frustration
It’s quiet, an absence, no communication

It’s the in-between I recognize potential
I see possibilities
It’s imagination, creativity,
and no limits to his capabilities

It’s not as simple as black or white
But the in-between to shed some light
It’s persistence
To love with openness, understanding, and acceptance.

By Lisa Malabanan-Vasquez





For Autism Awareness…

Dedicated to my son…

Black, White, and In-between

He sees himself in black and white
Rarely any colors in-between
He doesn’t know what they mean
But he’s still trying

He sees the sky in black and white
No shades of blue
Or different hues
It’s just day and night
But he keeps trying

Autism_Awareness_by_thisfleshavenged black and white

He sees the world in black and white
Sometimes he’s in fright
Fears the darkest of night
Like there’s no end in sight
Can’t take the colors when it’s too bright
But if it’s a question of might
He’ll keep trying

He’ll try to see between these fixed colors
The white of light
The black of night
To the in-between of gray
Where he seems to stray
But the longer he stays
More colors come out into the warmest of day
Then fades in a cold way
So he’ll keep on trying

Hope he finds those bright colors to help see
himself, the world, the sky
As he grows to reach the utmost high
And take in all that gleams
Just to reach his dreams

He’ll say…

There are many things I don’t understand
There’s much from me that life demands
But I can do some things
Like smile, sing, and dance
I won’t give up, so give me a chance
If you give me acceptance back,
Then I’ll do better than white or black


I’ll solve this puzzle that’s a part of me
Even if the pieces are all you see
I’ll show more colors of the in-between
To shine brighter than red, yellow, blue, or green
I just know there’s a light, an end in sight
But it’s not as simple as black
Or white

By Lisa Malabanan-Vasquez

Support  Educate  Advocate  Love




Weird is Cool

My son recently mentioned that one of his favorite songs is “Cool Kids” by Echosmith. He was singing the song while I was driving him home from Karate class one evening. The lyrics struck my core. Little Ray identified with the words of the song and I suddenly feel his pain.



I feel Ray’s struggle to “fit in” among his peers, in society, and in life. He didn’t seem particularly sad about the reasons he likes the song. Then again, I didn’t ask why. I already know he’s the odd one out.

Ray may have a few friends that talk to him or play with him. Sometimes his classmates invite him to birthday parties. But kids don’t ask him for playdates or sleepovers often. My son is what people call “weird.”

We all want to fit in and be likeable. Yet society has already labeled the norm. There are rules on how to behave, or what the public considers as proper and decent in appearance and upbringing.

For Ray, these rules aren’t always easy. His Autism is mostly strange to kids and even some adults. I think ASD makes Ray unique. It gives him a quirky personality, and nothing is ever boring when it comes to my son.

Oddly, I relate to Ray’s experiences. It’s a constant battle to please everyone, although we just can’t please everybody.

Hopefully, the criticisms, put-downs, and letdowns do not deter Ray from overcoming life’s challenges. I hope he takes each discouraging experience and changes them into a strengthening lesson of life.

Or, maybe I do because I need to.

Think positively. A sad or negative situation may feel like it happens almost all the time. But sometimes a happy event is waiting to surprise us. Just as Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

It sounds so simple to leave a dismal incident behind and pursue brighter opportunities. Though it’s harder to take the initiative and open the door.

In my case, I definitely need to think positively when it comes to writing. The determination to write something good, something memorable, something moving, and something worth buying is my present struggle in life. Some people will like my stories and some will hate it. I’ll just learn from the critics, and turn the negatives around to make my other stories better.

Possibility Quote

Nothing in life is easy and I understand this hard reality. I remember telling one of my beta readers the reason I started the Dia-Matic Keys project. Simply, I’m challenging myself to see if I can finish it. I want to show my kids that having aspirations are worthwhile.

This is my unique way of leaving advice on how to get through life’s trials and tribulations to my children. So don’t be afraid to dream. Life is scary, yet it’s also an adventure. I hope my kids will enjoy the fictional stories and learn something from them. As a writer, I wish that others would too.

In Ray’s case, some kids don’t like him. They don’t know my son. But some kids like Ray once they get to know him better. Those few friends help him feel good about himself. Ray needs these little triumphs to boost his self-esteem and live his life the best way he can.

So in the end, “weird” could turn to “cool.”

Have you dealt with life’s struggles? Was “fitting in” difficult? Or, have you empathized with the “weird kid” and helped him or her feel like they belong?

Light It Up Blue

The CDC released the new numbers regarding the rise of autism prevalence: 1 in 68. But these numbers really reflect the people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I assume there are many children, and even adults, who are undiagnosed because of the lack of autism awareness. The statistics concern not only the affected person, but also impact the families of those individuals.

autism awareness ribbon

I am one of the families raising an autistic son. An estimated 1 in 42 boys, and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with ASD in the United States. Imagine those odds. I couldn’t even consider those numbers until I had to face that reality for my son, Ray.

As usual, there’s never a dull moment when you have kids. Being a mother, I will always worry over my children. It’s part of taking on this awesome role. Yet when I had concerns about my son as a toddler, it was brushed aside as “boys develop slower than girls.” Even the pediatricians back then were not concerned, but they wanted to “wait it out,” before suggesting further evaluation.

Girls may mature faster than boys. Individuals develop at different rates and learn at their own pace, but I believe both genders should be able to master the developmental milestones at the appropriate age or time-frame. If the child has not, then it’s of vital importance to have he or she evaluated.

That “waiting period” had a significant effect in an early diagnosis for Ray. Since I remained suspicious about his developmental delays, especially in speech, I pursued a speech evaluation for him. Ray was around 2 ½ years old. After taking a detailed history and conducting her evaluation, the speech therapist suspected PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). She recommended further consultation with a Pediatric Neurologist/Developmental Pediatrician, and have Ray evaluated by an Audiologist, and Ophthalmologist to rule out other influencing factors.

The waiting list for a developmental pediatric consult was up to a year in my area, and the other surrounding areas. I didn’t realize that so many children were affected with developmental and neurological disorders. So I scheduled a consult with a Pediatric Neurologist in another state because I got one sooner with that particular specialist. The doctor diagnosed Ray with ASD and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Now all those suspicions and worries turned into fears. I became paranoid about social stigmas and bullying.

Ray is different.
He’s not like other kids.
The kids will make fun of him.
He’ll struggle in life.

I had an idea of what Autism meant, but I wasn’t knowledgeable about the disorder. So I immersed myself in learning all that I can about ASD. I even drove myself crazy searching for a cure. There is no cure, only information about the possible causes, indications for early diagnosis, resources for treatment, and ongoing research. Had I known about Autism back then, I would’ve fought to seek early diagnosis and intervention. So I strongly stress this importance.

It’s like a cold, one can sense the oncoming signs, treat the symptoms, and hope the cold goes away soon. Yet unlike the cold, Autism won’t go away in days or weeks. The silver lining is that many affected people overcome their disabilities in years to come. These individuals eventually outgrow Autism to live happy and productive lives.

Imagine those odds.

I no longer imagine it, Ray is fighting the odds every day. He may not be “normal,” but he’s unique. He is different because he will make a difference in his life. He struggles, but it will only make him stronger. He has fears and setbacks, but with those challenges, he’ll learn to face them and conquer those obstacles head on.

Autism might be a disorder with a rising prevalence, but the diagnosis doesn’t define a person. Characteristics like determination, strength, compassion, and love defines a person. I can list many positive attributes, but these are the ones my son displays the most. Ray is quite a character, he’s well-loved, and I love him.

So when you look upon an autistic child, don’t dwell on the odds, celebrate the possibilities!

Come join me in celebrating Autism Awareness Month. World Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd. Check out the sites below to increase your awareness, and show your support to Light It Up Blue.

As always, Ray and I appreciate it and thank you. Please enjoy one of Ray’s favorite songs by The Script


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