Track & Field Practice - Special Olympics 2015

For weeks Norrin has been preparing for his first Special Olympics. And over the weekend, we got to watch him practice.  

This Saturday Norrin will participate in his first Special Olympics. He had Track & Field practice over the weekend with...
Posted by Autismwonderland on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shop Atypical Familia {Resources, Toys, Tools & Tech}

Over the years, I've shared books and products that have helped. I'm happy to share all of those resources, toys, learning tools and technology in one place. Visit our Amazon store & be sure to visit often as it will be updated regularly. Every time you purchase something via my store, our family will get a small (and I mean small - like pennies) portion.

Tomorrowland {Sensory Screening Sat 5/30/15}

2015 is a great year for Disney Films and I was super excited about being invited to the screening of Tomorrowland. 

When I met my friend at theater he asked me what Tomorrowland was about. I realized that while I had seen posters, emails, advertisements and trailers - I only had a vague idea. I knew George Clooney was in it and that it had something to do with some kind of alternate universe - Tomorrowland, "...a place where nothing is impossible." 

From Disney comes two-time Oscar® winner Brad Bird’s riveting, mystery adventure “Tomorrowland,” starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever.
Now that I've seen Tomorrowland, I'd love to give you some kind of insight. But honestly, I still don't know what it's about. There's action, adventure, a touch of science fiction and an odd romance (if you can even call it that). Don't get me wrong - it's an amazing movie. But I only loved parts of it. 

Visually, it's  beautiful - the graphics are amazing and it's the kind of film where you can easily just get lost in a scene. Especially if you see it in IMAX. But some scenes linger a little too long and there are a lot of stories being told. All at the same time. I was never really sure what plot point I should focus on. And with all the different story lines, I still walked out of the theater with unanswered questions. 

What happened to Casey's mom? She was in one scene and then never seen or mentioned again?

Where did the magical Tomorrowland pin come from? Who created it?      

Who were people after the pin?  

And then there was the relationship between Frank and Athena. An endearing childhood first love story but when present day Frank (as George Clooney) is still carrying a torch and/or still feeling burned by rejection over tween Athena - it's a little weird.

So putting all my confusion and slight discomfort aside - I enjoyed Tomorrowland and there's parts that I really loved. 

I loved the scene where young Frank arrives at the World's Fair. Not only does it take place in Flushing Meadow Park (my hometown of Queens, New York) but it's just so beautiful and nostalgic. That scene is everything a Disney movie should be. I wish I could have seen more  of that world.  

I love that Casey is the real hero of the movie. Her role is critical and Frank - as cranky as he is - acknowledges that. It's great to see a young woman in such an empowering role. I also love how - in spite of how bleak things are - she still sees hope and a way to change the future.  

One of my favorite scenes is the one between Casey and her dad. Her dad is feeling hopeless about his future and it's Casey who offers encouragement by reminding him of an anecdote. She says something like:   

“There are two wolves. One bright and hopeful and one dark and cynical. Which wolf wins? Whichever one you feed. Feed the right wolf.”
Isn't that great? It was that awww movie moment and the kind of reminder that I needed to hear.

So is it appropriate for kids? More importantly - should you take your special needs child to see the sensory screening on Saturday May, 30th? 

I wouldn't take Norrin to see it in the theaters - just because live action films are hit or miss. But it's definitely something I'd watch at home with him. If your children are older, then take them to see it. It's a fun movie that any Disney fan will appreciate. And a sensory screening is always a safe place for a movie theater experience. 

For more on Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings visit: Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings at AMC Theaters & Tips for Taking Your Special Needs Child to the Movies

The Day My Son Was Diagnosed With Autism

My son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism on May 19, 2008. 

Tomorrow will mark our 7-year autism anniversary. It seems like a strange thing to celebrate. And I say celebrate because when I think of Norrin then and I look at him now – I see a completely different kid. I have a lot to be grateful for. I have so much to hope for

But on the day Norrin was diagnosed with autism I couldn’t see any hope. Any parent who has heard the words, “your child has autism” remembers everything they felt the day their child was diagnosed. I've been asked how I came to be “okay” with autism. I wasn’t always okay with it. Acceptance has been and continues to be a process. 

On the day Norrin was diagnosed with Autistic Disorder and Global Development Developmental Delay, I felt my heart break. My husband, Joseph, had been so optimistic, so certain that it could not be autism. And I knew by the way Joseph squeezed my hand that his heart was breaking too. Joseph had all the dreams that a father has for a son and within seconds I could feel Joseph’s dreams crumbling. I could feel his leg shaking next to mine.

Even though I tried to prepare myself, there was that small big part of me that wanted to hear that Norrin was “typical” and that there was no need to worry.

On the day Norrin was diagnosed, I put my arm around Joseph in an attempt to comfort him and I thought of our wedding day. Everyone told us that we were perfect together. I recalled the moments after Norrin was first born: looking his wrinkled little body over, counting his fingers and toes, thinking that he was absolutely perfect. And there we were, this seemingly perfect couple being told that our child was not.

We were handed a twenty-page evaluation, detailing all the things Norrin couldn’t do and all the milestones he had yet to reach. At two years and three months old, Norrin had the cognitive level of a fourteen-month-old and the language level of a seven-month-old. I hated reading the evaluation; on paper Norrin sounded horrible. Nowhere in the evaluation did it talk about his dimpled smile or the sound of his laugh. Nowhere did it describe how his big brown eyes sparkled when he was happy. Or that he loved to read and was fascinated by letters and numbers.

Joseph and I cried in the car, neither one of us really able to comfort the other. Both of us thinking of all the things we could’ve done to prevent autism.

When we picked Norrin up from the babysitter, it was then that autism became painfully real. Norrin was sitting in a playpen spinning the wheels of a car while the other children were playing. It was too easy to imagine how isolating and sad his life – our life – would be. This was not the life we were supposed to have, I thought.

Nothing I read prepared me for the pain, anger and sadness that I felt. On the day Norrin was diagnosed, I went into our bedroom, closed the door and buried my face in my pillow screaming as loud as could. Punching and kicking like a three-year-old having a tantrum. Why Norrin? Why Me?

I called up my best friend to tell her the news. After a few minutes, I asked how she was doing. She was seven months pregnant and excited about her baby shower. While I was happy for her, I couldn’t feel happy with her. Her pregnancy, her happiness and hope only reminded me of my loss.

In the hours that followed Norrin's diagnosis, I heard:

     God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. 
     Whatever doesn't kill you will make you stronger.
     Norrin just needs time to catch up. 
     At least it's not cancer.
     You need to get over it.

That night I cried myself to sleep. And I cried for many nights after that. God had overestimated me.

Do you remember how you felt the day your child was diagnosed with autism?  

This article was originally published on May 15, 2013 on It has been slightly revised for Atypical Familia.

The View from the SoHi Room at The Trump Soho & Dove's #LoveAtFirstSwipe

I've been a Dove girl for decades. So when I received an invite to attend the #LoveAtFirstSwipe event, I immediately said yes.

Living in The Bronx and working in midtown, I rarely travel below 14th Street Union Square. For Dove, I made the exception. And as a lifelong New Yorker, the sight of my city rarely impresses me. I take so much for granted. But the moment I stepped out on the 46th floor of The Trump Soho - the view from the SoHi Room took my breath away.

I got to learn about Dove's Advanced Care Deodorant. As I said, I've always been a Dove deodorant girl and their latest product offers the moisture and protection a busy mom like me needs. It goes on super soft, leaving skin smooth and smells light and fresh. It really was #LoveAtFirstSwipe.

Warmer weather means tank tops and dresses. Which means - more shaving. It never fails that at some point in the summer, I get an ingrown hair under my arm. (Sorry, TMI.) I shared my concerns with Dove dermatologist, Dr. Ellen Marmur - here are some of her recommendations:

     - Avoid shaving creams. Use Dove Beauty Bar or Dove Body Wash.
     - Change your shaving apparatus regularly. 
     - Shaving should only take 4 - 5 strokes. More than that is bad for your skin.
     - Use a deodorant that includes moisturizer.
     - Use warm water compresses. An ingrown hair is not a pimple, do not pop.  

There were also stylists on hand to talk us through the various athleisure wear and accessories from They put together different looks but my favorites were City Chic and Namaste Boho. I may have fallen off the fitness wagon, but these looks could be just thing to get back on.        

I'm not one to get in the picture, I'm more of a selfie-girl. But I couldn't help it - the view got to me. The photo's on my Instagram, you can see it here.

Helping My Family #ChooseSkinHealth

Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and NEUTROGENA®. All opinions are my own. 

As a kid I spent my summers splashing in the water - at the pool, the beach or the sprinklers in the backyard. It was the early 80s and skincare wasn't much of a concern. At the end of the day, my mom would tease me on how dark I'd gotten without even trying. 

During my teen years, I spent summer days soaking up the sun slathered with baby oil. I was all about perfecting my tan. It didn't come as easily as when I was a kid. 

As a new mom I took measures to protect my new baby's skin but I wasn't as diligent as I should have been. It was more of an afterthought. 

It was only when my mom was diagnosed with skin cancer that I started to take skin health seriously. My mother's cancer was treated and it hasn't come back since, but I still get upset when she doesn't use sunscreen. That lady...she's a little stubborn and set in her ways. But I refuse to take any chances. 
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lives. Yet skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. And with early detection, most skin cancers are curable. Skin cancer typically occurs where sun damage has been accumulated over time.

As a daughter, mother and wife, I want to keep my family safe and maintain every aspect of their health. So as the weather gets warmer and we spend more time outdoors, I want to be sure their skin is protected. That's why I'm thrilled to work with NEUTROGENA® because they offer products that fit our family lifestyle.

Joseph is a runner and likes NEUTROGENA® CoolDry Sport. It's clinically proven to allow perspiration and moisture to pass through the sunscreen without compromising the full strength SPF protection. 

For myself, I use NEUTROGENA® Ultra Sheer. It comes in a stick, lotion and body mist. The stick is ideal for both face and body. It's lightweight formula doesn't leave skin feeling shiny or greasy. And it's water-resistant and sweat-resistant for 80 minutes. And year round, I love that NEUTROGENA® offers makeup products with SPF.

Norrin loves the water so for him, I use NEUTROGENA® Wet Skin. It's the first ever water-resistant sunscreen specifically designed for wet skin application to provide broad spectrum sun protection in wet/sweaty or dry conditions. It's perfect for the pool and the park.
...more than 70% of Americans do not reapply sunscreen when they are outdoors for long periods of time, despite dermatologists and medicals organizations stressing the importance of sunscreen reapplication to prevent sunburn.
Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. But a "one and done" sunscreen application is not enough. So here's what we do. We alternate between lotions and sprays. Before heading out the door, we apply the lotion. We take the spray(s) to go for easy application while we're out. While out, I reapply every 2 - 2 1/2 hours. And if one reapplies, we all reapply. If you think you'll forget set the timer on your phone (that's what I do).   

To choose the sunscreen to suit your family needs visit the NEUTROGENA® Choose Skin Health Website.  

On Tuesday May 19, NEUTROGENA® will take over Twitter to spark online discussions with Brand Ambassadors, dermatologists, and experts with helpful tips and practical advice on how to practice safe sun. To RSVP visit:

And NEUTROGENA® wants you to share why and how you practice sun safety with the hashtag #ChooseSkinHealth. The more people tweet, post and share their #ChooseSkinHealth stories, NEUTROGENA® will unlock exclusive content from our celebrity Brand Ambassadors on why they’re joining in this effort. Each story, picture or post is a simple step forward in the fight against skin cancer.

This is sponsored post in collaboration with Neutrogena® and Latina Bloggers Connect. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

Why I Want My 70-Year-Old Parents to Discover Their #DisneySide

This is a picture of my parents on Mother's Day. My dad is 70 and my mom will actually turn 69 in a few months. I think they look pretty great. They are active and in good health. Both my parents help me with after school care for Norrin. They like hanging out at the casino and go dancing a few times a week. And (my mom will hate me for writing this, luckily she doesn't have internet access) when they go out, they come home late - like 3, 4, 5 in the morning! I don't mind, I actually think it's cute because when we were kids, they never went out. 

For the last fifteen years, my mom has been the primary caregiver to her parents. When my grandfather died earlier this year, my mom mentioned that now she could have time for herself. Now that my mom has "free time" she's been thinking about taking a vacation.

The last time we vacationed together was in 2009. We drove to Pennsylvania and rented a cabin. We were there because we have family close by and there was a special Thomas the Train event going on. Before that, was in 2007 - we went to New Hampshire for a week. 

But I want us to do something different. And I suggested Walt Disney World because every single time I visit, all I can think is: My parents would love this

When I popped the Disney question, her initial response was, mmmmmhmmmmm. Not really a yes but not really a flat out no. 
Sensing her hesitation, I broke it down. 

I have never taken a plane with my parents. My dad hasn’t been on a plane in 50 years. And while my mother went to Puerto Rico 5 years ago, it wasn't with us. For the first time in more than a decade, my mother can take a vacation worry/guilt free. 

While I like to think of my parents as ageless, they are not. They have a few more years left before it's my turn to care for them. 

Norrin is their only grandchild. When I see other families - children with parents and grandparents - at Disney, I can't help but feel envious. That is what I want for Norrin. I want him to have those memories. I want my parents to see Norrin's smile when he meets Buzz Lightyear or the Little Mermaid. I want to experience my childhood dream of visiting Disney with my parents. Because if there is anyplace that screams family vacation and magical memories - it's Disney.

(Also - if my parents were with us, they could stay with Norrin while Joseph and I have a Disney date night!)

As I explained all of this to her, I started crying. Disney has a way of doing that to me. Once my mother realized what a Disney family vacation meant to me, she agreed.

But that was months ago. So during our Mother's Day lunch, I brought it up with both of my parents.

"What would we do at Disney?" they said.  

Before I could even respond, my husband, Joseph, jumped in. He started to talk about Frontierland in The Magic Kingdom. That's the place that reminds me of my dad the most - I rarely want to walk through it because it feels wrong being there without him. My dad grew up watching The Lone Ranger and Rin Tin Tin. My dad loved Rin Tin Tin so much, he named his dog (a German Shepherd, obviously) "Rinny." I know the moment he sees Frontierland, he'll want to buy a cowboy hat and never leave. 

My dad is also an artist. He draws and paints. He's never studied, it's something he taught himself to do. A few years back his glaucoma got so bad, there was a possibility of losing his eyesight. I know this scared him for many reasons, but I think not being able to paint - something he loved to do - really scared him most. I know he would love Disney's Art of Animation Resort. I can see him sitting poolside, soaking up the sun and sketching.     

As a kid my Mom would drag us to every parade in NYC - I hated it. But she loved it and watch wide-eyed. I know that she would love the parade on Main Street U.S.A. The same with the evening fireworks at The Magic Kingdom. Every 4th of July, my mother would take us to see the fireworks and I never had any interest. As I got older - I spent less time with my mom doing these things and she stopped going since she didn’t want to go by herself. I love the fireworks at Disney and I always cry. Because it's beautiful and because I know my mom will be amazed by it.

My mother has always been up for adventure. She is fearless and loves flying. When she went to Puerto Rico she said, "I loved it. I looked out the window the entire time." If she had lived another life, I think she would have traveled the world. Showing her around Epcot will be my way of giving her the world.

There is so much I want to show my parents - I want them to see all 4 parks. I know my parents have a DisneySide within and I want to help them discover it. They worked so hard for so many years. They have done so much for me and for my family - especially Norrin. I want to thank them. I want them to have fun and relax. I want to see them laugh. They deserve a little magic in their lives. And I'm determined to make this Disney Familia vacation happen.

(Even if that means driving from NYC to Orlando because my dad is scared to get on a plane.)


My friend Claudya writes out her Wednesday Wishes. She's all about putting out her wishes to the universe. Well, today is Wednesday. And this is my wish.  
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