Friday, 30 March 2018

Join Team Ottawa Senators for the Ottawa Autism Speaks Canada Walk 2018

(Follow this link, to donate to Leo from Team Ottawa Senators.)

While the Groulx family spends a good part of all of our days recognizing autism, there is a day in April where we like to encourage everyone to do the same.

April 2, 2018 is the 11th annual World Autism Awareness Day, recognized by United Nations member countries. The goal is to hold autism-friendly events and educational activities on this day and throughout the month of April. These events and activities are designed to increase understanding of this developmental brain disorder and encourage acceptance of the autism community.

Eli, Mommy and Leo wearing blue on World Autism Awareness Day 2017
Those who know our family know this is important to us because we have a member of that community in our household. Leo, our nine-year-old son, was diagnosed with autism when he was two.

I have written of the challenges we have faced with autism in our family. But for this blog post, and in the spirit of World Autism Awareness Day, I want to try to help you - someone who is not on the autism spectrum - understand what it is like to have an autism-wired brain and function in our society.

First, let’s talk about those hand dryers in public bathrooms. Holy. Moly. They are loud. And who needs that kind of force when drying their hands? 

While you might have noted yourself that the dryers are loud and weirdly powerful, to a mom with a child on the autism spectrum, they are downright villainous. I would like to take those hand dryers into a dark alley and give them a piece of my mind.

It was years before Leo could go into a public bathroom without crying.

When Leo was younger, I can only describe his reaction to those loud hand dryers as painful. His reaction was painful for me to manage. But, more than that, it was like the noise itself actually caused him pain. He would cover his ears and freeze, unable to move, tears streaming down his face. He would do this even if he was mid-peeing. It was terrible.

Sometimes I would even catch the person drying their hands flash me a quick look. I know what you were thinking, person-I-don’t-know. You were thinking, “Man, your kid is having a really dramatic reaction to me drying my hands.” Or you were thinking “It is loud but it is not *that* loud.”

But here is the thing. To Leo, it is *that* loud. It really is. Many people with autism spectrum disorder process sensory information differently than those not on the spectrum. In Leo’s case, he is sensitive to sounds (and smells - but we’ll get to that in a minute.) Hockey games are louder to him. School assemblies are louder to him. Crowds of any kind, louder to him. 

As Leo has gotten older, he has found ways to manage this sensitivity to noise in public bathrooms. In his younger days, we would be sure he had headphones or earplugs when he needed to use a public bathroom. Now, he can manage without them, but still covers his ears with his hands if a dryer is used while he is in the bathroom.

The twins are at that awkward age where I don’t want to let them out of my sight in public, but it is starting to feel a tad inappropriate to have them come into a ladies’ bathroom with me. So they have started using the mens' public bathrooms together. One time, I was standing outside the mens’ room, waiting for the twins. The door opened, as someone exited the bathroom and I could hear a hand dryer being used. I felt a moment of panic until I caught sight of the twins. Leo was standing at the sink washing his hands, while his twin brother Eli was covering Leo’s ears for him. This is equal parts a sign of brotherly love and of finding a way to navigate through tough situations.

So that hand dryer you are using is actually causing my son discomfort. No joke.

I am not saying don’t dry your hands. I am just saying if you see someone react dramatically in a bathroom to the noise of those dryers, please try to make it quick. Or do what the Groulx family does to dry our hands - the shake and dance. Works like a charm!

Let’s get back to smell. Leo also seems to have an increasing sensitivity to smell as he gets older. There are a number of foods that cannot be consumed near Leo - hamburgers, ice cream sandwiches, and vegan cheese, just to name a few.

A couple of weeks ago, I put the compost bin from under the sink on the counter so I could empty it. Leo was sitting nearby. He said, “Mommy, can you please move that compost bin?” I said, “Yes, I will move it just after I…” I never finished that sentence because Leo vomited all over the counter.

Yep.

He tried to tell me. I have learned that when Leo says a smell bothers him, A SMELL BOTHERS HIM.

I am specifically telling this story because I feel like people might not associate a heightened sense of smell with autism. I tweeted that story about Leo (@wkfg) and someone responded that he once vomited when family members cooked fish for supper, and that they took his response as an insult to their cooking. 

Here is the thing: Leo, and this man that tweeted his story to me, are not trying to be rude. If Leo tells you something smells like vegan cheese, he is saying that an odour is smelling absolutely foul to him. (I like vegan cheese, by the way!)

Think about the worst smells you have ever taken in. So bad they might have induced gagging. Now think about having to smell things like that on the regular.

There is one more story I want to share with you. Remember how I said that being in a crowd can be challenging for Leo? Picture being at the Rideau Centre food court (for those of you not from the Ottawa area, the Rideau Centre is a busy shopping centre).

One day our family was having lunch at the foodcourt. Leo started stimming (self-stimulation) in an effort to process being in the busy foodcourt. Stimming is common for people on the spectrum. It is a repetitive behaviour that is done to help process the overwhelming sensory environment. So, in the loud and busy foodcourt, he started jumping up and down, flapping his arms.

This got a lot of attention. I saw people sneak peeks at him. His Daddy saw it, too. I am betting his brother noticed the looks, as well. But we didn’t stop him. Leo was finding a way to be in a very uncomfortable-for-him environment while his family grabbed a quick bite to eat. 

Leo stims when he is excited. He also stims when he is anxious and needs to calm himself. As he gets older, we are working with him to hopefully adopt a less noticeable stim - maybe something like squeezing a stress ball. But for the time being, he jumps.

So the next time you see a child (or an adult) doing a repetitive, noticeable behaviour, maybe you will think of our Leo.

And maybe the next time you see a person cover their ears when you are drying your hands, or react dramatically to a scent, you might think to yourself, “Oh, maybe he or she is on the autism spectrum.” And maybe you might have just a little more understanding and compassion than you would have before. 

It is our family’s goal to do what we can to encourage awareness and compassion toward the autism community. Our Leo’s community.

That’s why once again the Groulx family has created Team Ottawa Senators and will be participating in the Ottawa Autism Speaks Canada walk, which will be held the morning of June 3 at the Bell Sensplex in Kanata.

My husband Pierre, our twin boys, and I started participating in the Autism Speaks Canada walks when we lived in Montreal and he was the goaltending coach of the Montreal Canadiens. Now, we live in the Ottawa area and Pierre works for the Ottawa Senators.

Last year, Mark Borowiecki from the Ottawa Senators, his wife Tara, and their dog Remi, came out to walk with us, and to support Leo and the rest of the autism community. The Ottawa Senators Foundation gave a generous donation to our walk team. And we are so grateful for the support we continue to receive from our family and friends.

Team Ottawa Senators at the Ottawa Autism Speaks Walk 2017

We are appreciative of your help and I am going to ask you all to do it again. :)

Please consider making a donation to help positively impact the autism community. Join our Team Ottawa Senators and walk with us on June 3.  

Follow this link, to donate to Leo from Team Ottawa Senators.

I spoke with Ashlee Pallotta, the Regional Coordinator, Eastern Canada, for Autism Speaks Canada (ASC) to help provide a better picture of the efforts of ASC.

“We work hard to raise public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society. We aim to bring hope to all who live with this disorder and are committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals.”

A recent report of the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System states that approximately 1 in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with ASD in Canada.

ASC helps find ways to provide support to these children and their families, such as by funding autism services and programs across the country. ASC has funded more than 200 different organizations. Some Ottawa area service providers who have benefited from ASC funding include: Lanark Autism Support Group, Autism Ontario, and QuickStart - Early Intervention for Autism, just to name a few.

Another way ASC is helping support families is with tool kits. Ms. Pallotta explained that ASC has developed more than 40 tool kits designed to support autism families on a number of topics, including receiving the initial diagnosis, transition support, visiting a dentist, etc.

ASC is also working collaboratively with the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services and Military Family Services to support military families and develop an Autism Military Tool Kit. Topics of these tool kits include relocating, starting a new school, navigating services and finding a community (Note: These topics would also work for hockey families!) 

Another ASC initiative is sensory-friendly events, including teaming up with Toys”R”Us to have sensory friendly shopping times and teaming up with Cineplex theatres across Canada to host sensory-friendly movie screenings.

There is a research component to ASC as well. I know that as a parent to a child on the spectrum, I think supporting the scientific initiatives that look to shed light on this disorder that is currently impacting 1 in 66 of Canada’s children and youth, is necessary and important.

I have only just touched on some of the initiatives of ASC. For more information, please visit Autism Speaks Canada.

Early intervention can make a huge difference. While ASD can be reliably diagnosed before age 2, the average age of diagnosis is closer to age 4. The more autism awareness that organizations like ASC can create, the better.

Pierre and I know that families with autism face many different kinds of challenges. Walk with us to support these families and the autism community. Walk with us to support our Leo the Lion.

Join Team Ottawa Senators and please make a donation if you can!

Leo at the Ottawa Autism Speaks Walk 2017

Monday, 22 January 2018

Leo Has Autism Spectrum Disorder. No Asterisk

It has been six years since Leo was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Long gone are the days where he would bite instead of use words. (His brother is super thankful for this.) Long gone are the days where toilet-training seemed like a losing battle. (I am super thankful for this.) Long gone are the days where we would have to worry about him trying to physically pick up anyone smaller than him. (Be thankful tiny rugrats in our neighbourhood!)

I can read through my blogs about Leo and autism and see the different ways our family has been challenged by ASD through the years.

We have left a number of challenges behind us. But one of our current challenges is probably more in line with what most people think of when they hear the word autism. It involves social graces.

I used to love watching The Golden Girls. Who am I kidding? I still love watching The Golden Girls when it is on TV. Do you remember the character of Sophia Petrillo? The little old lady who suffered a stroke and was left with a condition that made her unable to censor her comments?

That is Leo. He is a tiny little Italian woman who will cut you with his words. I joke. But also, I don’t joke. I am living with a mini Sophia Petrillo.

“Mommy, thank you for making this meal for me, but it is the worst thing I have ever tasted.” Boom. (I prepare a vegan meal once a week. Leo loves it.)

“Mommy, those overalls make you look like Mario or Luigi.” Um…

“Mommy, this supper is not as disgusting as I thought it would be.” Thanks, I think. (Vegan for the win!)

Whenever he starts a sentence with “No offence, but…” I brace for it.

During the holidays, he opened a present and said to the present-giver, "Thank you very much for these jelly beans. Even though I really do not like jelly beans and I will never eat them."

These examples are quite amusing, I know. Here is one that is not so funny:

“Sure you can, grand-maman! If you are not dead by then.” 

Leo actually said this when talking with his brother about living together as adults, with their future dogs named Bowser and Yoshi, and his grand-maman asked if she could visit them. Ouch.

Leo has always been a polite boy. Please and thank-yous? Check. Asks to be excused from the dinner table? Check. Does his chores? Check. 

However, this dude continues to surprise me with his bluntness and his commitment to always, always telling the truth.

Telling the truth is usually seen as a good thing, isn’t it? 

It has some pluses. For instance, if Leo is ever in an argument with a friend (or his bro) over a he said, he said type of thing, I find that Leo’s version of what happened is the truth most of the time. Between his strong memory, and his inability to lie, I find myself relying on his account. Where Leo might run into problems with a friend (or his bro) is that he can often misjudge or misunderstand the intent of someone’s actions or words. That is usually what will upset Leo in a scenario. But he generally nails the “what happened” part.

But telling the truth can have a negative side. Most people know instinctively what not to say. Like not mentioning that grandparents might not be around for future events. Most people know how to fake their way through a meal, without delivering the message “I don’t really like it” with such fervour as Leo does. But it is as if Leo is not equipped to know how, or when, to soften the message.

We have known that Leo has been on the spectrum most of his life. But I have always placed him there with an asterisk next to him. He has ASD, but he is highly-communicative. He has ASD, but he can be affectionate. He has ASD, but he does quite well socially.

Having trouble navigating social skills has never really been Leo’s main challenge before. 

But here we are.

Leo has ASD. No asterisk.

Leo. Telling it like it is.
Leo’s teacher was telling me a story recently about her prepping his class for Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) assessments that Leo’s grade will take later this school year. 

She presented a practice multiple choice question that talked about sentence structure. The question asked the students to identify the option that had a more complete sentence.

This particular exercise caused a fight with Leo and his bestie. Leo loves this friend. The pair have play dates on the regular and the two minis are tight.

The argument happened because Leo started to rate his buddy’s sentence structure. He would say things like, “Oh dude. The sentence you wrote there *gestures toward friend’s classroom work* is clearly only a 2 on a scale to 10. It needs some work.” 

Obviously his friend took exception and the whole thing resulted in some hurt feelings. 

Can you see how this happened? Leo is asked to judge sentence structure for school work, but when he carries on the activity, he ends up hurting feelings. It is confusing for his brain. 

My brain would tell me not to say it out loud (even if I think it) because it might hurt someone’s feelings. But mini Sophia Petrillo’s brain wants to point out some poor sentence structure when it sees some.

My point is that Leo can’t go around correcting or insulting his friends’ work. It seems like a surefire way to lose a friend. Fast. 

But Leo does not, and cannot, fake it. 

As a mom to a mini with ASD, who has faced a lot of challenges and will face more, here is my new mission:  I have to teach him to fake it. At least a little bit.

I have to find a way to teach him there are certain things that will be upsetting for others to hear.

I want to try because I want him to be able to sustain lifelong friendships. I want to try because I want him to be able to go on dates one day. I want to try because I want him to be able to nail a job interview in the future. If he can figure this out now, it will make life a lot easier for him going forward.

We all practice thinking before talking (or at least we all should) but could you imagine having to think about things that just seem to come naturally to you? To have to second-guess most of your thoughts? 

He has to consider whether what he is about to say, about any everyday topic, could potentially be upsetting for someone. It seems like a big mountain to climb, but I am determined to climb it with him.

We’ll start slowly. When I hear some blunt Sophia Petrillo truths coming out of his mouth, we will stop the conversation and I will ask him some questions. Things like, “How do you think that makes person-on-the-receiving-end feel?” “How would that make you feel if it was said to you?” “Can you think of another way to say that?” “Did it need to be said?” “Why did you feel the need to say that?”

Maybe, just maybe, we can identify some sort of pattern to his bluntness. Maybe he is more apt to Sophia Petrillo the shit out of someone when he his tired. Maybe when he is hungry. Maybe when he is hangry. 

Damn, I know that I can say things that are best-not-said when I am hangry. And maybe there won’t be an identifiable pattern to it at all. But it is worth a shot to find out.

Leo is seriously one of the funniest, brightest, and sweetest little boys. He is a great dancer and a snappy dresser to boot! I want all people, from this second forward, to see him for all of those things. I don’t want friends, family and future people in his life to be deterred by any straight-up bluntness.

But there is going to be one exception to all of this. He never, ever has to filter anything he wants to say to me. I want him to know that. And I mean it.

My dinner sucks? Tell me. I am dressed like an old Italian man? I can take it. I totally look like I am turning 40 this year? Easy there, kid. Ha! Just kidding. Yep, I know.

There has to be one person with whom he never feels like he has to censor himself. One person with whom he can just be Leo at all times. I will be that person for him.

There is also secondary motivation behind me being his one exception to thinking before speaking. The twins will be teenagers one day. I spend a lot of time considering how his always-telling-the-truth will work for our family at that time.

Here is an example that I can’t get out of my head: One day, I picture the twins as teenagers who don’t want to get into a car with a buddy who is driving, but who has also been drinking. I can’t have Leo in this scenario second guessing himself, wondering if this is one of those times that he shouldn’t tell me the truth. Wondering if he will get in trouble. Wondering if I will be disappointed.

No sir. Call me. I don’t care if you are not where you are supposed to be. I don’t care what was happening at the party. I don’t care. Call me. I can’t have him second guessing that instinct, in that type of moment, ever. So the think-over-everything-you-say rule will never apply to me. I can take whatever you can dish, Sophia.

These social issues, and continuing to work on having reactions that are in line with the size of challenge that Leo is facing, are what we are currently working on in our family. 

It is a really good period for us. Leo is doing fantastic at piano and drama class. He loves school. He has recovered like a champ from his second eye surgery. And despite him being in a different class than his brother for the first time ever, and the twins naturally drifting in different directions a little bit this year, he is doing so well.

We couldn’t be more proud of Leo. But today I feel like ending this blog with a story about Eli. 

Leo and Eli - Twin Love
When I read some of my earlier blogs, I express concern over how autism will impact Eli’s life. I note that he grew up, in a lot of ways, faster than his brother. I write about how he had to give in a lot as a young child in order for us to accommodate Leo and autism. And I always, always wondered if we were doing enough for Eli while constantly dealing with Leo and autism.

Earlier this school year, Eli’s teacher gave me a gift when she told me a story about Eli. She said everyone likes him. He is in a split class, where he is in the younger grade. She said that the older kids like him as much as the kids in his own grade. She said that even students that have some challenges seem to be drawn to Eli and he is so kind and patient with everyone.

I spoke to Eli about these compliments. I told him I was proud of him and how kind he was to everyone. And he said this to me, about one of the students that seems to have a bit of a harder time in his class, “I like being his friend and I think that if other kids see me being his friend, maybe they will want to be his friend, too.”

I told him I thought that was an amazing way to look at it. And then I went into my bathroom and I cried my eyes out. Seriously, who is that kind and thinks about that on his own at 8-years-old? He is growing into such an amazing little dude and I could not be more proud. Here I was, afraid of autism in our family impacting Eli’s life in a negative way. It never occurred to me it would have a positive impact.

This is autism in our family at age 8.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Autism and Optimism - Now He Knows

With World Autism Awareness Day approaching on April 2nd, I thought this would be a good time for an update on autism in our house. Also, if you are wondering how you can pledge some support to Team Ottawa Senators, the team we have created for the upcoming Autism Speaks walk in Ottawa, keep reading to find out. :)

It has been five years since Leo has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This is the first blog entry I have written since Leo has learned he has autism.

The night that I told Leo he is on the spectrum was not planned. I had no idea I was going to do it until I did it. I had spent a lot of time thinking about telling him. But the actual monumental moment in the Groulx household — at the dinner table with Leo’s twin brother Eli — was unexpected.

The boys were telling me about their school, explaining how some children need to take body breaks. This got my attention and I listened attentively as my kids explained to me that sometimes kids at school take breaks in order to, as we call it in our house, get the beans out. To get them moving so that when they return to class, they are able to focus.

I quickly sensed that this was my opportunity. It was the perfect time to talk about how everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. And how everyone has different needs.

Before I could talk myself out of it, I told the twins about autism. I told them it was a developmental brain disorder that impacts people in different ways. I listed a few of the attributes that Leo demonstrates. I said that it could mean that some people jump up and down and flap their arms. It could mean that some people are bothered by loud noises. It could mean that some people have trouble fitting in with their friends when they can’t find the right words to use. I asked if that sounded like anyone they know.

Just as Eli said it sounded like Leo, Leo said, “Hey! That sounds like me!”

I said, “That’s because you, Leo, have Autism Spectrum Disorder.” 

And there it was. I said the words out loud. There was no going back now.

We talked for a few minutes about how ASD means Leo’s brain works a little differently than others — not worse, not better. Just differently. 

I pointed out to him that is why the noise of a hockey game, or an assembly at school, or an overly aggressive bird at a zoo (Leo and swans DO NOT get along), seem to bother him more than others. I pointed out to him that is why joining in with a group of friends can be a bit tricky for him. I pointed out to him that is why he is so bothered by some smells that the rest of the family has to eat certain foods in a Leo-less room.

The Family Groulx, at a zoo, avoiding any squawking birds.

A lot of good came from that conversation. I think it has given him some understanding as to why he feels the way that he does at certain times. It has also given PG and I the freedom to ask questions that we wouldn’t have asked before.

Now when we see him jumping up and down, we feel it is okay to ask him what he is thinking about it. We say, “Leo, we see you are jumping. That is from the autism and that must mean you are thinking something exciting or something is bothering you. Will you tell us about it?” Sometimes he happily tells us what he is thinking. Other times he says it is something he would like to keep private, which is just his polite way of telling us to mind our own business. We don’t pry but are thankful for the opportunity to ask the question now.

Leo is attending his third elementary school (he is in grade two) and living in his sixth house. Considering that most people with ASD thrive on routine and consistency, this kid is adjusting like a champion. He likes his teachers, he is doing well in school, and he has made friends. We are pleased and proud.


Leo, all smiles, after getting through a hair cut with no tears. We celebrate the small victories.
But that does not mean we haven’t hit some bumps along the way. In an emotional moment for me earlier this year, I looked at Leo one night at Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy, sitting amongst a group of children who were also on the spectrum, and for the first time ever, I saw that he truly belonged in that group. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

I have only come to fully realize recently, that no matter how hard Leo works, no matter how hard I work to help him, Leo will always be on the spectrum. There is nothing I can do to change that. It is something that I thought I understood the moment he was diagnosed. But I found the moment that it truly sunk in - five years after the diagnosis - to be an emotional one. It felt like a punch in the gut.

The latest challenge for Leo definitely falls under the social interaction category. He feels attacked when something appears to be done to him. Any little thing. He gets bumped in the hallway — they did it on purpose. Someone takes a sheet of paper that Leo thinks is his — how dare they? Someone beats him in a game — how could they do this to him? Things are blown wildly out of proportion and result in Leo crying and sometimes refusing to take part in an activity.

When this happens at school, it can be distracting for the class and a disruption for the teacher. 

When I get word from Leo’s teacher that one of these incidents has occurred, then Leo and I review information we have collected from ABA, or read some social stories we have at home, that address the current issue.

We have material we regularly review on how to be a good friend. We have a book we read, that Leo's Grandma bought him, that talks about what to do with a problem. We have material we regularly review on determining the size of a problem. This is a big one for Leo right now. We are trying to get him to understand the difference between small, medium and large-sized problems and how his reaction to the problem should be in relation to the size of the problem. (“No, Leo, that person accidentally bumping you while putting on their coat next to you is not a gigantic problem.”)

Another tool his teachers use at school, and we use at home as well, is Kelso’s Choice. This tool is part of some elementary school curriculums and aims to give students the power to do their own conflict management. It is also a great tool for any child on the spectrum. Leo has a little laminated circle that he can carry around with him, depicting Kelso the frog choosing different ways to solve a problem. The goal is to get children to review their choices and then choose an appropriate response to their current conflict.  Responses include “Wait and Cool Off”, “Walk Away”, “Apologize”, “Share and Take Turns."

Leo was recognized by his teacher a few weeks ago for using Kelso’s Choice — he was so proud. Speaking of teachers, we have a couple of great ones this year. As I have said, I know that Leo’s behaviour can be distracting for others and it is so important how a teacher handles the situation.

His homeroom teacher, who instructs him in English (he has French classes in the afternoon) told me a story that I love. It not only provides a snapshot of Leo’s brain and how literally he is taking words right now (we have been learning about figures of speech at home) but it also speaks to what a fantastic teacher he has.

In December, the boys’ teacher gave the twins’ class a writing assignment. They were to write about why they would like to be a gingerbread cookie. While the rest of the class started their assignment, Leo refused. His teacher sat with him and tried to encourage him to brainstorm some ideas for the assignment but he remained steadfast in his refusal. Then his teacher recalled a conversation she previously had with me, where I told her that he is taking things literally. We try to avoid phrases like “in a minute” or “just a second” in our house.

So his teacher had an idea. She asked Leo if he would like to write about NOT wanting to be a gingerbread cookie.  He said yes and picked up his pencil and started writing. I love this story. I can picture Leo, confused, and not wanting to write about being something that ultimately gets eaten.

But what really stands out to me in this story is the teacher. She took a minute. She sat down with him. She recalled information I had told her. She understood how he felt about the assignment and by changing the instructions, she ultimately got him to do the assignment. With another teacher, he might have been seen as misbehaving. I am so thankful that she is his teacher and has found a way to reach Leo more often than not.

I can’t really say enough about the twins’ school this year. Both of Leo’s teachers do not let him use autism as an excuse. PG and I are so thankful for that. When there is indoor recess, the noise regularly causes Leo to make his way to the office, where he eats his lunch. He is welcomed, and made to feel safe, by the office administrator, principal and vice-principal. PG and I are so thankful for that.

The chair of the parent council asked me to help with an autism awareness bulletin board for autism awareness month (April) and connected me with another parent who also has a child on the spectrum. I am so thankful for that. 
Autism bulletin boards at the boys' school.

The school’s principal carefully considered what message he wants the students to hear when the school marks World Autism Awareness Day. (As of the writing of this blog, he was considering using this video to help educate the children.) PG and I are so thankful for that.

And the boys’ school is going to hold its own autism walk, donating some of the proceeds of that walk to the Ottawa Senators Team, as registered for the Ottawa area Autism Speaks walk. PG and I are so thankful for that.

This year’s Ottawa Autism Speaks walk will be held the morning on June 4, at the Bell Sensplex in Kanata. PG and I previously fundraised for the Montreal walk when he was with the Canadiens. Now that he is the goaltending coach for the Ottawa Senators, we would like to once again do our part to help promote autism research and encourage awareness and compassion.

Leo is a high-functioning, thriving boy. We are so thankful for how far he has come. We know we have current challenges, and we will face more in the future. But we consider ourselves fortunate. We know that families who have members who fall at different places on the autism spectrum, face many different kinds of challenges. We choose to walk for them. We choose to walk for Leo.

Please consider donating to help positively impact the autism community.

You can visit our Ottawa Senators Team page and you can make a donation by visiting this page: http://support.autismspeaks.ca/site/TR/Walk2017/General?px=1127172&pg=personal&fr_id=1411#.WN_vshjMyRs 

To any of our Ottawa-area friends, family, and neighbours, who would like to donate and/or walk with our family on June 4th, please visit the this page and click “Join Wendy's Team” in order to register for the walk. We would love to see you there!

Finally, please share this blog post, or the donation information, to encourage anyone who has the inclination and the means to pledge our walk for Autism Speaks. We really appreciate your support.

Here is my favourite story from the night I told Leo that he has ASD. I asked him if he had any questions as he was leaving the dinner table to go play. I will never forget his answer. He happily said, “Nope - I am good. My brain has optimism.”

I eventually got around to correcting him. But at that moment, I just smiled and said, “My brain has optimism too, Leo.”