Category Archives: Special Needs

Religion and Assisted Reproduction

Although faith wasn’t a consideration for me when I chose to become an egg donor, nor when we chose to use a sperm donor, for some religion can be a major force when contemplating fertility options.

Check out Ellen Painter Dollar’s piece in yesterday’s Huffington Post offering tips to people of faith when they’re considering infertility and assisted reproduction.

Dollar expands on her discussion of tip #2, moral questions, in her blog post, and further in her new book No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction.

Like many aspects of our lives, the decision on how we become parents can be complex and nuanced, where right and wrong are moving targets that depend on where you’re standing. Dollar is stimulating the discussion and brave to tackle it head on.

Photo courtesy of www.yourspiritualfaith.com.

More Online Support of Sensory Processing Disorder

Check out my most recent blog post over at Easy to Love But Hard to Raise about new Facebook pages dedicated to supporting individuals and families dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder.

The editors of Easy to Love… have also announced a call for submissions for their next book, Easy to Love But Hard to Teach. Do you have something to share?

Easy to Love…Transitions?

My blog post today over at Easy to Love But Hard to Raise is about a new resource I found that will hopefully help ease our transition next year into a different program at the boy’s school. Check it out and wish us luck!

“Easy to Love…” is Finally Here!

I’m so proud to announce the official release of the anthology that my essay, Finding My Way, appears in, Easy to Love But Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories, edited by Kay Marner and Adrienne Ehlert Bashista of DRT Press, and now available in paperback and Kindle. I’m proud to be part of a collection of essays by so many dedicated and wonderful parents who go the extra mile for their children, as well as a few world renowned parenting experts.

I hope to do a reading at Village Books in April and will post that info here first. As always, I also continue to post at the blog, Easy to Love, that accompanies the book, which is meant to support parents of children who need more. Thank you to all my friends, family, and supporters!

Change: Blessing or B@#ch?

Check out my new blog post over at Easy to Love But Hard to Raise about our future transition into a new program at school. I don’t know whether to be excited or scared to death.

What We’re Learning from Twins

This month’s National Geographic cover story, Twins: Alike But Not Alike by Peter Miller, which explores a newer area of scientific research called epigenetics, really got my mental wheels turning. Many of us understand that identical twins have identical DNA sequences, but even these twins are not exactly the same in real life. Some make different choices throughout their lives, such as dress and grooming, hobbies, professions, and what they study in school. Epigenetics is the study of these differences in gene expression and those factors that influence expression, as Miller explains, the result of a combined effect of both nature and nurture. A quote from his article explains it best, “‘Things written in pen you can’t change. That’s DNA,’ says geneticist Danielle Reed. ‘Things written in pencil you can. That’s epigenetics.'”

Photograph by Jodi Cobb from www.nationalgeographic.com

Over the last twelve years, I’ve been acting as a scientist making observations in my own home-made twins study (albeit without a control group). I’ve been living with a pair of fraternal twin boys of my own and observing another pair of fraternal twin girls who also got half their DNA from me when I donated my eggs to their parents. They share a lot of DNA with my boys, but are being raised in a different environment.

I can’t turn off my analytical science brain so I’ve been observing first hand which traits and habits seem to be shared between the children and thus inherited, those influenced by environment. Different than the twins in Miller’s article, our twins are not identical, they are fraternal, sharing only approximately 50% of their DNA, and no more similar to each other than any brother or sister who is not a twin.

Inheritance seems easier to identify for me. My son Tristan looks like me in his face and body type, he ended up with my anxiety, perfectionism, introversion, and academic success. Will got my creative side and love of music and science. Ruby looks like me in the face and already talks like a professor, but Raven inherited my body type, athleticism, and even my early growth rate, already surpassing mine by 2″ at 5′ 6″ in sixth grade.

Growing up, I’d wondered whether I’d inherited or learned some of these strong personality traits. Getting to know my parents as adult humans and observing these biological children as both a scientist and parent, I’ve come to conclude that more and more traits are inherited.

Miller’s article (which you can read in its entirety here) seems to confirm this conclusion. The similarities between the identical Jim Twins, born in 1939 but raised separately and then reunited in 1979 at age 39, is chilling. In addition to expected similarities like height and weight, there were a number of other amazing, yet unexplainable coincidences. Both twins were named James by their adopting families, both had a dog named Toy, both married and divorced a first wife named Linda, and a second wife named Betty. They both named a son James Alan (or Allan), both were volunteer sheriffs, were home carpenters, smoked the same cigarettes, and drank the same beer. I was dumbstruck by the simple possibility that many of the seemingly mundane choices I am making everyday might not be choices at all, but somehow dictated by my DNA.

Miller’s article highlights how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go to understand the factors that truly shape who we are. The studies he mentions of identical twins with differing expression of medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and autism seem dumbfounding and yet enlighten us that these conditions are influence both by genetics and environment.

If you haven’t already seen the article, do check it out. The photographs alone of identical twins by Jodi Cobb are alone reason enough.

As a parent, relative, or close friend of twins, what novice scientific observations and conclusions have you drawn about nature versus nurture?

Exterminating the Worry Trolls

Check out my new post over at Easy to Love But Hard to Raise about what we’re doing at home to reduce the roll that worry plays in our lives. The book is due out in full release in February, but you can order your advance copy now at a discount at DRT Press!

Independence vs. Safety

New post over at Easy to Love about my latest parenting struggle: how can you let them blossom while still protecting their safety? How can I find the perfect balance?

Time for Self-Care

Read my latest blog post at Easy to Love But Hard to Raise, about my upcoming trip to Italy, without the hubby and kids. I’m filling my quota for self-care beginning this Friday. Am I being selfish? Wise? Or just lucky?

P.A.N.D.A.S.?

I heard about this on the facebook page for Easy to Love But Hard to Raise and I’m just blown away by it.

P.A.N.D.A.S., according to this article in Psychology Today, is an annoyingly cute acronym for Psychiatric and Neurologic Disorders Associated with Strep, and may be the cause of many disorders that we currently understand poorly, including Tourette’s syndrome, tic disorders, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, and anorexia nervosa with possible connections to lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

As often seems to occur, researchers in other countries have been trying to establish links for over a decade and the information is now trickling in to the U.S. medical community, however slowly.

When I see this type of new-to-me medical information, I pay attention. It was only four years ago that my children were diagnosed with a poorly understood metabolic disorder, pyroluria, a disorder that our pediatrician had never heard of. If I hadn’t read about it in a valuable niche book (Aspergers Syndrome: Natural Steps Toward a Better Life for You and Your Child by Suzanne Lawton) we might still be searching aimlessly for a diagnosis and treatment for my children.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if P.A.N.D.A.S is the culprit (or aggravator) in so many misunderstood disorders? Time will only tell. But as a mom who has been there, knowing something isn’t right, but the medical explanation isn’t obvious, I think we should educate ourselves and work with our physicians and naturopaths as a team.

Many people feel overwhelmed by medical information and when they turn to their doctors, they want answers and perfection. But our physicians and naturopaths are human, they can’t know everything, and it takes a while for new discoveries and breakthroughs to make their way to the trenches of small-town medical care, especially if the info is being blocked for political reasons and/or ego.

Our pediatrician admitted he’d never heard of pyroluria when I brought it to him as a possible diagnosis for my children, but he was willing to educate himself, order the tests, and locate a lab that would conduct them. He was supportive when the tests came back positive and encouraged our connection with our naturopath to help manage their vitamin therapy treatment.

Since we learned to kill bacterial infections with antibiotics in the 50’s , those little bugs have lost their umph in our minds, but they’re still here, evolving faster and smarter than us, and finding new ways to control our machinery. Popular culture, like the new movie, Contagion, reminds us how much stealth power they still command.

Let’s hope this article is right, that there is a connection between P.A.N.D.A.S. and many debilitating medical disorders, so that we can better understand them and use this knowledge in their treatment and management. I, for one, will be following new developments with this family of bacteria and the work of Dr. Jory F. Goodman, who wrote the article.

Can you recall any medical disorders that were eventually explained by a simple culprit? I can think of cleft pallate and folic acid as a most recent example.