Off the Dial

Spectrum of Hope

Eye opening event last Friday.  I was asked to emcee the Spectrum of Hope luncheon for the Autism Services of Mecklenburg County.  As the host of  Heath Headlines: The Show I get to interview many experts about many different medical topics, but so often we just skim the surface.  This was a chance to really learn what parents of children with autism go through day by day.

Autismbook The speaker was Susan Senator, mother of three.  Her oldest son is, in her words, severely autistic. She gave a wonderful presentation, with family photos and heartfelt emotion.  It really helped me begin to understand what life is like for those who have a child with autism. Senator is the author two books, her newest (right) is The Autism Mom's Survival Guide.

Friday was also Benny's first day of Kindergarten, so I kept my phone on during the luncheon. I was pretty sure a room full of moms and dads of kids with special needs would understand that my kid with special needs might need me.  Turns out, he did.  The teacher called just before his lunchtime to let me know Benny's blood sugar was very high (300). We chatted about what to do and then they went on to lunch and I went on with the event.

You know how once you start thinking about something it suddenly seems to be everywhere?  Came into work this morning to see this as the top story on Yahoo news: Who Is Temple Grandin?  Grandin was diagnosed with autism in 1950 at the age of 2 and went on to earn multiple advanced degrees, including a doctorate in animal science.  The HBO biopic "Temple Grandin," was nominated for seven Emmy awards Sunday night and won five. Hers is an amazing and motivating story.

So is Susan Senator's.  It was a pleasure to meet her and eye opening to spend some time with local parents of autistic kids. If you'd like more information about Autism Services of Mecklenburg County, including adult residential services, after school programs and summer camp, please click here. 

Autismlunch Autismlunch2 (left) ASMC CEO Marc Phillips, NC Rep. Beverly Earle (D-101), Susan Senator

(below) me and Susan Senator

Buckle Up For Back to School

First day of school! 

My daughter starts 4th grade and Benny's all set for Kindergarten. Well, almost. They stagger the start for the littlest students so he won't ride the bus for a few more days.  That's fine – it gives us another chance to go over all the diabetes info with his teacher and school.

I was excited to share our family's experience with Betsy Flagler, writer of the nationally syndicated Parent to Parent column. It ran in our local paper this week and will appear in newspapers around the country over the next ten days or so. 

Click here to read Betsy Flagler's column about back to school with type 1 diabetes.  The Charlotte Observer edited it down a bit.  I'll re-link if the original, longer version runs elsewhere, as expected.

I mention quite a few diabetes resources in the column, but I'll add one more here.  There are many wonderful parents blogging about their experiences with kids with diabetes – Leighann at D-Mom Blog has a good aggregate of back to school posts.

So here we go! I'm sure it's going to be a bumpy ride, but we're ready to buckle in and hang tight for the ups and downs.

(That's the Carolina Cyclone at Carowinds. We were just there last week and realized that – at 49" – Benny is now big enough to ride that and just about everything else.  And you think Kindergarten is supposed to scare me!)

Challenge: Southern Cooking

I love the Food Network Challenge shows, so when Charlotte decided to create a one-time local version, I jumped at the chance to host it.  It's the very first Find Your Center Southern Cooking Contest.  Find Your Center is part of Charlotte Center City Partners and the contest is part of the newly named Time Warner Cable BBQ and Blues Festival (got all that?).

First, the judges narrowed down all the entries down to two in each Southern cooking category: Mac & Cheese, Sweet Potatoes and Apple Cobbler.  We all met in a kitchen at Johnson & Wales University, set the clock and let them go!


Johnson & Wales staff helps contestants Andrea Robson (back) and Angela Charles during the competition. The biggest questions were about the convection ovens cooking faster and where to find some spoons. 


  Southerncookingbiscuits Southerncookingappledish

The winning dishes! Carla Brafford's Mac & Cheese Jalapeno poppers, Clarissa Lynch's Sweet Potato Biscuits, and Andrea Robson's Apple Cobbler. (congratulations to the runners up: Donte Fears, Scott Lindsley, and Angela Charles)

In addition to their dishes, the amateur Chefs needed to tell the story of their recipe. Carla says hers is Tex-Mex meets Southern (she doesn't say jalapeno.. she drawls jap-a-lee-noh), Clarissa talked about her family's slave history of making recipes from the lack of ingredients and Andrea's dessert is pure Pennsylvania Dutch brought down-home South.

Thanks to the wonderful Johnson & Wales judges – (l-r) Chef Mark Allison, Chef Wanda Cropper and Chef Peter Reinhart. Behind them are winners Brafford, Lynch and Robson.

They move on to the next part of the competition on September 11th at Time Warner Cable BBQ and Blues.  I'll host another cook-off and we'll announce the overall winner.  You'll be able to watch the whole show on demand on Time Warner this fall.

The food was incredible, but what really knocked me out were the cameras.  When I started as a TV reporter, they still had separate cameras and decks (that's where the tape went!), connected by a cable.  Here, the crew had one professional-sized digital camera, and two other tiny little ones that look like something we'd use to snap pics of our kids. Amazing.  Also, I am getting old.

Back To School

Went back to school shopping with Benny last week. School around here starts August 25th and we've learned that if you wait, the really cool Trapper Keepers are sold out. 

We've actually been prepping for the first days of school for a while now.  When you've got a student with type 1 diabetes, you have to fill out a few more forms, including making a 504 plan. (great explanation of the 504 and samples here at D-Mom Blog) I also had a great conversation with our school nurse in the spring.  We don't have a full time nurse – most Charlotte schools don't – and Benny's care will actually come more from his teacher and her assistant.Diabetesschool

Here in North Carolina, kids with type 1 are checked in the classroom, not sent to the office.  That's not the case in most other states, and it's only been the law here since 2002.  (more information on the law here)

I'm very pleased Benny doesn't have to interrupt classroom time to check his blood sugar, but I admit, I'm a little worried about the teacher having the time during a busy day to give him the attention he needs, even with an assistant.  I also just found out that the terrific nurse I talked to is being transferred to a high school. The new nurse reports this week. 

So far, Benny's super-excited and just wants to make sure I'll come to school and read one of his diabetes books (like this adorable one above) to his new Kindergarten buddies.  "So they get it, Mom," he says.

I'm taking a deep breath and planning for a positive experience.  The principal has answered all my emails this summer and has assured me they know the drill. We'll meet with the nurse and Benny's teacher before classes start and I know we'll come up with a plan that works for everyone. 

He's not the first kid with type 1 to go to this school, but he's my first!