Friday, December 13, 2013

VICTORY! - Comcast/NBCU and ABA Coverage

As many of you know on April 2nd, 2013 I released "An Open Letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBCU CEO Steve Burke"

In the letter, I pleaded with Mr. Roberts and Mr. Burke as fathers to do the right thing and voluntarily elect meaningful autism benefits (ABA) to our company’s self-funded insurance plan.

I can honestly say that I thought I would be fired.

There were a few things in my favor. My new boss has been a friend since 1995 and I went to him before I released the letter and asked him for his advice before I published it. He was incredibly supportive as were all of my fellow employees.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Mickey Mouse Club-bing

The State of Illinois passed measures to change their policy regarding handicap placards and parking meters.

As it currently stands, if you have a handicap plate you need not feed the meters. You can park at any metered spot and not have to worry about having to return in two hours to feed the meter or looking for specific handicapped parking spots. The city does offer those as well in case people with disabilities have trouble finding parking.

This policy has saved my family immeasurably. We have a disability plate so that we can park close to stores. Bianca, as I have written about, is an eloper. She also LOVES to go to the store. Leaving... not so much. Often times I have had to drag her out in the middle of a meltdown with the other two kids in tow, so being close to the store makes that all a little more manageable.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Dream

Last year I attended the Annual Law Summit presented by Autism Speaks. It was my first time in the nation’s capital. There was one place I knew I had to go while I was there... the Lincoln Memorial.

Not only did I want to go because of what Lincoln had accomplished or because of his ties to my home state. I wanted to stand in the place where the greatest speech on equality was ever given. Not just to honor the work and legacy of Dr. King but to invigorate my own personal battle for equality within our healthcare system and to end clear discrimination that autistic people face when it comes to health insurance coverage. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Spectrum of Similarities

As I read that horrible letter by that horrible person I focused on the words that were written. There were words being used to describe young Max that were vile… disgusting… evil.  Then I started to realize that those words were not being used to describe Max at all. They were venom… nothing more and nothing less.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

30 Lessons Learned

I thought I would take a moment and share with you some of the important lessons I have learned raising an autistic child. You may want to tuck these away in the ole memory banks so that you can call on them when need be. Here are 30 in no particular order…

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Guess what?

One of the things that I truly appreciate about Bianca is the level of our communication. I understand her like no other person. I know what she means when she furrows a brow just so, squeals a certain way or pulls my hand in a certain direction… and of course when she just plain asks for stuff.

 Her speech is coming along pretty well. More and more she asks for specific things or uses words to describe her environment. Just the other night while at a party she told me “Back home” when she clearly had enough of the environment and all that was going on. That certainly makes things easier and has led to a lot less meltdowns over time, but despite all the advancements her level of communication is still quite different and definitely well behind that of a NT 7 year old.

I don’t know why this particular thing I am about to share is such a source of pride and joy for me. It seems so incredibly silly… ridiculous really. But maybe that is exactly the reason why. It is just fun.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

An Open Letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBCU CEO Steve Burke

Dear Mr. Roberts and Mr. Burke,

My name is Lou Melgarejo and I am a Comcast/NBCU employee. I have what I consider to be my dream job. I am a married father of three. I am first and foremost a family man. My oldest daughter is a beautiful, energetic, happy and incredibly intelligent 7 year old girl named Bianca. Bianca happens to be autistic.

The current autism diagnosis rate according to the CDC is 1 in 88 while a recent study suggests that the number could be even higher at 1 in 50 or 2% of school aged children being autistic. Our daughter Bianca is one of those 88, but we like to refer to her as being "1 in a million".

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What's Old is New Again

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill

With Bianca at 13 months. Before she regressed.
When Bianca was 12-13 months old (before her regression) she was ahead of the curve on a lot of things. One of those things was labeling.

One of my favorite things to do with Bianca when she was a baby was to grab one of her favorite picture books and flip the pages as she pointed to and told me the names of ALL of the animals. It also became one of the things that made me angriest about the regression… that it took that from us. Bianca became more content chewing on a book than she was labeling once her regression started to kick in.

I would grab her favorite book and sit down with her and witness the gradual decay in her ability and/or interest in labeling. She lost the words altogether eventually. Asking her to participate in an activity became futile. She was much more content to be on her own and to become engrossed in trying to find any microscopic crumb on the floor to mouth. It would depress the hell out of me.

Still, you move on.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Build-A-Bear? Build a Foundation.

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children” – Mohandes Ghandi

It has to start somewhere right? Traditionally that has been with the children.

When studies show that nearly half of all autistic teens reporting that they have been the victims of bullying, we have to get the message to kids sooner. Acceptance and tolerance are vital to ending bullying. Those lessons MUST be taught and reinforced at home as well as in the classroom. We must be teaching our kids about the power of love and leading by example EVERY day.

In order to do that, there has to be a dialogue. There has to be an open line of communication. Sometimes that can be a challenge. We don’t always know how to talk to kids on their level and the fear of saying the wrong thing can paralyze us into inaction. What we need is a little confidence and some tools, something to break the ice and open up the give and take required in an important conversation.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Breakdown

Monday starts Spring Break for the kids. I can’t really relate because I never felt this way in my life about school… but both of my school aged children are bummed about it. So are the wife and I.

Sofie just LOVES school. A few weeks back she was complaining that her tummy hurt. She was all bundled up and ready to go catch the bus when she stopped dead in her tracks and held her stomach. “Can you kiss my tummy daddy? It doesn’t feel so good.” I leaned over gave her a kiss on the stomach and not two seconds later she vomited all over the place. When we had to call her off of school she cried and cried. “I don’t want to miss school! I will miss out on all the fun!” she bawled as gigantic tears streaked down her face. She is in kindergarten though, so I will revisit this feeling she has towards school in a few years.

Bianca on the other hand… she gets bummed in a different way. Her sleep pattern gets disturbed, she becomes irritable and starts to act out. Head banging increases, meltdowns increase and then it takes several weeks to get settled back into her routine once school is back in session. So one week off, sets her back about a month.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lighting It Up Blue

April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day as declared by the UN General Assembly. It is also the day that Autism Speaks asks for residences, businesses and buildings to change their exterior light bulbs from white to blue in an effort to kick off Autism Awareness Month and raise awareness via a promotion called Light It Up Blue.

Before we are even there I have already read my fair share of posts and comments criticizing the event. I have seen attacks on everything from the event actually doing nothing to help autistic people, to wondering just who it was that chose blue to represent the autism community in the first place.

If you are relatively new to the autism community… get used to it. It seems that no organization or individual can do much of anything without somebody thinking they are going about it all wrong. Stay positive though. Just go with what you feel like is the best way to honor your autistic loved one or if you are autistic, whatever makes you feel proud. For my family, we enjoy participating in Light It Up Blue.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bear, Duck, Frog

As anybody that follows regularly knows, the potty is Bianca's muse.

Yet again while sitting on the potty, she surprised me.

She has a host of stuffed animals that I refer to as "the guys" but she has lately been referring to as "my babies". On a trip to the ER a while back for an infected finger, she brought them along for support and we passed the time labeling them.

Sitting on the potty today she started to name three that we left behind in the living room so that she could sit on the potty.

"Bear" said Bianca, “Duck. Frog.”

“Yes.” I replied, “The guys are downstairs. You can play with them once we are done on the potty.”

“Bear” Bianca repeated with a smile. She then grabbed my hands and forced them to cross. “Bear”


“You want a bear hug Binks?” I asked.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Crocs

You know that old saying about walking a mile in someone's shoes? Well I am not sure how many miles Bianca walked in her Crocs. She wears them everywhere. No matter the time of year. She sleeps in them. Sometimes she bathes in them... it gets them pretty clean!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Sign of Strength?

Let me preface this post by saying that I am not a “We can only write about good things when it comes to handling life with autism or an autistic loved one.” I am also not in the business of attacking parents or questioning their love for their children, parenting, etc. I think we are all far to quick to judge and call people names when we do not know their reality. As long as people are responsible and careful about what they write, I believe we can tackle any number of issues that arise and that others searching for answers may find comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

It was exactly that desire to draw comfort that drew me to a recent article on The New York Times website.