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The Rockaway Times
Holiday Shopping -
All They Need Is:
It’s that wonderful time of
the year…again.
Whether you are celebrat-
ing Christmas, Hanukkah or
Kwanza, holiday shopping
in this frenzied commercial-
ized season may be stressful.
Buying a gift for an individ-
ual on the autism spectrum
is no exception. It can even
be more trying as you may
be concerned about : a) Buy-
ing another expensive ther-
apeutic or educational gift
that maybe totally ignored
or annihilated, and b) the
biggest concern: sensory
overload. Some individu-
als on the autism spectrum
have heightened sensory
experiences to loud noises,
fluorescent lights, the color
or texture of a certain fabric
or food.
However, while I am also
on the prowl for the perfect
gift for my “artistic” daugh-
ter, a curious sequence of
events occurred that totally
altered my thinking.
First, at the Rockaway
Beach “Artistic” Families
support group, there were
two teachers present, Casey
Brouder and Carolyn Cryan,
who graciously volunteered
to coordinate fun activities
for the children, whilst fam-
ilies relaxed and enjoyed the
wonderful environment and
food at Willderness Yard.
From across the room, I
heard the squeals of delight
as my daughter engaged in
the craft activity. Glitter was
in her hair, glue all over her
clothes. She was having a
The next day, we went to
the Beach 116th Street Hol-
iday Tree Lighting, though
it was frigidly freezing, my
daughter giggled as she gave
Santa Claus a bear hug and
jumped up and down to the
music. She was having the
time of her life!
The last piece of the puz-
zle clicked, when I attend-
ed a book signing event. I
was thoughtfully invited by
a behavioral and develop-
ment pediatrician who lives
in the Rockaways, and reads
my column in The Rockaway
The author, Dr. Alisha
Griffith, a speech language
pathologist and audiolo-
gist presented her book,
“Au-Mazing Gift : A Journey
to Autism Experience.” Dr.
Griffith is the mother of a
10-year old son on the au-
tism spectrum. In her book,
she offers essential tools
that we need to be effective,
loving and patient caregiv-
ers of our God-given gift,
our children.
I went home and read the
entire book in one sitting.
The most significant state-
ment that struck out at me
was: “Look at your gift, be
grateful and smile…Observe
how your child brings light
to those around them and try
to do the same.”
My daughter has this spe-
cial light. When she giggles,
jumps up and down defying
gravity, her smile is her gift
to our family and friends,
365 days of the year, not just
at Christmas.
I reflected on past Christ-
mas holidays when my
daughter would be pre-
sented with a truck load of
gifts. She would just dis-
dainfully look at us, as if to
say, “Why?” All we, adults
and children alike, autistic
and “neurotypical,” want for
the holidays is each other’s
TIME. Building an archive
of memories together, like
playing in the snow, doing
a puzzle together, going to a
holiday tree lighting, danc-
ing wildly to music in the
house. I think many of us
place too much emphasis on
the gift, while all we really
want is the giver.
My gift to my daughter on
Christmas morning? We are
going to make indoor snow-
men! All you need is a can
of shaving cream, two boxes
of cornstarch, a box, a bed
sheet, any random materials
in the house and the most es-
sential, EACH OTHER. Email
me for the instructions if you
want to try this fun activity at
A heartfelt thank you to
William Francis and his as-
sociate, Yasmine Tucker, for
hosting the Rockaway Beach
“Artistic” Families support
group at Willderness Yard.
Everyone had a wonderful
time bonding and sampling
their soothing teas and food.
I talk about autism to open
doors into the reality of our
lives as caregivers, build
and growth of our “artistic”
children. Please do share
your thoughts and stories by
emailing ourartisticchild@
Life With Our
“Artistic” Child
By Kami-Leigh Agard
Ham (Or Chicken)
and Veggie
By Sharon Feldman
Serves: 4
1 package (16 ounces) frozen
broccoli Florets
1 package (16 ounces) frozen
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons
butter, divided
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs,
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups 2%milk
¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar
½cup grated parmesan cheese
1-1/2 cups cubed fully cooked
ham (or chicken) (about 8 ounc-
¼ teaspoon pepper
Cook broccoli and cauliflower ac-
In a skillet, melt 2 teaspoons
butter. Add the bread crumbs;
cook and stir over medium heat.
Remove ½ of the bread crumbs;
Stir in flour until smooth; gradu-
allywhisk inmilk. Bring to a boil,
stirring constantly; cook and stir
1-2 minutes or until thickened.
Remove from heat. Stir in the
cheeses until well blended. Stir
in ham, pepper and vegetables.
Transfer to a greased 8 inch
square baking dish. Sprinkle
with remaining toasted crumbs.
Bake uncovered 10-15 minutes
until heated through.
** I used all the breadcrumbs at
one shot and at the end topped
off the casserolewith Townhouse
crackers, finely rolled out from a
Ziploc bag.