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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cleveland Part 2 - Courtyard Marriott, Euclid Beach, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Brewing Co.

So we drove into Ohio – myself, my dad, my brother and my two autistic kids.  We are visiting family in Cleveland, Ohio.  The road trip was a bit rough – 5 ½ hours is tough for any kid, much less autistic.  We stopped once to eat at a Hardee’s, twice to go potty and once when we were pulled over by the charming Officer Maureen. 

We are staying at the Courtyard Marriott in Willoughby, Ohio. Great brand, very clean, good and friendly staff.  The pool is smallish (which is good when it comes to controlling my kids) and indoors (which was cool because it rained today).  They have a mini convenience store area by the front desk and a bar that serves breakfast and coffee in the morning, snacks, sandwiches and cocktails at night.  There’s also a workout room that I may be ambitious enough to visit tomorrow morning. 

Our first night, we joined family for a picnic at Euclid Beach Park. is a nice picnic area, right on the beach at Lake Erie.  They have live music there on Fridays.  Playground area for the kids.  Plenty of parking at the park or at the recreation center across the street.

Saturday our original plan was to have breakfast at Bob Evans, near our hotel.  Totally packed – and anyone who knows autistic kids, waiting is not an option – neither are crowds.  Drove by Cracker Barrell, same deal.  Saw a place called Eat-n-Park my brother surmised, shouldn’t you park before you eat? J) – parking spaces available – got a table within a few minutes.  Good food, good service, good prices. 

Saturday afternoon, went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Cool place!  Kids weren’t very cooperative – staff were very helpful – they have free strollers and wheelchairs – my little guy was a bit big for their strollers, so we got a wheelchair – got some funny looks but that pacified him for the trip through the museum. 

Saturday night dinner was at Great Lakes Brewing Company. They don’t take reservations, so we showed up at 4:15, granted, in their defense, we had a party of about 28, so the wait would have been 2 hours – we instead broke up into groups of 5 or 6 and they took us right away.  Really like the venue, so relaxing – all their signature beers fresh and on tap.  Nice menu – it was a warm night, so I got the appetizer of fresh and local meats and cheeses – brisket, spicy sausage, chevre, gouda, gorgonzola, along with grapes, chutney and a carmelized onion and Kalamatta olive jam – really yummy!  Kids behaved well enough – had their standard chicken strips and fries – the fries were excellent with a breading that was cheesy and garlicky.  Great Lakes is a favorite go-to for my relatives and I will definitely be back whenever we’re in Cleveland.  There are also some interesting looking places right across the street – a coffee bar, a wine bar and another small restaurant called the Purple Fig, I think?  We won’t be there, but next week there is a Burning River festival – the  Cuyahoga River, many years ago, was so polluted it caught on fire – that was the inspiration for the Environmental Protection Agency.  Glad Clevelanders can have a sense of humor about it now. J <3 font="">

Cleveland, Ohio Part 1 - corrected contact info

Went to attend a family reunion with the two autistic kids and without the husband who couldn't get away from work.  5 1/2 hour drive from Chicago to Cleveland, but we've made the 4 1/2 hour drive to the Wisconsin Dells, so no biggie, right?

We dealt with the usual - my non-verbal ASD little guy trying to wriggle out of his seatbelt the whole way there and I spent a good amount of time wrestling with him to get him back in his seatbelt every time he tried to be an escape artist.  In his defense, one of my cousins said that his son, who is not autistic, got out of his seat belt several times on their way to Cleveland from Virginia.

Haven't been bothered by insensitive police in a while.  When I saw the lights, we assumed it was because my brother was speeding a bit  Nope.  Trooper Ladonna Klocinski of the Ohio State Police had seen me struggling to get Todd back into his seatbelt (not sure how since we have tinted windows).  When she pulled us over, he (autistic kids are robotic with routines) - the car was stopped, so he started to take off his seatbelt.  When she looked in the back, the shoulder part of the belt was off his shoulder. I tried to explain that he's autistic, I've been trying to keep his belt on the entire trip, and that when we stopped, he automatically thought it was time to take his belt off.  She stared at me blankly and then said that makes no sense. Officer Ladonna is obviously an autism expert! He wasn't in a booster because he rocks himself out of it and has actually opened the door while the car is moving a few times. She scolded me for that and also scolded me that the seat belt must have been rubbing his neck and bothering him and said to him in a singsong voice, "that's bothering you, isn't it? Mommy won't help you?" He just stared ahead.  I didn't explain that he's non-verbal, just hoped she'd think he was ignoring her for being such an insensitive witch. 

We got a ticket for no child restraints.  Now my older son is once again afraid of police and would never approach an officer if he needed help. Thanks, Officer Ladonna!  You're so good at your job! Apparently it's okay with the Ohio state police department to harass special needs parents and terrorize special needs kids.  No Officer Friendly in Ohio, you get Officer Ladonna!  Yes, I'm being sarcastic because it always blows me away when I yet again meet a completely insensitive jerk.  Anyway...I will post more later on the actual trip.  Just wanted to vent about this because I know my fellow special needs parents endure this crap from people of all walks of life and if you went through something similar today, I want you to know you're not alone.

Addendum - I was originally informed to contact Officer MacDonald in Maumee - he states he has received numerous emails and phone calls regarding this incident - the correct person to contact is:  Lt. Fisher with the Ohio State Police - 419-826-5871, email  The officer in question is named Ladonna Klocinski. 

Thank you all - I am overwhelmed and touched by all the support I have received.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Music and Autism

This article on the Autism Speaks site really struck me - my PDD son sang before he spoke and music and theatre are so beneficial to him...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Autism Speaks on dining out

I dine out with my kids a lot - there's some good stuff in this article.  My favorite tip from Autism Speaks is the suggestion to sit in a booth by a window - distraction and if you make your child sit on the inside, it's more complicated for them to escape to run around the restaurant. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Special Needs Mom Poem

Pulled this from another autism mom's blog that I love (
You may think us "special moms" have it pretty rough.
We have no choice. We just manage life when things get really tough.
We've made it through the days we thought we'd never make it through.
We've even impressed our own selves with all that we can do.
We've gained patience beyond measure, love we never dreamed of giving.
We worry about the future but know this "special" life is worth living.
We have bad days and hurt sometimes, but we hold our heads up high.
We feel joy and pride and thankfulness more often than we cry.
For our kids, we aren't just supermoms. No, we do so much more
We are cheerleaders, nurses, and therapists who don't walk out the door
We handle rude remarks and unkind stares with dignity and grace.
Even though the pain they bring cannot be erased.
Therapies and treatment routes are a lot for us to digest
We don't know what the future holds but give our kids our best.
None of us can be replaced, so we don't get many breaks.
It wears us out, but to help our kids, we'll do whatever it takes.
We are selfless, not by choice, you see. Our kids just have more needs.
We're not out to change the world, but want to plant some seeds,
We want our kids accepted. That really is our aim.
When we look at them we see just kids. e hope you'll do the same.
April Vernon

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

At the Office

At the Office – looks like it should be a chain restaurant, but I don't think it is – close location to where we live, in Crestwood, Illinois.  Good food and the staff are always kind and understanding to my kids.  The servers are dressed in slutty referee outfits for some reason, but are lovely, sweet girls who are good at their jobs and great with children.  The customers aren’t quite as kind, but I’ve gotten used to that and it truly bothers me little these days.  I had a date night with my little guy a few weeks ago, as his dad and brother went to see Transformers.  We walk into the restaurant and he joyously ran into the bar area, arms up and yelling happily.  We garnered some attention as I had to physically drag him to our table.  Once I gave him my phone, he was perfectly quiet for the rest of our visit and actually behaved better than some of the other kids in the restaurant whose parents gave us weird looks when we first arrived. I mention this place as it’s a good location for special needs families – large open space – lots of crowd noise so your child’s noise isn’t too bad – the tables aren’t too close together either.  Here’s a link to their website:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Yellow Dot Illinois

Just found out about this today - this system alerts first responders that a special needs person is in your vehicle.