Author Archives: Melissa Salazar

Exercise is Freaking Awesome Post about exercise and the benefit for autism
Post about exercise and the benefit for autism

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about exercise and how it seems to affect Kayla’s mood, behavior and speech.  I’ve always known it is beneficial to me.  I would be a crazy person without it I’m sure.  I’m really learning now what massive impact it has on my daughter. First, I need to recap what was going on.  This is a Facebook post of mine from October 2014:

Kayla has been struggling in the mornings going to school. She’s young and autism makes transition and changes difficult. It had been getting worse and harder and harder to send her. Last week she said, “I just want to run to my class.” We had been late and made a mad dash for her class line a few days before. It gave me an idea. What if instead of driving to school – we ran to school? She’s 5, but she has tons of energy and school is close enough. Last Friday we gave it a try. We got to school out of breath, but she went right up to the line with her rosy cheeks full of smiles. We did it again Monday and Tuesday. No problems dropping her off and a happy kid when I pick her up. Actually, she was quite beaming and proudly grabbed her teachers hand.

This morning we were running late and drove to school instead. Guess what? She was sad and cried for her dad to go with her to class. Kids need exercise and nutrition just as much as we do! We underestimate what it does for us and our kids. To me, being a ViMom and the Active Champion doesn’t mean much if I don’t do the same for my family. Set your goals and include your family! It’s more powerful than you think!

While traditional kindergarten ended up not being the best choice for her, I am still convinced beyond a doubt that this kid has to exercise.  Over the last few weeks we haven’t gone to the park or a run.  It’s cold.  I’m a wimp for the cold.  Therefore, we haven’t gone out.  You know what else changed?  Her stutter started up again after it had stopped when we started homeschooling and some odd behaviors came out of nowhere. Today I read more articles about the brain and exercise.  I really think there is something to this.  We went for a walk today.  Yes, we walked in the cold, and it was awesome!  I am going to continue our exercise to see what impacts it may have on her.  My hope is that the stutter will stop once again!  Her therapists are all taking data on her disfluencies so we will definitely know if there’s a change.  I’m excited to see what is to come.  I will share whatever results we have!

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Honey Bunny

I was driving my daughter to therapy yesterday when I realized how hard she was working.  She’s homeschooling with me and killing kindergarten.  She’s also doing ABA therapy and almost always gives them her best.  In the quiet car I told her, “Layla, I’m so proud of you and how hard you are working!”  She said, “Mommy look!  There’s a big cloud coming out of there!”  We were in an industrialish area.  I continued, “I’m happy to be your Mommy.  I love you so much!”  She says, “The cloud is getting so big!”

Even though our conversation isn’t typical.  She didn’t even acknowledge the feelings I expressed to her.  What I did see when I looked back in the rear view mirror was a gorgeous smile on her face.  I don’t know why telling me about the cloud is easier than talking about feelings, but the precious look on her face tells me she knows she loved.

After I picked her up I told her we had to go get Stone Stone.  She corrected me to let me know his name is just Levi.  I played with her a little bit going through all the nicknames I have for my little guy.  She giggled and kept saying his name is JUST Levi!  Playing a little bit more I asked her what I’m supposed to call her.  She usually doesn’t like nicknames.  She likes to be called Kayla.  Anything other than that is just ridiculous to her because it’s not her name.  I was suddenly very surprised by her answer.  She said, “Honey Bunny!”  I’ve called her that since she was born.  A lot of the time she doesn’t like it, but today, she accepted by term of endearment.

I attempted telling her that made me feel happy.  I made the mistake of telling her it’s like there’s happy butterflies in my tummy.  The very puzzled/horrified look on her face told me that wasn’t a good explanation.  Well, you win some, you lose some!

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Sister Love

Today I got to see some major sibling love. A lot of the time there’s a lot of questions and sometimes things seem so unfair. Other times it seems that everything revolves around autism.

This morning was, well, rough. It’s one of those days when everything seems to be frustrating. It’s one of those days when I have no idea where all of my patience has gone. Maybe I’m about to start my period or maybe I’m just crabby.

I slept in this morning. It was amazing. Christmas break and there were no alarms and no where to be until 11. Gabe didn’t have to go into the office until late morning and got up with the kids. It was glorious.

By the time I got up we had a few things to do and then get ready for therapy. No big deal.

Somehow every simple task was halted. Kayla just shut down and wouldn’t cooperate. 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave she was still wearing pajamas and those fuzzy socks that look like gloves. I was so frustrated I just took a shower. Ok, so I was hiding in the shower. At that point she was going to go to therapy in her jammies with crazy hair and bad breath.

When I got out of the shower I found that Madison had helped get her dressed and ready to go. She even had on her jacket and had brushed her teeth. Then Madison asked me if it would be ok if she got her snack and water ready to take with her. Um yes!

What I realized after the fact, of course, is that Kayla asked me where her schedule was this morning. I usually have her schedule done on the iPad. I didn’t do it because I didn’t know what her plans were. Everything after that seemed wrong to her. My husband told me that she had even cried because she wanted her jacket zipped before she brushed her teeth. Everything had seemed out of order.

I’m thankful for sister love this morning. We all can lose our patience sometimes.


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The Double Take

Today, I read a post from a diary of a mom about some ugly, ugly things that someone said in reference to autistics.  I’m not going to get into that.  She did a fantastic job, but it made me think.  A lot.

My girl in her ladybug costume and cowgirl boots

My girl in her ladybug costume and cowgirl boots

My first thought to speak up about my baby girl is that autism is one of the things that make her beautiful.  In her whole 5 years of life I have seen her see things so differently than I do.  She’s so incredibly smart and enthusiastic about the things she loves. She has one of the most beautiful minds I’ve ever seen.  She thinks outside of the box.  In fact, she has a whole different box that she’s thinking outside of.

I’ve found that even the most beautiful people I’ve seen will make me do a double take.  You know, when you see someone that strikes enough interest to make you want to look again.  I don’t find that with people who are cookie cutter pretty.  The cookie cutter girls are the ones that are almost carbon copies of whatever celebs they want to emulate.  The hair, tan, makeup, clothes…we’ve seen it all before.  Then, someone comes along and is her own person.  She’s a trend setter or someone with features we don’t see everyday.  She makes you want to take a second look.  It’s a beauty we can appreciate.

That’s the way I see my girl.  There’s nothing cookie cutter about her.  Everything she does makes me do a double take.  Why? Because it’s worth the second look.  She’s double take beautiful from the inside out.

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My precious daughter with autism being fabulous

My precious daughter with autism being fabulous

So much has happened since my daughter was diagnosed with ASD a little over a year ago.  October 2013 to be exact.  I went through so many different emotions I felt like a nut case.  I went through about a million different “what happens when” and “what if” scenarios.  I didn’t help that there is a waiting list just about everywhere that feels like an ocean between you and the help you want for your kid you love so much.

One of the feelings that I didn’t expect to feel was guilt.  Not that she had autism.  I don’t believe I could have done anything different.  I felt guilty because I was relieved when they had a name for all of the things we didn’t understand.  It was a starting point.  It was an answer to all of the questions we had been having.  Even though the word autism kind of knocked the breath out of me, it also brought relief that we didn’t have to keep searching for answers.  We knew what was going on, and where to look for answers.  Well, sort of.

Using the word autism was so difficult at first.  I was afraid of how she would be treated if people were to find out.  I wanted to protect her.  Over time, I realized that autism gives her so much to be proud of as well.  As a family, we decided to take ownership of labels like autism and therapy.  We decided that those were ours and we would teach her to use them correctly.  We wanted to teach her that she doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of.  We are proud her no matter what and she should be as well.  There’s nothing about her I need to hide because I’m not ashamed.

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Why I support the New Mexico Autism Society


The New Mexico Autism Society with the staff of Jumpstart Autism Center

I was introduced to NMAS shortly after my daughter Layla was diagnosed with autism.  I felt alone and misunderstood or dismissed by others around me.  Just hearing the word autism come out of the doctors mouth knocked the breath out of me.  Like many parents who hear those words I went straight home and cried and looked online for answers.  It was devastating. The results in my search only made me feel more lost with more questions than answers. Many organizations I came across showed autism as something to be feared. The words they used implied shame.I felt sick.IMG_3832

I met a couple of moms from NMAS for coffee after contacting them.  We talked about our children like moms do, but it was the first time I felt at peace, knowing I WAS NOT ALONE!  It was the first time someone understood what I was talking about.  I remember one mom grabbing my hand and telling me her son did something my daughter did for the longest time.  I no longer felt  misunderstood or dismissed.

I loved the culture of NMAS.  They treated my precious daughter with respect.  They celebrated her with me and were not ashamed of her delays and challenges.  I was told that we were neighbors on autism street.  I felt so welcome and loved.  More importantly, my daughter was accepted for who she was.

I started bringing my entire family to the events held by NMAS. It was amazing to be all together where our children could just be themselves and not have to worry about being judged for my daughters uniqueness. I learned that together, we could help each other, and celebrate our kids.IMG_3670

In April of this year I ran for the title of Mrs. New Mexico, United States; and won! I overcame so much fear taking the stage, but all it took was one look in the audience and seeing Layla and knew it was for her, the community and other mothers on this journey with me! By winning the title I took and shared my platform of “Autism Awareness and Acceptance” to the national stage in Las Vegas, Nevada, it was am AMAZING experience! One of the most important things to me about this experience was that I was able to spread awareness and acceptance to thousands of people throughout the United States, I was able to share my story!

It was that phone call to the New Mexico Autism Society, the meeting with the mothers, and attending events sponsored by NMAS that gave me the confidence, courage and understanding I so desperately sought after hearing those words, “your daughter is on the autism spectrum.” Now one year later, Layla being diagnosed with autism is not as discouraging as it once seemed!

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This is my story about receiving my daughters diagnosis of ASD in October 2013. One of the great things that happened because of being open about it is I was put in contact with so many wonderful families that could relate. I am so thankful for those amazing people.

I just sat down long enough to let it sink in. Autism. I’ve heard that word a million times, but hearing it from Layla’s pediatrician knocked the breath out of me. There are so many emotions I’ve felt in the last few weeks that I can’t even begin to describe them. I’ve gone all the way from feeling like a bad parent, to relief that there’s an answer, to wondering if she will ever enjoy things like a normal kid, and even feeling stupid that I didn’t know sooner. Today I’m grateful we have a starting point. We have direction on how to help our precious little girl. My beautiful baby girl’s brain just works different than ours.

There are so many things I have to learn. I feel so overwhelmed and want to learn everything I can like yesterday.

I’ve been reading the blog “a diary of a mom” written by a mother of an autistic child. Her words have inspired me. The link below is one that she wrote about the label itself. It really changed my perspective on it. When we first started the diagnostic process I was so fearful for people to find out. I thought people would judge her. I’m sure there are people out there who will, but being open about it has brought more understanding and has helped us find out that we aren’t alone.

I don’t want my daughter to ever think that I am ashamed of her. I couldn’t be prouder of her. She is different and has a very special way of viewing the world. She is facing challenges, but anything awesome usually comes with challenges. I think she’s got a whole lot of awesome coming.


I posted this photo this summer when she was in swimming lessons. I was mortified that out of 12 kids she was the only one that wouldn’t listen to the teachers and actually participate in the class. Looking at the picture again I see a really happy kid that’s probably wondering why the heck all the other kids are sitting on the side of a perfectly good pool. No, she’s not really doing what she’s supposed to, but today I’m ok with it. We will get there. In the meantime I think it’s ok to get off the wall and splash a little bit. She isn’t worried about what we think. She was just enjoying the moment.

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