Dear Customers of TheContractorsGroup

Our son's mental health has dictated that I unfortunately can no longer offer telephone support in a timely manner. Below is a more detailed explanation...

January 2007

When I (Diane) started our downloadable construction forms business so many years ago in California we had a healthy daughter (Shelby, 8 years old) and a not-quite-so healthy son (Cameron, 6 years old) but he was able to somewhat cope with life, and I used to list our home number for support to my customers. That has unfortunately changed.

While our daughter is, thank goodness, pretty much cruising through life ace'ing everything she tries, our son Cameron is having worse and worse difficulties.

He has Asperger's Syndrome (a form of Autism), and suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Executive Dysfunction, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, severe depression, possible mental retardation and several other issues (he has been psychiatrically hospitalized 3 times in the past 9 months).

As he grows older his problems are worsening. He's currently 13 1/2 years old physically, but mentally and emotionally in many respects he's only 6 and even younger.

It's understandable that things are worsening for him because as you grow older you're expected to conform more and more to the "norm" but with his problems he cannot conform. It's like an immature 6 year old trying to cope in a 13 1/2 year old's world; in many respects it's just not possible and his "melt-downs" (often violent towards himself and/or towards us) have become a regular occurrence.

The doctors have told us that he will probably have to live with us forever because he'll be unable to keep his life together on his own. I don't like to think about what will happen when we're gone.

He needs constant supervision which takes up MUCH of my attention.

In addition I'm constantly taking him to doctor appointments, psychiatric appointments, counseling appointments, special needs group gatherings, attending meetings for his special education, making never-ending phone calls to schedule appointments, and so on.

Because of the huge amount of time I have to spend with him and on his growing issues, my normally outstanding phone support has been suffering greatly over the past couple years. I often can't even answer the phone when it rings and it sometimes takes days, even weeks, to return calls.

It's become very apparent to me that I MUST figure out a way to be able to handle our son's many on-going needs while still supporting my customers.

I have found that, unfortunately, the best way to do this right now is to discontinue phone support indefinitely and handle everything via email.

There are a couple reasons for this...

First, because Cameron needs intense supervision it's impossible to talk on the phone without constant interruption to do something for him. When working via email I can stop typing immediately to tend to him whereas when on the phone I have to repeatedly ask the caller to hold while I take care of him/his needs.

Second, because I'm gone a lot for various appointments for him, I purchased a Verizon wireless card so that I can get online anywhere to answer emails (this wireless card is the coolest thing, it works almost everywhere, doctor's offices, waiting rooms, on the road, etc.!).

I totally understand if my lack of telephone support causes you to not want to purchase from me. All I can do is:

A) promise you that I'm really very good on answering my emails, usually within one to four hours of receiving them during business hours (Pacific Time), and

B) hope that you'll give me a chance. :)

I do promise you a 100% refund if you're unsatisfied with my service and/or the documents that you purchase.

If you have any concerns, questions, comments, etc., please do feel free to contact me using the form below and I promise I'll get back to you asap. :)

If you scroll down further, I have posted updates as to how we are all doing and how Cameron is progressing.

Please let me know how I can help you...

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.


Diane Dennis

ps: To get back to the page you were at before this one, please close this window, and thank you for your understanding. :)

pps: While we used to live in California we are now in Washington. We moved here December of 2006 in an effort to get more help for our son than we could get in California. I still have all of my California connections however so if you have any questions or need any help with anything please do not hesitate to use the form above to contact me. :)

Thank you again!

UPDATE June 21, 2007

Due to some new counseling sessions we have just started, Wednesdays will now be a tough day for customer service, even via email. The specialists we're seeing are roughly 3 hours away one-way from our home in Oak Harbor to Seattle, thru some of the worst traffic I've ever seen. I'm going to do my best to check for, and respond to, email after the drive and before the session starts but I've no doubt there's going to be times where I won't be able to respond until after 5:00 pm or so, once we get back to our home. This will be on-going indefinitely. I'm very sorry about this and I promise I'll do my best to take care of you.

Thank you for your support!

UPDATE September 8, 2008

Due to many things we've done (ie: intense counseling we've all received; working from home instead of out of the house to be available to take care of Cameron's many needs; lots of research with trial and error; moving from CA to WA and slowing down life, etc.) we've managed to (and I say this with cautious superstition) stabilize Cameron. =)

We still fear his psychotic melt-downs (I love him dearly but there's just no other way to term these occurrences) but he does seem to be handling transition a little better now (again knock on wood, he just started 9th grade a few days ago).

Over the past year we've managed to get him off of all of his psychiatric medications, which we are so tickled about. We focus a lot on behavior modification, coping techniques to help him handle his anger, repetition repetition repetition while trying to minimize our own frustration caused by having to unrelentingly repeat everything, and just trying to parent in the way that works best for him, but zero medication does often mean more mental breakdowns.

But, whereas we used to live literally "15 minutes to 15 minutes", we now actually can go a few hours without an incident! The more rigid (and I mean R-I-G-I-D) his environment is the better he does but it's tough to be as rigid as he needs, 24/7.

When we lived in California the school district refused to place him in any kind of special-ed and he struggled, floundered, drowned in the mainstream. His level of immaturity plus his daily frustrations, sensory disorders, inability to "read between the lines" and myriad of other problems caused him to be a big target of bullies, he had no friends and he couldn't make it through one period (30-45 minutes) without more than one outburst or call home.

When we moved here in December 2006 it was the same old story but after fighting through 2007 the school district finally placed him in the special-ed program in January 2008 and it has made such a difference for him, on so many levels. As I mentioned above, he just started 9th grade three days ago and we have yet to get a phone call from the school during the day requiring us to run down and take care of a problem. This is a first since he started Kindergarten, and even daycare prior to that! We used to get calls almost daily, often culminating in us having to go to the school to intervene and/or bring Cameron home.

Now though, the teachers and administration recognize that he's NOT a rabble-rouser or problem causer, rather he's a kid who WANTS to do good but who needs help to do so. And they teach him in the way that is best for him (one size fits all doesn't fit him), and they recognize when he's "nearing that point" and can help to de-escalate him before something becomes a problem. This makes a big difference in how he gets through his day.

He's got friends now (friends!!), kids from his special-ed class. These kids hang out here and spend the night, indeed this past Summer seemed a perpetual slumber party... While it's overwhelming and "double-trouble" when a friend is here (because the friends have their own special-needs like Cameron does), we still do everything we can to make it happen because we want Cameron and his friends here where we know they're safe and having fun.

He's learning social and life skills (skills that are "second nature" to most folks), so important for these kids yet so difficult for them to learn.

Parenting him is still "ExhaustionSquared", he still needs pretty much constant attention, he bounces from activity to activity, he has an undeniable need to be in the same room with me when he's home from school, and every two minutes he's asking me to watch what he's doing (playing a video game, playing with his tech deck, etc.) or telling me the latest and greatest facts on Pokemon and/or Yu-Gi-Oh, or just clamoring for my undivided attention like he is right now, head butting me from behind, but we are spurred on by the fact that what we're doing seems to be working or at least helping. There's no telling what tomorrow might bring but for the first time in many years we are actually hopeful for his future. =)

I'm even thinking that I'm going to be able to bring back my phone support, albeit on a limited basis... But one step at a time... That's one of many things I've learned from life with Cameron, it's definitely "one step at a time"...

Thank you again so much for your support, without it I wouldn't have been able to work from home and be available for Cameron's needs, and I truly believe we wouldn't have made the progress that we have so far. =)

I hope you have a wonderful day!

UPDATE April 29, 2010

I cannot believe how well things are going with Cameron. We still have outbursts, and he still has troubles with waiting until his turn to talk (for example, if I'm on the phone and he wants to talk to me, he doesn't wait until I'm done, he will jump right in and start talking to me).

He's still having some issues at school that require us to be there in meetings it seems like every two weeks (mostly because his IEP isn't quite right, or he "presents" another emotional issue that requires a change to his IEP, and lately because one teacher in particular absolutely refuses to follow the accommodations in his IEP, she prefers to believe that he is willfully not understanding Geometry).

He was punched twice in the face in a classroom and the teacher wouldn't let him report it (so we took care of it with the school and the police) and then the same student who punched him made a statement that Cameron is on his death wish list (this student is also a special needs child although that doesn't excuse his actions and statements).

There have been a few other attacks and threats against him (in cooking class another student threatened to stab him, which really scared him but all the teacher did was put them at separate tables). Thankfully that student was eventually suspended for a while. Cameron really enjoyed cooking class while that boy was suspended, but once he was back, Cameron lost his interest in the class, he didn't want to be there because he was afraid of the boy who threatened him.

So he is still dealing with some pretty bad scary bullies (the word "bullies" seems like such an understatement in these situations), and we are still dealing with some school personnel bullies.

He comes in from school very loud and rambunctious (a whirlwind basically), and often with a friend (or more like three friends) and they are just as loud and rambunctious (most of his friends are special needs of one type or another), but even with the issues that we are still having, he is doing so well.

He's still exhausting but he's learning to recognize (occasionally) when too much is too much and he'll quit whatever it is he's doing, or he'll stomp to his room, slam his door and play his Gameboy.

More and more we are realizing that, even with the problems we're still having, it was still the right move to make when we uprooted our lives in California (I was born and raised in California) and moved here to Washington to try for a calmer, less stress-filled life, and to get help for Cameron.

Another positive from moving here, our daughter Shelby absolutely blossomed, which I've probably mentioned elsewhere here but it just tickles me how much she has grown. She's always been a tremendously talented student, in Victorville and here (graduated in the top 10% of all the students in Washington state, and that was even after we moved her so far away in the middle of her Sophomore year), but now she's also matured into a beautiful young lady and I couldn't be more proud of her for all that she has accomplished.

And she and Cameron are actually almost friends again. When they were younger...

... they were practically inseparable, the pictures I have and the memories of the two of them are so wonderful. When Cameron started slowing down in his development and Shelby stayed on track, they grew apart, so very, very far apart and it just broke my heart, it was a huge loss to me.

Now though, as Shelby matures and gains understanding, and as Cameron continues to improve, they are actually becoming friends again and it makes me cry sometimes...

1) because of all that they and we all missed while they were growing up, all the family fun we didn't get to experience because of what we were going through, that brings tears of sadness, but then
2) the fact that they are becoming friends again, she actually refers to him as her "posse", they talk they actually converse with each other (which didn't happen for probably 8-9 years), this all brings tears of joy.

It's sadness and happiness, all rolled into one...

Most parents, when their children get loud and argue, get upset and want the kids to stop. When Shelby and Cameron argue, I look at them and actually thrill that they're arguing because it means that they are actually interacting. That has been missing from our lives for SO many years, and I'll never be able to express how much it means to me to have it back.

Now she's probably going away to college in the Fall, which while it is a wonderful thing for her, is sad for us as her parents (missing her which is normal for parents when their children move out), but there's the added sadness of the fact that the two of them just found each other again, our family is finally becoming a real family again, and now she's leaving. I try not to go there in my mind too much because I start to feel that familiar loss all over again.

I miss my friends in California tremendously but I'm so lucky that one of them, my best friend, comes up here almost every Summer to spend a couple weeks with us. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't ever see her at all. I'm terrified of flying (even more than she is) and I don't know that I could get on a plane to fly down there, even to see her, but she understands that.

At any rate, I just wanted to provide this update to let everyone know how things are progressing, and that life is getting better. There's still the concern that Cameron won't ever be able to live entirely on his own, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. :)

I'll never be able to fully express the gratitude I feel that you have all been so supportive of me and my family. Without you we couldn't have made it as far as we have, with my business, our sanity, and our family still intact.

Thank you so much!

Wonderful Autism Apps / Applications ... and ... some of my favorite books and other goodies

autism apps applications

Books that I'm currently reading

I'm so tickled that authors have been contacting me and asking me to review their new books for them!

For as much time as I spend researching Asperger's Syndrome this website should have thousands of pages but because my son has Asperger's Syndrome I find that the things I want to work on very often are not the things that I have to work on so I'm still not able to spend as much time on it as I'd like to.

As he heads into adulthood (he turned 18 on Dec 13 and yes I need to update some things at my website such as my home page that says he's 17) I'm finding that I have even less time on my hands as I spend more time trying to master the puzzle of how to help him transition into "life after high school".

That's where Autism Tomorrow: The Complete Guide To Help Your Child Thrive In The Real World comes in. It's a guide to help your kids after high school. You'll find parts of the book will be applicable and some won't depending on your child's current age. Although the title implies "Autism after high school" there is still quite a bit in there about what to do before your child hits "real life". But overall a helpful book.

Please contact me if you'd like to send a copy of your book to me for review. I would absolutely love it!

Fiction, Non-fiction, Auto-Biographies, Instructional books, etc. I'm interested in them all. :) And if you autograph it that would be SUPER cool! ;)