Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Two thumbs and a smile

Who has two thumbs, a smile, and tickets to the Fleet Foxes for tomorrow night?
This girl.
I originally bought the tickets because I felt I owed the band something after suggesting (read stalking and begging) they play a date in Michigan, and because they are my favorite band and I'm in the middle of an early life crisis.  I even used the concert as an excuse to buy new dark wash skinny jeans (if they can still be called skinny in my size), a flannel plaid tunic, and a sack purse.  I'm also taking the opportunity to wear a vintage owl necklace that doesn't get enough showtime.  But since Isaac has been doing exceptionally well in school this year, I'm also using the night out as a celebration of all our hard work.  Isaac has had perfect daily reports sheets every day this week, a note from his substitute teacher in which she referred to him as a "role model to other students", and it's still SEPTEMBER- the beginning of the year.  I'm beyond proud of him, and I have to say that I finally feel like I can take a deep breath and have some fun.  I'll be doing just that tomorrow night with my good friend, Erin.  Hipster for a night, and then back to mommy on Friday.  It's been a good month, and I'm- you guessed it- grateful.  To all my other dedicated mommies out there; don't forget to take some time for yourself this week.  Do something rash- even if your version of rash, like mine, means planning months in advance. 
Now I better get some sleep if I'm going to be up past 11pm tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sensory before Behavioral

I think I take for granted that I ended up with one of the best occupational therapists around when Isaac was in Early On.  She gave me such a thorough basis of what was going on with my kid that it made the research road a lot smoother.  Not everyone is so lucky.  Once I understood that not all of Isaac's "behaviors" were just maturity or discipline issues, we started getting somewhere.  The fact is, if you have a quirky kid, you can discipline til your blue in the face with little results because those quirks aren't what you think they are.  Ask me how I know.  Why, experience and gray hair, of course.

Isaac used to throw a tantrum, was restless, cranky, or just plain crazy every time we went to the grocery store.  It got to the point where Andrew and I were playing rock, paper, scissors to see who had to take him to the grocery store.  Restaurants weren't much better.  We had been taking Isaac to restaurants since he was born, but once he hit that toddler stage it was nightmarish.  The rules hadn't changed, but he had.  We would have to take turns entertaining him, taking him for a walk outside, etc.  We would look at people who expected us to go out to dinner with them and him like they had three heads.  We would leave our nice, relaxing dinner out exhausted.  We had no idea why taking him to either place was such a fight- UNTIL our OT shed some light on these behaviors.  The kid was overstimulated and we were giving him no tools to deal with these sensory issues.

Of course, the diet helped big time. We also have some tricks up our sleeve for these situations:

1) The sunglasses.  Isaac is known for his red sunglasses and/or super cute hats.  It's not a coincidence.  These items help block out weird fluorescent or super bright sun light that observation has told us he is really sensitive to.  We do not make Isaac take his sunglasses off in the store, restaurant, or church unless he wants to, because they help him filter over-stimulus.  They let him take a break from making complete eye contact with strangers/crowds without looking rude.  In fact, he looks down right adorable in them.

2) Pack a distraction.  My newest trick is to go to the library right before grocery shopping with Isaac.  This way we get a few "new" books for him to look at in the cart while we shop.  He gets to intensely focus on the pictures instead of all the people, etc.  It also gives him something other than echos and jargon to talk about when he's feeling overwhelmed.  I also keep a Leap Frog Text and Learn toy in my car as an option.

3) Pack a sensory option.  Some parents keep sensory chews on hand for some sensory stimulation.  We keep these at home and hand them out when we notice Isaac chewing on his fingers or straws.  Our favorite quiet sensory toy to have on hand for places like church is play foam.  It's not messy or sticky, but gives out a ton of sensory input, is quiet, and helps Isaac sit and listen rather than run for the door.  A young woman with autism also suggested a hard piece of wax to me for the church setting.  She said her mom used to give her a piece and it would take her the whole service of rubbing it in her hands to get it soft.

Once we started addressing the sensory issues, a lot of the "behavior" issues went away.  It was easier for him to function and listen.  When you're dealing with a quirky kid, you can't fix everything with good old fashioned discipline.  You have to get creative.  What you think is rudeness or naughtiness might just be a little kid trying to feel balanced and deal with their surroundings.  Observe and the patterns will emerge.  Soon you'll know what your child needs to be successful in public.  Do I sound like a know-it-all?  Maybe a little, but my kid just got a PERFECT report sheet home from school yesterday.  Oh, now that's bragging., I guess I'm just super proud of him and incredibly grateful for how well school is going this year and I want to spread the joy!  Yes, that's it.  = )

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Adventures in echolalia

Perhaps it is a bit immature to use your son's echolalia as a punishment for one's spouse, but I may have been guilty of that this past weekend.  In my defense I had been listening to Isaac echo his letter sounds incessantly for days- to and from school, during meals, bath time, ALL THE TIME.  My eye was starting to twitch and a bout of normal spousal annoyance caused me to suggest to Isaac that he tell daddy what sound every letter makes while raspberry picking, but that he had to wait until we got to the u-pick farm and was helping daddy.  Only daddy.  "OK," he said, innocent of my malice.  Isaac was feeling a little "off" that day due to some not great food choices and so the echoing was kicked up a few notches- something that spectrum kids do to self-regulate.  Am I horrible person or just a mom desperate for a break and some empathy?  You decide.  Quietly.  To yourself.  I don't care.

The echoing is always with us, although it is sometimes less obvious.  Like on the way home from school on Monday- Isaac proceeded to tell me that so & so was "big and fat".  Now, my kid is not prone to noticing physical differences in people, and since he's used this phrase to affectionately describe his grandfather I can say with confidence that he is echoing the part of The Very Hungry Caterpillar that says "He wasn't a little caterpillar anymore.  He was a big, FAT caterpillar."  Either way, we had a conversation about calling people fat not being nice.  He apologized.  This was the same day that Isaac hopped out of school echoing letter sounds and his very nice teacher said, "He does that all day, it's so cute."  "Oh, Kara...," I said, "if it ever gets old, just redirect him."  On the way home I was asking Isaac about his day and rather than answer me he would use his repetitive jargon as filler, as an ANSWER.  "Ticka ticka".  After 4 tries of this I lost my patience.  I "may" have raised my voice:
"Isaac, when I'm asking you a question you need to answer me.  Not say ticka ticka.  Only YOU know what ticka ticka means.  Say yes or no!"
"Thank you."
"Mommy, don't yell."
"I'm sorry, but you know how to talk and you aren't and that makes me frustrated."  Just goes to show that you gotta know how to pick your battles.  Sometimes it's self-regulating and sometimes it's filler.  Use clues and context and before you know it you too can be yelling at your cute four year old in the car. : (

As we stepped onto the porch to leave for school this afternoon we heard a bird chirping loudly somewhere up in the trees.  "Mommy, what's that sound?"  "It's a bird chirping."  Dramatic pause.  "It's an animal in trouble!  We have to help him!"  Thanks, Wonder Pets.  "Nope, no we don't.  You need to walk to the car. We're going to be late for school."

Stay tuned for the next edition of Adventures in Echolalia.
~The End~

Monday, September 12, 2011

Progress report

I'm having a hard time being productive with my domestic duties right now, which usually means that I need to sit down and write.  Luck you.  I'm sure you were just thinking that you could do with a little over-sharing from Libby Loucks.  Well, let me indulge you.  I'm drinking my third cup of coffee today and listening to the one and only Ray LaMontagne- pretending to be one of his back up singers/future ex wives.  I'm thinking about the mountain of laundry on my bed that needs to be folded, my floors that need to be swept and mopped, dishes that need to be done- you get the idea.

I'm also thinking about Isaac and wondering how he is doing at school.  I'm thinking about all the progress he's made in a very short period of time.  He went to his first Sunday school class yesterday and did just fine.  I wondered if he actually grasped anything from it, but then we were reading last night and I pulled out one of our children's bibles and he said, "Um, how about the God one next?"  Then he requested certain stories, pointed out Jesus, etc.  Apparently he does listen, even when that doesn't appear to be the case.  I tried having him sit in the church service with me afterward, but forgot to pack any sensory toys (i.e. play foam) and so half way through he had enough.  But as he was doodling during church he correctly wrote 'I' 'S' 'A' of his name.  Take that kindergarten doubts!  He's been going around talking about how 'o' is for 'ox' and pointing out letters in words and trying to sound them out or spell them.  Quite a different story from two weeks ago.  I would, again, like to thank the Resource Fairy (who on my more openly Christian days I call God) for helping me find the things that clicked for Isaac.  Thank you.

Now if you could just motivate me to write a few more social stories for Isaac dealing with answering questions, social skills, etc. that would be great.  Because after a weekend of house projects, starting back to school, and being a selfish human being I just really want to pretend that he doesn't need to work on those things.  I want to pretend that they will just magically come together the way that they do for other kids.  Maybe a little more Ray LaMontagne will do the trick.  At any rate, progress is progress and I'm grateful.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Resources for the weekend

First, let me say that school is going really well so far.  Isaac has adjusted swimmingly to being in the afternoon class and having a substitute teacher.  He keeps telling people that there are "lots of kids in my school."  He's one of 6 boys in his class.  There are only two girls in his class again this year.  I'm sure he'll be flirting with both simultaneously in no time.  He came home yesterday in an incredibly good mood- so much so that trying to ask him questions was like trying to make sense out of someone who thinks happy hour starts at 4pm and ends with a spoonful of sugar and speed.  I did manage to find out that they colored pumpkins, ran around, and that a boy in his class was mad and crying when his mom left.  We talked about being nice to classmates that aren't used to school yet, making sure we try to play with them, etc.  I'm telling myself that he remembers that conversation, but I really think he was on too much of a school high. 

I think afternoons are working well for him because we don't have to rush around in the morning to get ready.  If he has a hard time getting to sleep at night it's not a big deal because we have alllllll day to get ready to go to school.  You know what that means?  Morning chores, play group, helping me at the grocery store, going to the library, and always going to school bathed and teeth brushed.  Yes, I think this will be a fine year.

In the meantime I wanted to pass along some recent resources that have worked well for us:

1) was suggested to us by my blogger friend, Christen.  It's a very simple website dedicated to helping kids learn to read from the bottom up.  Isaac, with his new mouse skills, can operate the ABC section by himself and loves it.  (Oh, and with those same mouse skills managed to call his grandmother on Skype all by himself while I was out of the room the other day.)  Thanks for this, Christen.

2) I know I already mentioned the Leap Frog Letter Factory dvd in a previous post, but let me warn you about how affective it is for those of you with children prone to echolalia. If you don't want to be listening to this almost every moment of every day, don't rent it from the library.  Crap, he just caught me linking the video and it is now sparking a fresh onset of echoing.  In all honesty, this video has really helped him learn his letter sounds in a very short period of time- not just echo them.

3) Next, I highly suggest the Meet the Sight Words 1 dvd.  Our library has it, but it's at our house right now so you'll have to wait.  Eh, they probably have more than one copy (or  Anyway, this paired with pointing out and spelling/sounding out sight words while reading books to Isaac has helped spark some new phonics skills.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ignorance is bliss

Isaac in his bubbly happiness was taking forever to eat his eggs this morning- apparently not aware that we were in a time crunch to make it to play group before my appointment this morning.  I set the timer.  He ended up eating half his eggs.  My husband commented that sometimes he feels bad rushing him when he's in such an innocently happy-distracted mood, because he's happy in a way that you aren't ever again when you're an adult.  He's ignorant of time and all the things that we think need to get done today.  He's ignorant of the fact that mommy and daddy are exhausted and are starting to look like trolls to each other.  He doesn't know that mommy sees a therapist when she leaves the house by herself for an hour.  Yes, we're at that point in suburban life- therapists and all- and he's ignorant of all it.  And he's happy.  He's truly a happy kid.  He'll go to school and come home and not care that the house is in less than perfect order.  He won't pick up on the bags under my eyes.  He'll play his ABC game, he'll read library books, play with remote controlled cars, eat dinner, take a bath, get a good night's sleep, and do it all again tomorrow.  What a blessing that my child has this life.  May it last longer than it should- even if this ignorant bliss is partially due to his PDD-NOS.  May it last longer than it should.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Orientation orneriness

I should clarify that Isaac wasn't ornery about going to school today at all.  In fact, he was down right jovial while getting ready for pre-school orientation today.  He recited all the things he should remember on the way to school.
"I can't want to hit, mommy.  I want to share with my friends and play with them." 
"Right.  And where do you put your hat, coat, and backpack when you get to school?"
"In my cubby."
"Yep, that's right.  You're not going to throw them on the floor.  And you're going to answer when people ask you questions, right?"

Well, he didn't answer questions, but he did everything else.  I think he was a little overwhelmed at the new faces also there for orientation.  As was I.  Looking around I first saw two other children- both significantly younger than Isaac in every way.  I overheard a few conversations about diapers.  Isaac's been potty trained since before he turned three, and these children are to be in the morning class with him.  One wasn't even three yet.  "Where's Kara?" he asked.  It didn't help that the substitute teacher he will have for the first four weeks of school is also named Kara, but with a little clarification I think he understood that his Kara wasn't there and might not even be in his class this year.  I made passing chit chat with who was there of Isaac's teaching team as was all that could be done with the chaos of new students.  I tried to express the level of progress Isaac has made this summer, but it probably was hard to believe when the child would barely say two words to any of his teachers/helpers.  He did, however, manage to try to reciprocally play with almost every child there.  He sought them out to take part in what they were doing, but it's hard to take turns with two and three year olds with no school experience and a classically autistic pre-verbal 4.5 year old when you are four and have spent a whole summer playing just fine with developmentally typical peers.  For the record, I know I sound a bit snooty right now.

Red flags shot up for this mom who has worked pretty darn hard this summer to bring this kid up to speed.  Sure, at first I was thrilled that he would be in the morning class for routine reasons, but now I'm really concerned that being with virtually non-verbal and diaper-clad kids is not the right fit for Isaac this year.  The child is working on simple math and spelling.  He learned his letter sounds in less than a week.  He's been running around playing firemen, made-up spaceship games, and doctor with his friends all summer.  While I don't think he's ready for regular school yet, I know that I don't want to back track by placing him in the wrong special ed class.  So I sent an email to his social worker at school requesting that she call me to discuss this very thing.  I honestly feel so strongly about it that if they deny me the afternoon class I might pull him from the a.m. class and continue working on things at home and doing play group.  However, I know that they based their decision on where Isaac was in June so I don't blame them for putting him in the a.m. class.  It's just that three months later he's in a totally different place, and that's not momentum I want to lose.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.  Needless to say I'm feeling a little ornery right now.  It did not help that Foods For Living and Meijer had practically no gfcf food on sale.  A bag of pretzels should never cost $8- no matter how good they taste while stress-eating on a park bench after pre-school orientation.  Yes, I was the mom in the gfcf aisle loudly remarking that "there goes your college fund, Isaac" while throwing a bag of Glutino pretzels into the cart today.  Sigh... more iced coffee, please.

The social worker just called knowing that I wanted to switch.  She agreed that it was a good idea so Isaac will be in the afternoon class tomorrow.  That was way easier than I thought it was going to be.  Apologies for any and all drama.  I'm still drinking too much coffee today, though.

Monday, September 5, 2011

We're ready

All of us.  Mommy, daddy, and Isaac are all ready for school to start.  My God, how slow can Labor Day go by?  I will miss summer and all of our fun family and play group trips and activities.  I will likely be griping about snow and wanting to slit my wrists to see some color in February.  But right now the cool air feels like a nice break from the air conditioning constantly running and making me sneeze.  It makes me want to break out my most obnoxious smelling Yankee candles, brew some hot tea, and sit down with a good book in our soon to be QUIET house.  I have all my usual back to school good intentions rolling around in my head- a diet and exercise plan, scrubbing my bathroom floors, painting my bedroom a color that doesn't make me feel trapped in a school bus, crafts, and more writing, of course.  I'm doubting any of these will happen, but I'll keep you posted nonetheless.

I'm feeling good about what we've accomplished this summer.  Isaac kissed the sippy cup goodbye, started consistently dressing himself and putting his shoes on, learned his letter sounds in less than a week, started spelling and simple math, and is getting better at conversation.  I'll take it.  I'll also take three hours a day to myself while my very bored only child gets some much needed structure, stimulation, and socialization.  It's funny how we went from worrying about a speech delay to listening to incessant talking.  I am grateful albeit tired.  With that I say bring on the school year and the falling leaves!