Thursday, October 17, 2013

Therapy for J.R. and a Mom-Vent Session

Does anybody even read this blog?  I'm assuming the answer is "no" because we aren't good at posting anything.  I guess that's what happens when you live with autism and it consumes you.

I find myself needing to write again about it all, though.  J.R. just started 3rd grade.  I knew it was going to be a big adjustment, but with the change at his school (his charter school just made a massive change to adopting another charter school's program) and the higher homework load, it has all been about transitioning and adjustment.  Overall, he's done well, but yes, we are still adjusting.  I think I'm adjusting more than he is.

The bigger issue is the social skills.  I knew it was coming, and I was so grateful for the kids who have played with him and have been patient with him.  His differences are now being more noticed.  He has been excluded, teased, and has been called names -- all within the last week.  My momma's heart has been taking it as much as it can.

Last week I noticed a new clinic opening up in the area.  Okay, it's an hour away, but this clinic offers two classes for children in a group therapy environment.  One of the classes is a Social Skills class!  Score!  My insurance has said that it should cover the cost.  Double Score!!  My husband readily agreed that the cost of gas and weekly sessions is worth it!  Triple Score!!!

This afternoon, J.R. attended his first session.  He met about 6-7 other boys around his age (no girls are in the class- that I saw today anyway), and there were 3-4 therapists/instructors with them.  They talked about voice volume in social situations and reviewed appropriate space and eye contact.  Yea! 

J.R. loves having attention and even better, they offer incentives.  Today he left with a Tootsie Roll and a popper (one of those toys you turn inside out and it pops up).  He was thrilled.  His little brother (we adopted two years ago) and I waited in the waiting area during the hour-long class. J.R. left positive and excited to have something that's just for him.

On another note, I've had a rough couple of nights.  I've felt completely inadequate to be his mother.  I've lost my temper with him, pounded my brain, and shed a thousand tears trying to figure out how to help him.  I realized that my toolbox was empty.  I've known about this diagnosis for THREE years, and I couldn't help him!!! 
I realized that I needed to do more, to learn more.  I also needed to set aside a couple of other things.  I've been a cub scout volunteer for three years, and this week, I realized that I can't do that anymore.  You see, I haven't been J.R.'s den leader, but I've been a den leader for another group of boys (my church asked me to fulfill that position), and it takes up precious homework/mom-time in the evening with J.R.  This year I need to be completely focused on him.  I asked to be "released"  (or to step down) from this position.  Of course, I will continue to volunteer until a replacement leader can be found.  That was a very hard thing to do.  I've loved the cub scouts, and they always need help.

For my education on these matters I checked out a book from the library.  I've been researching more on the internet, and I've almost convinced my husband that we need, yes need, a cat or a dog for the boys.  (Personally, a cat seems more realistic for our family).  There are several studies about the positive effects pets have with autistic children.  We are going to think on it more. . . it would be a HUGE step for me as I'm SO not a pet person -- dander, hair, poop, pet smell -- yuck!

On another note, I found this image on another site, and it made me smile as it comforted me and explained what I was going through:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's not all about You

It's been a long time since I posted, but an article that Natalie posted on Facebook caught my attention.  I really should post more here.  I'm noticing more and more a divergence between my son and the rest of the children his age and in his class at school.  The days are filled with "autistic" moments, but I don't always notice them because I'm used to them.  It's just JR.  Reading the article, however reminded me of yesterday's "moments."

Christmas just passed us on Sunday.  JR's dad and I were very good at getting him the things he loves -- anything with numbers on it:  a money bank that counts the money, a digital alarm clock, a toy mixer (you know, for baking), a calendar.  All of these things have something to do with numbers.  We also decided to get him something to just play with:  a remote control car.  I took my husband's advice and bought two so they could play together.

JR spent all day yesterday playing with his blue car.  It is such a fun car that has a wheel on top of the car so it can do flips (in a way), roll on its back, spin, and do some fun tricks.  JR loved making it go fast and making speeding noises to go with it.  He asked several times when his dad was going to be home.
    "But what time, Mom?"  when I told him that Dad would be home after work.
    "Can I call him?" 
     "Sure." JR dialed his dad's cell phone number and waited.  After the conversation (with which I was pretty pleased), I asked what time his dad said he would be home.  Was he still at work?  Was he on his way?  JR suddenly lost it.  He was crying, "I can't remember.  I don't understand."  After a few minutes of tears and yelling, he finally asked, "Mom, can I call him back to ask?"
    "As soon as you're calm."  When Dad didn't answer, JR whimpered and said, "He didn't answer."  (My husband later got the whimpering, sad message on his voicemail.)  When Dad finally did call back, I talked to him.  The dilemma was the he never told JR exactly what time (hour and minute).  He just said, "I haven't left yet, I've had to fix a problem at work."  You see, JR has to have specific times.  We're trying to teach him that we don't always have those, but he still feels like he needs a specific time - to the minute.  I told my husband to talk to JR again, and this time give him a specific time.  It worked.
     As we sat around the dinner table, JR and his dad discussed playing with the cars.  JR looked at his dad and said, "Dad, you can have the blue car, and I can use the red one."  If you remember, JR's car was the blue one - the one he'd been playing with all day.  I tried very hard to tell JR that he couldn't just tell his father how they were going to play, he had to ask him if he could play with his car.  I reminded him that the red car was given to his dad, and that the blue car was his.  I told him, "You have to say, 'Dad, can I have a turn playing with your car?'"
    JR turned to his father and said, "Dad, we can play with our cars for 5 minutes and then we can switch and I can use the red car."
    I shook my head and said, "No, JR, you can't say that.  You can't tell your dad how he's going to play with his toy.  You have to ask him if you can."  I then tried to give him another script he could say.  He still failed.  I wondered why he couldn't just ask and why he wasn't understanding.
    Just before they began to play, the answer came.  Something was wrong with the blue car.  JR never said anything about it, my husband spotted a loose wire under the car.  Thank goodness he is handy with things like that, and he fixed it.  You see, JR couldn't tell me that something was wrong with the car; he'd forgotten that part.  He only remembered that he couldn't play with the blue car for some reason and that he would need to play with the red car. 
    They played for a while together, having fun.  Eventually, my husband let JR play with the red car.  Turns out that both cars were on the same frequency, so they really couldn't race their cars at the same time.  Bummer. . . it would have been a GREAT social tool for him; instead, it turned out to be a difficult moment for him to understand why they couldn't play together and how to take turns.  Sharing is difficult (as you can tell).  You're probably thinking that you have the answers to this one, but I assure you that you'd be surprised how your answer may not work the way you think it would.  ;)
    I find that I'm constantly telling JR what to say and how to say it.  It's difficult.  He doesn't always understand facial expressions or why I tell him the things I tell him. I only hope that one day it will come naturally to him to think about others and how they feel.  That he should ask, not tell or do because that's what he thinks is right.  I hope I can teach him not only by telling him but by showing him as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to school, back to school

First grade is a learning process for me and will be for J.R.  Here are my random thoughts about it all.

He has a desk -- oi!  It's only the third day, and I've had to clean it out for him.  He had four or five papers jammed in the corners of the desk all with different drawings on them.

He has three folders, one notebook (for spelling), one binder, one grammar notebook, and a pencil box shoved into his little desk.  I sense confusion and disorganization this year.

So far,  I've already had to thin out his materials in his pencil box. The simpler, the better.

We had to drive back to the school to get his homework folder, and then I had to tell him to turn in his homework from last night because he didn't do that this morning.

If you were to walk into his classroom, you might think he is out of control as he rolls around on his exercise ball/seat.  However, if you know him, you realize that he is over-stimulated, and this is his way of calming down.  This is how he puts the world back in order.  I'm grateful his teacher is willing to let this happen in class.

I think all Kindergarten and First Grade teachers deserve an all-paid vacation just for surviving the first week. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Soldiers in combat

Today I went to the playground with Ike and Mike, where we met some school friends from Mike's PDD classroom. These two kids love Mike and Mike loves them. I have come to know their mothers very well as we have hashed out our battles with our children.

We have different backgrounds, different lives, we are different ages. But we feel like soldiers fighting a war that we are unsure of the outcome. It is amazing the bond that is formed when you find people who are bleeding through the same experiences as you. The euphoria of someone UNDERSTANDING the feelings and desires you have. I guess this is why people with cancer tend to cling to one another. There is a level of strength when people come together in their struggles.

I can complain about trying to teach my children spontaneity while still keeping a structured routine so they can function. I can bemoan the tantrums, the tears, the heartache and they get it. I don't have to explain how huge the little victories are, they know.

While our children may not die from having Autism it is still a battle we fight. And while there is no cure, there is the hope that our children will be able to live a life full of love, laughter and acceptance. That is why we fight and why we will keep on fighting. It sure is nice to know it's not an army of one.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Water on the Head

There's something about water being on his head that JR just hates.  Showers make him nervous, and being dunked is traumatic.  I'm sure some of it could come from the fact that he has slipped under water a couple of times and had that drowning sensation.  I don't blame him for that. 

Splash parks are fantastic, aren't they?  Most of the time they're free (if you don't count your property taxes as the entrance fee), and it's really a glorified sprinkler park.  I know I would have LOVED one as a kid! 

Today I decided to take JR to the splash park without telling him beforehand.  I knew it would be a gamble if he would like it, but I also knew that I have plans to take him with friends in two days.  So, I had to acclimate him.  After about 15 minutes, of running in, dipping his toes or his hands and running back to the towel, he was getting more and more wet and didn't worry as much.  I can't say "didn't look back" or "didn't think twice," because I know my son by now.  He thinks about it very much and what he's going to do.  He lasted for about 25 minutes.  I was so proud of him. 

Is it bad to say that I'm proud of myself, too?  I didn't push him to hard.  I kept encouraging him and nudging him along, but I tried very hard not to force it.  I didn't give him the option of going home -- I didn't give him an out -- but I didn't make him run in the water.  I pointed out different children and how they were playing and what they were doing.  I didn't say, "Oh, see, now that kid is doing it right."  It was more like, "Oh, see that girl stuck her hand in the water, you could try that." 

I'm learning that I need to not be afraid to introduce new things to JR.  I'm worried about how he will react and that I will regret trying something new.  I'm working on it, and I think I'm almost to the point where I'm ready to look for opportunities that will push him because I'm almost ready for him to push back.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Celebrate a Moment!

J.R. vacuumed his room today!!!!

Okay, it took a bit of coaxing and encouragement, but he did it.   Good job, Bud!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dressing Dilemma

Post by LeMira

This morning was another reminder of how out of tune I am sometimes with my son.  This morning we had to go back to the school (he's been out for a week) for post-assessment with his Kindergarten teacher, his special ed. teachers, and the school counselor.  After breakfast he went to his room for a few minutes, and then emerged and announced to me, "Mom, I can't get dressed."

I looked at him and told him,  "You can do this.  Go pick out some clothes."

A few minutes later the same thing happened, but this time, he was more frustrated.  "Mom, I can't get dressed!  I need you to do it for me.  I opened the dresser."

At this point, I was confused, but also frustrated.  I tried to be in tune to him, and I started asking him what to do first, second, etc.  He responded, "Mom, I know that, but I can't do it. You need to come to my room."

I responded, "Yes you can; you're seven.  Just go get dressed.  Tell yourself, 'I can do it.'"  Ten more minutes passed, and he came and sat next to me on the couch in his underwear.  This time he was sobbing, "Mom, I can't get dressed."

I exhaled and followed him to his room.  "I can't understand what's going on this morning." When I got to his room, the bells finally went off in my head.  There it was.  He had found a red polo shirt -- a school uniform shirt -- but couldn't find any school uniform pants.  I had taken the pants and turned them in for the uniform exchange since he'll outgrow them by the end of the summer.  He knew he had to go to school, but he didn't understand that he didn't need his uniform.  He was confused at what to do.  I was upset with myself for not catching on earlier and for dismissing his frustration.  This entire episode took 40 minutes.  I should have gone in earlier. 

This dilemma reminded me that I have a good kid.  If he says he "can't" do something, sometimes it's because he doesn't understand or something's confusing, and he doesn't have the words to tell me.  Once in a while it's that he won't do something, or that the task is overwhelming, but a lot of times it's that he doesn't understand.  Today was a reminder that I need to check out a situation before I just push him.