Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Finishing Early Intervention - Emotions - Autism Part 4

As my son progressed through Early Intervention, symptoms of Autism became more and more clear to the speech pathologist. She brought in a behavioral specialist to help us learn how to get him out of the corner or the closet and entice him to interact more with us.

As he continued to sign more and more, his frustration level dropped and became more willing to be social. Although, he seemed to think by closing his eyes, he wouldn’t “hear” me speak to him.

Moving through this journey with him, stirred many emotions. At first there was denial that something could be wrong. Then anger. As I went to more and more classes on Autism offered through Early Intervention I learned about the grieving process for the child you had hoped for. As I look back now, I see how blessed I was through each step of this process with my eyes being opened to new possibilities and new obstacles. I saw my daughters react in similar, yet very different ways. My oldest daughter being five years older than my son was very soft hearted towards him. Being more gentle and giving in to him. My middle daughter, however, being only 18 months older then my son decided, “just come on” was her attitude. It didn’t matter that he was autistic, she instructed him on how to play with her. Both ways he responded to, though I must admit from me he responded best to a more militant style.

Sensory therapy before going anywhere, bring along the sensory bag filled with vibrating toys, sensory diet snacks became just a way of life. Was it exhausting? Absolutely. Where there rewards? Absolutely. I saw my son starting to respond more and more. Yes, there were definite times of shut down. Around holidays or any major changes in routine. However, being an advocate for my son and doing the sensory therapy for him allowed not only him to interact with the family, but made it less stressful for the family. It was a win-win situation.

At long last when my son was just turning three, he was given an official diagnosis of PDD-NOS. Pervasive Developmental Disorder, nonspecific. A diagnosis at the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. Once again we had validation.

Join me on the continuing journey and success story as my son starts with the school system.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Journey through Early Intervention - Autism Part 3

The journey continues with Early Intervention services. The speech pathologist that arrived was a bubbly, energetic person. Looking back, she became my son’s lifeline. Her first goal was to teach him sign language as a means to communicate. This isn’t an easy task when a child won’t make eye contact with you.

I learned what is known as pigeon signing. Basically instead of signing a sentence, you are signing just the key words in a sentence. Of course, to encourage eye contact, we were signing near our face so he would have to look at us. We were talking as we signed also so he could still hear the words associated with the signs.

Seeing my son pick up the signs and start to use them was a major victory step for us. He started signing at thirteen months and by the age of twenty-one months, he could sign well over 200 words. The violent tendencies stopped. The nonstop crying stopped.

The obstacles weren’t over yet though. At age two, the speech pathologist broached the subject of autism with me. She had worked with numerous autistic children, and the sensory issues were beginning to become more apparent in my son. I started to absorb everything I could read on the subject. It all seemed to fit.

We talked about how he wasn’t sleeping at night still. The very next visit, she showed up with a weighted blanket. It was a hand made blanket with ten slots in it. In each slot was a pound of washers fit together by a nylon. They could be removed to make the blanket lighter. The very first night I put it on my son at bedtime, he slept through the night. Sweet relief to have a full night’s sleep!

Suddenly right after his second birthday, my son stopped signing. Refused to do it, refused to look at anyone once again. If we signed to him, he would get angry. At a loss, I turned to the speech pathologist. She decided to experiment and started signing full sentences to him. Wow – what a change. It was exactly what he wanted and needed to progress. Within days he was back to signing and again, the violent tendencies stopped. He could communicate on a full level with us.

As he was progressing through Early Intervention, it became necessary to make my son his “signing book”. It was a book full of pictures and words of all the signs he could do. This is a book he carried with him if he went somewhere I wasn’t such as the Church’s Sunday School class. This helped his other “teachers” or baby-sitters to understand exactly what he was trying to say to them.

Continue with me next time for the tail end of my son’s Early Intervention years. Thanks for following this journey.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Journey begins - Autism Part 2

I sit here preparing to write this blog, allowing myself to go back in time to when my son was an infant and this journey began, and it is difficult. It was a lonely time for me, even though I had two other children. A time where hurt, anger and yes, even resentment at times filled me.

This journey started as an unknown trek through uncharted territories. I knew there was something wrong with my son by the time he was three months old. I would lay him down on a blanket to play and he would just stare into space. No reaction to his sisters on the floor with him with baby toys trying to get his attention. When he wasn’t staring into space, he was crying. The crying really got to me. A crying baby I can handle, but one that cries harder when he is held? It started wearing on my confidence as a mom. The feelings of “what am I doing wrong?” and “what kind of a mother am I if I can’t console my child” filled me.

My sister would call from out of state and would hear the baby crying, and her first reaction was always, oh, he’s crying, I will talk with you later. I would beg her not to hang up and to talk to me as I locked myself in the bathroom to try and find some peace.

As my son started crawling, his favorite place to head to was the family room closet. It was a closet that was pretty much empty. He would crawl to the side corner and sit in there and rock for hours. My feeling was that he’s a strange child, but he’s not crying.

At thirteen months, after violent hitting and biting whenever someone touched him, I called Early Intervention. As I said before, when they arrived and did the evaluation, he was evaluated to have verbal skills of a three month old. Validation broke me. I sat there with tears streaming down my face thinking it’s not me. There is something wrong.

By this point, as far as I could see, my son wouldn’t interact with his sisters very much – on occasion, but a lot of staring into space was still going on and he never made noises with the exception of crying. Speech delay, okay I could handle that.

Join me tomorrow for our continuing journey.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Autism - Part 1

Taking life for granted – how often do we do this? Over the past twelve and half years, I have learned a lot about small victories and taking things for granted.

Twelve and half years ago my son was born. By the time he was three months old, I knew there was a problem. There were no smiles, no coos, and no eye contact. My son was in a very different world than I was and it tore me apart. As time went by, it occurred to me that there was something wrong with him and I didn’t know how to go about finding out what.

A friend of mine who has a Down’s syndrome son encouraged me to call Early Invention myself and get him evaluated. By the time he was thirteen months old, my son had his evaluation and was found to have the verbal skills of a three-month old. Validation. Validation that yes, my instincts were right. Validation that someone heard me and really listened.

Over the first year of Early Invention, we taught my son sign language. I spent every spare moment I had learning about nonverbal children and sensory issues. As the speech pathologist worked more and more with my son, the word autism came out. I researched and researched. A name for the problem – was it possible?

Autism is such a hard spectrum to diagnosis as every case is different. A neurological disorder from birth affecting speech, sensory, and social skills in these children, yet affecting each one differently. For my son, he was completely nonverbal to over the age of three and his sensory issues were plentiful. Social skills that come naturally to more children had to be grilled into him before he grasped conceptions of acknowledging someone speaking to him, sharing and interacting with his siblings and friends.

The road was set to be a long and hard one. Join me in walking through my son’s journey in coping with Autism over the next few days.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Let’s talk stress. We all have it in our lives, but how do we handle it?

Stress can wear you down. How does it affect your writing? I can be bombarded with stress, and yes, I have lots of it lately. Between being at a job that is extremely stressful, having a husband leave on a business trip for weeks and then throwing kids’ schedules in the mix – there’s stress. There are days it gets me down and I just can’t write at all. The muse shuts down on me. However, learning to cope with stress and writing is a whole other story.

I love the ocean. To me there is nothing more relaxing than sitting on the beach and listening to the waves. I can feel the tension leave my body with each wave that pounds the sand. A few years ago, my kids gave me one of those pictures that lights up and has sound. The picture, of course, is of the ocean. When I am extremely stressed and want to write, I put the picture on, close my eyes and listen to the sound of the waves. Before long the words are flying from the keyboard.

How do you handle your stress?