Friday, December 1, 2017

More Visual Supports

Visual supports help individuals with autism to better understand  and to transition better from task to task. I wanted to share a few more visuals supports with you.
In the first picture, I made a few personalized visual cards for him. Since August he has regressed in his ability to go to the store and to eat inside a restaurant. Today, I made two new supports for him using pictures of himself. The top picture is of him in a store and the bottom one is him eating at a table in a restaurant. I am going to show him these before we try them next time to see if it helps him to see himself doing it first. 


When I pick him up from school we do our normal routine four days a week. After I pick him up, we go through the drive through to get him McDonalds (its the only thing he will eat) and then we got to Harsha Autism Center. On some days he is great waiting in the long line at McDonalds and other days he isn't. On the not so good days, he kicks and makes his upset noises if the line is too long. Therefore, I made a personalized picture of him sitting in his car seat. I hope he will see it and sit good:) Of course, I have a Harsha Autism card so he can see where he is going next.

First & Then charts are great. The past few months I have been using First/Next/Then chart. Sometimes these charts are used for  behavior support, such as when we think (or know) that an individual doesn’t want to do something we want them to do.  In that case, we present the thing we want them to do in the “first” and the thing they want to do in the “then.”  The idea is to show them a preferred activity or a possible reinforcer to motivate them to complete the thing they don’t want to do.  Sometimes I use it for just a small schedule such as the one below.


This is an example of Trenton's morning schedule before he heads out the door to school.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thank you to our village

I am thankful for my boys' village!
I am not sure what we would do without our village. Our village is  all of our therapist, assistants, teachers, doctors, specialist, psychologist, and all the other people who are actively involved.

You see, it takes a village to raise to my son with classic autism.

My son needs way more than just school. He needs therapy and specialist and he will for HIS WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE!
He needs 24/7 care and he will his entire life.

After receiving his diagnosis five years ago, I quickly learned several things and the first thing I learned was that the doctor who diagnosed him was right, we needed a village. It wasn't easy at first to trust complete strangers with my sons. However, over time those strangers who were his therapist turned into some of the most amazing, special people that I know. They became people we grew to love and welcomed into our village. They will always hold a special place in this momma's heart.

Raising a child who requires medical/therapy attention weekly, requires a parent to be involved in a whole new world that is often foreign to many families. My son's quality of life depends greatly on his therapist, doctors, and teachers. We are nothing without them. They are our oxygen that we need to cope and live in this world.

My boys don't just depend on me, we need the help from specialist. My son with classic autism life depends on them. We are nothing without them.

Truthfully, I am nothing without them. I can't be my sons' mom, ABA therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, doctor, special education teacher, regular education teacher, and cheerleader! I deserve to be a mom! A proactive, highly involved mom- YES! But I need the others to make up our village.

Five years into this journey, and some of the people who I love ALMOST as much as my own boys are my boys village! They complete us. They make us whole.

Who else do I go to in order to help understand my son with classic autism? His village that he sees five days a week from 8 to 5 each day.

Who do I go to for help and suggestions? His village

Who do I leave my child in the hands of daily to help him and our life? His village.

Who has been there and sees what I see daily? His village

Who helps my son and has the expertise in his area? His village

So, today and every day I am thankful for my son's village.

They are there wiping his bottom when I can't.
They are there managing his meltdowns when I am not.
They are there trying and researching what is the next best step in his quality of life.
They are there wiping his tears when I am not able to. Sometimes they have to wipe mine, too!
They are there celebrating with him when I can't.
They are there supporting us.
If anyone comes close to understanding my son other than me, it is our village.

It's not easy raising a dependent child who is 24/7. However, I do it every single day. With that said, there are days I need to see the smiling faces of our village just as much as my boys do.  Many of them are there for me and support me, too.  I honestly have no idea what we would do without them.

So thank you to our village! Thank you to my sons ABA team, both past and present. Thank you to all the speech therapist who work with my son both past and present. Thank you for all the occupational therapist who work with my son. Thank you to his special education and regular education teachers past and present. Thank you to his team of doctors and psychologist from all over the Mid-west. Thank you to all the specialist. Thank you to our village! You are impacting lives in a way that you will never realize. You are touching the hearts of families like mine. You are making an impact on not only the child but the moms like me that stand behind our children. There are no words to express my gratitude to you.
Thank you for taking care of my son. Thank you for loving him. Thank you for helping me make him have the best life that he can. Thank you for having such a big heart and wanting to do what you do every single day. Thank you for being a part of his village. You may not get told often but moms, like me, appreciate you!
Thank you!









Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why I advocate-Part 1

Why do I advocate? Why do I spend my only "free" time educating and sharing my story?

I do it for many reasons. I want to talk about one particular reason right now. I advocate to educate others because some families of typically developing children don't do their part in educating their children that some children are "different".

Both my boys are absolutely amazing. I'm sure deep down Trenton wants friends just like Andrew. It shows more with Andrew because he is able to express it to me. Andrew has always had extreme difficulty in socialization. Many people think that the social challenges in autism is like Trenton, where he doesn't pay attention to you. But you couldn't be more wrong. The social challenges can also be like Andrew, where he is hyper social but has no clue on how to be properly social.

Ever since he started school this year, it has become so evident the gap between him and his peers in this area. He is in two  programs after school, I volunteer at one and take him to the other and he is struggling big time in these programs and it is because no one wants to be his friend! He knows he is left by himself so he starts doing very unusual behavior and it makes it worse.

Yes, he has challenges and is very unique and different. He doesn't know how to just be a boy and play. Yes, he shoves his hands in his mouth when he is nervous. Yes, he copies what other kids do but takes it to a whole different level but it is because he needs help in this area. He needs other kids to accept him and to play with him so he can work on these. But, when kids ignore him, it does nothing for my son other than making him feel terrible about himself. We wonder why there is such a high percentage of suicide and suicide attempts with Asperger and high functioning autism? IT's because kids can be so mean and terrible. They are the way they are because no one is teaching them the right things at home.

Andrew got invited to a party a few weeks from a peer in his class. I asked him if he wanted to go and Andrew said yes. He said, "Moochies I only got invited because you have to invite everyone. I know he doesn't like me, he never lets me play with him at school but I want to go anyway and get him a gift."
My son may have problems and no one may want to be his friend but I am raising him to treat others how he wants to be treated and that is what he is choosing to do!

Yesterday, Andrew came home from school. I asked him if he played with anyone at recess. He said, "No one would let me play with them so I sat on a bench by myself."
Talk about breaking a mothers heart!
This is where I put some fault in the schools. I have no idea what the teachers were doing during his recess time. However, teachers need to be aware of these situations and help kids play with their peers. Teachers are still on duty during recess. I see it all the time with teachers huddled in groups during recess. Why can't teachers help more with socialization at recess time? I am a former special education teacher so I know first hand that most teachers just talk to each other during recess time, lets get the teachers involved in recess more!
It is just a small simple way where teachers can try to teach "kindness" at school. .

Last night before he went to bed he said, "Moochies I know my brain is different. I really want to be different and do better but I can't."
He may be six but he knows he is different. He is one smart little guy!
I told him that I wish I could take it all away and he said, " I wish you could too but you can't. You would have to get in my brain and change it and I don't think that is possible."

So....why do I advocate? I advocate so my children can be accepted by their peers. I advocate to educate the parents of their peers so they can have a little compassion and teach their kids how to be kind and how to accept everyone.

If you are the parent of typically developing children, I challenge you to reach out to the kids in your childrens class who have some struggles. You just might have a huge impact on them.

Please stay tuned for more post on why I advocate........

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Visual Supports-Tip 2


Many individuals with autism think in pictures. Temple Grandin said her mind was similar to a search engine searching for pictures on the internet. She says her thoughts are in photo-realistic pictures, which flash up on the ‘computer monitor’ in her imagination. Words just narrate the picture. I believe 100% that this is how Trenton is and how he learns.

From day one he has always loved Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby, Baby Signing Time, and a hand few of other educational learning dvds. Why did he navigate towards these? These dvds are all educational shows that show a picture while teaching the word. Trenton can spell and read almost everything from these dvds.
Trenton has potential to be able to read and understand anything that is shown to him with a picture and a word.  
When I say "chair" to him, it means nothing unless he is taught with the picture and the word. Therefore, I am in the process of labeling my entire house. If I can label my house, he will eventually know how to spell it and this will lead to him being able to read it and use it one day to communicate.
Temple Grandin said that is someone used the word "steeple", her mind went to the first picture of "steeple" that she knew, then to the next one, etc. Therefore, it is important to always show in pictures every way that a word can be used. If not, this can lead to a communication gap with individuals with autism.


Here are a few examples of what I have going on around my house.






Sunday, November 12, 2017

Six!

No time to blog lately!!! It is definitely taking a step back as the needs of the boys and my demand is getting greater.

However, Andrew turned 6 yesterday. 

He has came a long way in many areas since his autism diagnosis. However, it is very apparent lately, that I am just getting started with some of his challenges. I am so proud of him and what he has accomplished since he first started therapy at 2.5 years old.
I see his daily fight with his challenges from high functioning autism. He, just like Trenton, is one of my heroes. I can't find the words to describe what he has been going through. But, no matter what he makes me so proud to call him his Moochies!!!!
Love you Lil' A.
Happy 6th Birthday!



Me and the two birthday people at our special birthday event:)
James 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Yes, I still believe

Yes, I have a son with classic autism. Yes, I have went through the pain of a husband who left which lead to divorce. Yes, I have had health problems. I have went through a lot that would make most people say that there isn't a God. But, I do believe in my God and I love him more than anyone!

But, why? How could you believe there is a good God? I get asked that question a lot and I am going to do my best to explain why....

I  know my Bible and have a good understanding of what it says. I am going to skip the whole part of God creating us and how we got here and go straight to the bullet points.

We as humans want to focus our attention and everything to this life. However, this life isn't what we are here for. Colossians 3:2 tells us to focus on things above and not earthly. The entire book of Ecclesiastes is focused on telling us that we come into this world with nothing and we leave this world with our body going into a grave. It is all about telling us that this life is just vapor. It's our soul that lives forever in Heaven if we choose to be a Christian. So we have to set our mind on Heaven, not Earth.

Just think about how we are as humans when everything is going fantastic. Are we humble? Are we grateful? Do we take time to thank God for our gifts? If we do, we don't have a true meaning of gratefulness until it is all taken away from us. 

Trials develop Godly character. God gives us trials to develop our character. For example, I was grateful for what I had but I really became grateful after I had Trenton. I really learned what God meant when he said he wanted us to lean on him in life. I wasn't asking for God's guidance enough in life. However, I do know. God tested me......he gave me trials to build my character. Now, God also gives us free will. Free will to make our own decisions. 

Trials and tribulations come with both a purpose and a reward. "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:2-4,12).

I have been given the trial of autism but I will receive the crown of life in return and I couldn't have asked for a better life because it is the eternal life that is the one true life. We are only here for a short time. It is our test.....it is our trial to see where we spend our real life at. 

Trials can lead into atheism as well. When your faith is small the devil can rip it out. Don't let him put you in despair and bitterness towards God. I've seen God use trials to not only build me up, but open doors, and I have seen miracles happen daily. 

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

1 Peter 5:6-8 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

Psalm 9:7-10 But the Lord rules forever. He sits on his throne to judge, and he will judge the world in fairness; he will decide what is fair for the nations. The Lord defends those who suffer; he defends them in times of trouble. Those who know the Lord trust him, because he will not leave those who come to him.

God’s glory: The storm will not last forever and trials are an opportunity for a testimony. It gives God so much glory when everyone knows you’re going through a tough trial and you stand strong, trusting in the Lord until He delivers you, without complaining.

Psalm 40:4-5 Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Psalm 71:14-17 As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

I could go on and on. If you know your Bible, the answer for your trials are in it.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Mommy

There is nothing like picking your son up and taking his AAC device out and finding my name on it😊😊😊😊

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Visual Supports - Tip 1 Post

The use of visuals supports is very important with individuals on the spectrum.  A visual support refers to using a picture or other visual item to communicate with a child who has difficulty understanding or using language. Visual supports can be photographs, drawings, objects, written words, or lists. Research has shown that visual supports work well as a way to communicate.

Using a picture card to communicate helps the individual understand and it can eventually lead to the individual being able to read.
I am in the process of labeling everything in my house. This will help Trenton put the word with a picture. Trenton is very smart and if he sees a picture with the label on it, he will be able to read it. Trenton already can read all of Andrew's Kindergarten stories he brings home. Therefore, labeling everything in my house from door to chair to wall to refrigerator, etc.....he will be able to read it in a story and eventually spell it to communicate if he needs to.


The main features of ASD are challenges in interacting socially, using language, and having limited interests or repetitive behaviors. Visual supports help in all three areas. Visuals supports are social stories, schedules, first/then boards, etc.
I plan on doing a specific post on social stories at a later date.

Another example of a visual schedule for Trenton that I have done lately is a picture schedule at the table. Trenton has a hard time of sitting at the table to eat. I now have a picture schedule when he is eating. It reminds him that he needs to stay seated to eat. Trenton like so many on the spectrum can be doing what they are told but they soon forget in mid-action what they are doing and they will elope away. However, if they have the visual picture in front of them, it will help them to complete the task.

I have the steps to brushing teeth in the bathroom. This is a struggle and always will be but we have the steps to look at when we do it:)
Above the sink, I have the steps to washing hands. The more he sees this the more of a habit it will be.
Above each toilet in the house, I have this....

As soon as I get everything else labeled, I will share.
Being an autism parents takes a lot of time, energy, and research. Our children do not learn how neurotypical children do. Everything from washing hands, eating, dressing, to a typical conversation between two people has to be taught. Everything has to be taught and to teach with visual aids is a must!
I have found out first hand lately just how differently Andrew learns too. I will share Andrew' stories at a later date.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Some Days Are Harder Than Others

It's Every Single Day.

The battles are every single day but some days they are much harder to get through. It's always the days that most people enjoy the most.

It's thrown in our faces daily. I can't do anything without seeing people with such "easy" lives. My children can't go anywhere without seeing it as well. They may have autism but they are smart. They know they are different. They want to fit in but CAN'T.

It's Halloween. The time of the year that deep down I love but despise so much at the same time. For once I want to be able to do the Trunk or Treats or Trick or Treat nights without all the chaos, battles, and fights that come along with autism. Just for one time I want to be that parent that gets to walk the neighborhoods and relax while your child does exactly what they are suppose to do. Just for one minute I want to feel what that is like.

Instead,  I go through a two week prepping period where I get my boys ready for what we will do. Instead, we go to only three houses, if that, as a family before Trenton is pulling on me and making his noises to go home. Instead, I walk up to the house holding onto my child for dear life because he bolts faster than lightening coming from the sky. He pulls and tugs and I pull and tug back.
Instead of the smiles from some people I get the "what is wrong with him" look. Before I know it, we are back home watching Halloween happen from inside our homes.

Instead of enjoying it, it was just another battle of the autism wars. Instead of having a child come home and dumping his candy in the middle of the living room floor like I did as a kid, I have a kid that wants nothing but to take his costume off and try to release his anxiety and stress from the experience.
My other son loves the experience but it can't be done without a hundred questions and explanations.

What I feared the most happened!  Trying to trick or treat  in our neighborhood was just  enough damage to make him not sleep. He had just enough stimulation and "hiccups" to his routine that he didn't sleep.

So I ask myself, "Why did I even try?"

The pain is so real. It is with everything we do and can't do. It's a constant reminder that our life is not like our neighbors, family, and friends. Yes, I accept it but it doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt daily.

Deep down I am just a normal mom who wants what any mom wants. I accept my child doesn't like the normal traditions in this world but it hurts. I dreamed of these things while being pregnant and no matter how much  I accept my children for who they are, there is a part of me that is always in constant pain and grief. It's real. It's normal for families like ours. I grieve because I know deep down he wants to do it but can't.

So, instead we continue to try to fit in a world where we feel so left out of. We continue to be defeated each year with Halloween. I grieve and hold back the disappointment and smile behind my pain. What else can you do?
It's a real experience for us daily and for many other autism families.





Sunday, October 29, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Rocking

This little guy has been wanting me to rock him to sleep lately!!!πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I Don't Know



I don't know!

I don't know what it is like anymore!

What are you talking about?..... you might ask...let me tell you!

I don't know what it is like to live a day without chronic stress.
I don't know what it is like to go to bed and sleep all night.
I don't know what it is like to have a day without ST,OT, ABA, and an IEP. Oh you don't know what those mean? Well, welcome to the world of special needs!
I don't know what it is like to smile without pain and grief.
I don't know what it is like to do anything for myself.
I don't know what it is like to put on a cute outfit and look good and feel good!
I don't know what it is like to enjoy a day, relaxing!
I don't know what it is like to laugh like I used too.
I don't know what it is like to cook a meal and have my family sit down at the table and eat...AT THE SAME TIME!
I don't know what it is like to be well rested and not sleep deprived.
I don't know what it is like to not feel isolated in this world.
I don't know what it is like to celebrate the holidays.
I don't know what it feels like to fit in with my friends.

I don't know what it is like to have my son tell me his wants and needs.
I don't know what it is like to let my guard down.
I don't know what it is like to have a Saturday fun day with my kids.
I don't know what it is like to make plans that are not revolved around classic autism.
I don't know what it is like to put my kids on a school bus and NOT WORRY. I am talking about TRUE WORRY! Not the ,"hope my kids have a good day"  kind of worry. I am talking about the, "hope they figure out what he wants today by that noise" kind of worry.
I don't know what it is like to eat at a restaurant without being ready and prepared for WWIII.
I don't know what it is like to not have a child pacing, running, pushing me, running into walls, making noises, or going into a complete meltdown.
I don't know what it is like to not fix my child the same meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I don't know what it is like to NOT walk on eggshells around my child.
I don't know what it is like to not have the fear of my own death cross my mind daily.
I don' know what it is like to have my child look me in the eye and speak to me.
I don't know what it is like to have my child being able to participate in the normal children activities.
I don't know what it is like to have my child invited to a birthday party or to the kids house down the street.
I don't know what it is like to buckle my child in his car seat and not worry about something being thrown at me or when the next sharp scream is going to come.
I don't know what it is like to NOT EXPLAIN MY CHILD TO THE WORLD!
I don't know what it is like to have my child with me and to NOT have people stare at us.
I don't know what it is like to NOT fight for him daily!

The " I don't knows"...they are never ending!






Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Aggressive Behavior

Autism has many characteristics. It goes way beyond the three basic traits that most people think of such as  communication, socialization, and behavior. I hope to do a post and outline of all the traits of autism. However, in this particular post, I want to focus on aggressive behavior.
Behavior is a form of communication.  All behavior is communicating. Individuals with classic autism can have aggressive behavior? But, what exactly causes the behavior?

Sometimes behavioral responses are simply a reflex. Sometimes it is likely from a underlying biological process that results in behaviors that are out of the persons control.

Many behaviors are a response to a previous experience. They remember how they felt in a certain situation, therefore, they continue in that behavior. For example, if they were in a situation that left them with high anxiety, something that is not "normal" to their routine, they develop anxiety and maladaptive behaviors. The behavior is a result of their inner anxiety. Once that has taken over the individual with autism, it is hard to revert back to how there were without that anxiety and behavior. The individual learns to walk on eggshells and they are a bomb waiting to explode because they remember all too well the disruption in their routine or that situation that makes them feel that way so they live their life on edge, resulting in maladaptive behavior that is beyond their control.

If the individual is unable to communicate, it makes the possibility of the behavior being aggressive a likely possibility.

Research proves that an individual with autism shows aggressive behavior to their caregiver twenty percent more than to individuals they are not as comfortable with. Research also proves that if the child displayed aggressive behavior at a young age, it is likely to come back as the individual gets older.

This picture is from 2.5 years ago during one of Trenton's aggressive behavior moments. He intentionally ran through glass. I took a picture after the episode was over of the huge glass pieces.  He has done this three times. I have no doubt that he was not in control of his body and this was done out of his control. Trenton has lots of moments of aggressive behavior from his past which makes sense that he is regressing back to aggressive behavior.




Individuals with autism are 40 percent more likely to die from injury than a neurotypical person. I believe this to be true! I have to be on guard with him 24/7.
Trenton acts fine one second and the next second when you least expect it, he is engaging in aggressive, dangerous behavior. He can't be trusted.  Sadly, for the past two years I was able to  get to where I could trust him in a few situations. However, he has regressed and I can't now.

In a study of 1584 child with autism ages 2 to 17, shows some interesting information in this area.
This particular study shows that children who have had sleep challenges and severe sensory issues are much more likely to display aggressive behavior than children with autism without those challenges.
All of those studies makes perfect sense when it comes to Trenton.

So what is a parent to do?
Do the best you can to keep life strict and to a routine!!
Do your best to prevent over stimulation and anxiety.

People with autism often report that they find the world confusing and anxiety producing. Many of the successful supports for increasing appropriate behavior involve creating more predictability and safety.

From all the information I have read, studied, and the numerous parents I have spoke to, a lot of this information makes perfect sense.
There are key ages in an individual with autism where their bodies and brain waves are changing. Most of the time, it causes regression and aggressive behavior. Of course, puberty age is a huge one. However, another age where a lot of things happen in the autistic person body is around the age of  8-9. I often wonder if Trenton isn't starting his period early......



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

He Slept!

After that terrible day with uncontrollable behavior....he slept all night long!!!