I haven't written for awhile about my son and autism, Mainly, well everything is going great and I am just living the same life that most SAHM's of two elementary kids live.
Homework, school pictures, packing lunches and snacks, reading at night, trying not to develop a rash when you hear Hannah Montana or Drake and Josh or Oswald ot the Upside Down Show for the *#!! , OH whose counting, time, sending money for this and that, catching the bus.Not being too worried when you let bed time slide an hour or so back on the weekends and let them have a Diet Caffiene Free soda twice in one day. Ya know, normal Mom stuff.
My son is doing great, yes he is still a child with autism ,but he is doing great. He talks so much and saying so many new things that I am considering asking his speech teacher, Miss Bicky, to try and tone it down a little if she can. In fact, I am hoping she give me a two for one deal with decreasing the verbal accuity and volume that my two lovely children generate. She keeps telling me she doesn't work in that direction. I tell her she needs to branch out.
He LOVES his teacher this year and LOVES his classmates and other than those two times at the beginning of the year, he has happily pranced onto the bus each morning. Trust me, any day I don't have to pry his teeth off my arm, his fist out of my hair and peel his 60+ lb. body off of me and into that bus is a banner day. But to see him skip happily into the Cheese Wagon each morning is not something I will ever take for granted.
It seems each day gets a little better for him and a little easier for me.
I may be misguided and many parents of children with autism may disagree but I think that I have reached an AHA! moment where I am not on a quest to cure my son's autism .I am just trying each day to help him reach his fullest potential and to find ways for him to learn to live with this very peculiar set of issues and , most importantly, to live happily and fully.
I recently read some really good advice in a book by Jonathan Levy " What You Can Do Right Now to Help Your Child with Autism".
Some of the most common sense I have ever read or most usable tips.
1) Don’t react
This is something that I already have mastered. Every utterance, every act, every behavior does not require a response and quite frankly , he usually isn't asking for help or a translation of his behavior or anything at all. He is happily involved with himself, Thank You very much. My husband has a much harder time tuning all of this out. Which is funny because he is very good at tuning me out sometimes.
2) Make eye contact a priority
Also something that we have always done and have created somewhat of a monster with because if my son wants my attention or he thinks he doesn't have my full attention, he has no hesitation in turning ,quite forcefully, my head toward him and saying "Eyes" to me. Which was the keyword we used in getting his attention. A little taste of my own medicine.
3) Join the stims
I have been know to flap my hands, join in "Tickle Bugs Faster Scared" which is a game of his own making or his own personally invented stim that translates into tickle me and then holler and try to scare him, which he thinks is uproariously funny for some reason. So that is now a Freeman Family Game. I can also jump around crazily and all sorts of other things I participate in doing in the privacy of my own home. OK ,occasionally out in public but unless it shows up in YouTube, I'll deny it.
4) Coping with crying
His or Mine? He doesn't really cry anymore than any other kid and I don't cry any more than any other mom so we break even on this one.He is a actually pretty laid back and it a happy mood most all of the time.
5) Give the child as much control as possible
I think that this is good advice for any child. Say No as little as possible, give them as many choices as you can and choose your battles wisely. I use this the same with my neurotypical daughter as I do with my son. For what it's worth, good advice to use in regard to your husband also. I don't try to make my son "act" normal, for the most part he acts as normal as any other child under the age of 10, if there is such as thing as normal in regard to kids.
6) Focus on attitude
Mine, his and the world's. I find all three usually follow my lead or mirror my own attitude. If he gets upset, I keep a calm, cool, happy and non stressed exterior. If I show how happy, proud and non plussed I am about my son's autism,then it seems that others catch on and act the same.I don't care if he can write words but not sentences, as long as he is happy and proud when he writes a word both he and I can read. I want him to be proud when he accomplishes something, no matter what that something is. And when he struggles or can't quite get it, I want myself and him to be positive about the effort if not the outcome. This is whether he is reading, letting the dog in or out, bringing his dishes to the sink or saying Please and Thank You. And if he goes to school without letting me brush his hair, Big deal.
7) Work one-on-one in a non distracting environment
This is something that we have learned by trial and error. When is comes to homework. Off goes any and all TV's, radios, dishwasher and sister. She is banished from sight and usually me too. It seems that my son, who is such a Mommy's boy, thinks homework or school work is A man's work and Dad does a great job.
8) Be dynamic with the child
This goes back to attitude for me. My son thinks that he is the most fabulous, funny, smart, helpful, loved and adored kid that ever was. He thinks he is my favorite child. (Luckily my daughter thinks that she is the favorite).I hope if I give him nothing else in life, that he never for one second thinks or feels that I am tired, despondent, stressed,disappointed, frustrated or at the end of my rope with him.I hope at the end of my life his eulogy for me will be that I was the most fun, positive, energetic, non stressed, laid back, supportive,proud and loving mother that God could have given him
9) Go directly to language
It's funny if you have a child with no language issues, communication is not something you every really put much though or effort into. But have a child that is language challenged and your whole life suddenly becomes about that and just a small success in that area can mean huge things for your child. Just answering Yes or No , can change a life. Just expressing I want apple juice instead of orange, or a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich instead of chicken or that it's the seams in my socks that are making me freak out not my shoes or going to the store.And as speech improves, so does everything else. Get them talking, keep them talking and make that a priority. And talking can be verbal speech, or sign language or pointing to a picture. Communication is vital and should be numeral UNO on the to do list.
10) Make sure food isn’t part of the problem
This can be defined in different ways.
Some professionals, layman and parents believe that along with autism comes some food sensitivities or inability to process certain ingredients. Gluten, casein, dairy, additives and food coloring are among the most common or most popular.
These negative interactions can or may cause an increase or magnification of certain behaviors. I haven't seen any evidence that any of these cause autism or that the removal of them can "Cure"(sorry Jenny McCarthy) autism. But may be worth looking into for some. I don't think that any of them have any negative influence on my son.
But we have had other issues with food due to his Sensory Issues. He is fairly picky but really no more so than some kids I have met. He will on occasion surprise us and add something to his list of foods. And not because of any directed effort on our part, it has to be his own idea and initiative. So in this way we don't make food an issue.He likes what he likes and as long as he is healthy, getting a good balance ,then that is good enough. So he may never like ice cream and will only eat blue Popsicles or Red/White/Blue bomb pops, so what if he prefers crunchy foods, hates cold foods, not too keen on mushy and an orange or lemon is the only fresh fruit he will sorta eat and corn the only undisguised vegetable to pass his lips.
Since age 2 he has never had a sick child visit at the Doctor, never had an antibiotic and we can always find something to eat no matter what restaurant we are visiting, so all is good.
So I have pretty much given you a slice of our life and I am happy to see that at least one expert in the field agrees with our approach.
It ain't Rocket Science but in this house
I am a researcher and my son is my ongoing project.
A better use of my time I cannot imagine.