Thursday, October 14, 2010

Too Cute

I just love my kids. The day before yesterday, my daughter sat in a chair facing my husband, my son, and myself and had a detailed, animated conversation. The only words I understood were yes and no, but she certainly had a lot to say. We were hysterical. She loved the audience. We treasure every single utterance and every single no after having to wait five years to hear our son speak.

Then she decided it was kissy time. So, she came over, climbed up on the couch and said, "Daddy's turn!" and kissed my husband..."Mommy's turn!" and kissed me...and then did the same thing with my son...over and over. We were all laughing, and my son was giving wonderful kisses back to his sister. It was great.

Yesterday my little girl turned 2. She woke up very early, and we sang Happy Birthday to her. She came downstairs to put big brother on the bus, and then we snuggled and she fell back to sleep. I got a lot of housework done, and then when she woke up, we went to Weight Watchers, she played on the ice cream truck toy in the mall, and then we went out to lunch with a good friend of mine at my daughter's favorite restaurant...Chez McDonald's. By the time we got home, it was time to get big brother off the bus and they played outside for awhile until my son threw a large stick at my face. Then I brought them upstairs and my son had a horrible tantrum that went on and on resulting in more wall dents and several bumps on his head. Horrible. The only way I could stop him was by physically holding him on the couch so he couldn't hurt himself anymore. Not nice. He eventually calmed down, thank goodness, because my daughter needed attention too and I have to ignore her when we're in crisis mode. Not good. Then they played nicely and I made dinner for them. Then the babysitter came over and my husband and I went out for our marriage workshop at our church. I felt a little bad going out on my daughter's birthday, but there are only 8 classes, and it's important that we keep our marriage strong. So, we're going to have cake tonight with the behavioral therapist. :) Then we're having a family party on Sunday. I'm going to be making brunch food. I can make almost everything ahead, so it'll be easy to cook and I won't have to worry about missing church. We love going to church.

So, that's what we're up to. :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Behavioral Therapy

We started behavioral therapy a couple of months ago. I wish we had been able to get behavioral therapy a lot sooner. I know that some behavioral therapy is done at school, but I sure could have used the help at home.

Disciplining a child with autism is extremely difficult for several reasons. First, it can be difficult to tell the difference between bad behavior and autism...what can't they help doing, and what can they help doing? Second, many autistic kids just don't understand many discipline methods. This is very frustrating.

We have always tried to expect good behavior from our son, and have always been consistent. I always give a tremendous amount of positive reinforcement, follow through on threats for punishments, and I always try to make sure that the punishment fits the crime. However, this doesn't always help because many times my son just doesn't seem to "get it".

Also, he can be aggressive toward himself and me. He bangs his head when he is angry, frustrated, or afraid. Trying to get him to do something else is extremely difficult. This is the second thing the therapist is trying to address.

Other things we're working on are sitting at the dinner table, potty training, and transitions.
The therapist uses something called ABA therapy. That stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis. We've actually been using many aspects of ABA without evening knowing it.
Basically, ABA breaks down tasks into minutia and the child receives a tremendous amount of positive reinforcement in order to get them to display desired behaviors. The hard part is knowing what tiny steps to break the activity into, and focusing only on positive reinforcement because these kids DON'T get traditional discipline. The negative reinforcement is withholding the positive reinforcement. This is extremely challenging and takes an immense amount of patience and energy. It's absolutely exhausting. By the end of the day I'm often feeling very burnt out, and this takes a lot of attention away from my daughter.

Steps we're taking are using picture schedules as well as using lots of pictures for communication, giving stickers for taking medications, and giving positive reinforcement like saying good job or giving a high five every few seconds that my son is seated at the dinner table (and getting up dozens of times to put him back into his seat during dinner...right now we hate dinner time). Potty training involves getting to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for 20 minutes if he spends as much as one second sitting on the potty, and we've limited the choices of what to do instead of bang his head down to just one thing that he can do...stomp his feet.
ABA combined with his new medication has been somewhat effective, but anything in autism takes a lot of time...often years. Some things never happen. However, we have to have high expectations in order for my son to achieve his highest potential. So, that's what we're doing.

Lastly, my nephews gave my son a drum set from the video game Rock Band. It's quiet, and my son loves it. We've tried all sorts of other drums or other things to get him to bang on because he needs to bang constantly. He ruined so much furniture and broke lamps and hit others constantly, and it drove us crazy. Now he has an appropriate outlet for his drumming, and everyone is happy.

Patience, time, consistency, repetition, reinforcement. ..difficult but worth it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Where Has the Time Gone?

Playing horseshoes at the family picnic
Playing volleyball with the cousins at the family picnic

Rides at the community day fair

Nature hike at the harvest festival

Cool mushroom we found on our nature hike

Oh my! It's been a month since my last post. It's been a busy month with kindergarten starting for my son and all of us passing around a cold. It's my turn right now. Yuck. At least my son didn't get horrifically ill this time. Usually when he gets a cold, he winds up with asthma and on antibiotics for MONTHS. He still has a runny nose and coughs once in awhile, but that's it. At least we dodged one bullet. :)
Since my last post, we went to my girl friend's wedding, which was wonderful. They provided daycare at the reception, and so my husband and I were able to relax, eat, spend time together, and talk to all our friends at our table. It was wonderful. After the wedding, they had a bonfire and fireworks. My daughter said the fireworks were "cool". She's too much.
Then kindergarten started. I'm not fond of the bus driver. She's unfriendly and drives too fast. Other than that, my son is doing extremely well. He's talking more, he has told me twice about things he's done in school, and his teacher says he's doing very well in the class. We're still working on toilet training. We went through a lot of confusion with where to send my son's medical forms, immunization forms, and therapy prescriptions because he's going to a school outside of our district, so the district and the school both needed the forms...we eventually worked everything out.

We started behavioral therapy with my son. The therapist has given us a lot of great tools that have been very helpful. I'll have to write a separate post just about that.

Our babysitter is back from being home in NJ over the summer. We had another babysitter who was very good, but we just connected with her more. As a matter of fact, she stopped over yesterday with her boyfriend to drop off little pumpkins and apples for us and the kids. She's just a really nice girl, and we love her.

She still comes occasionally during the day to hang out with the kids so I can catch up on some cleaning, and she's coming over Wednesday nights so that my husband and I can attend a marriage workshop at our church. Although we're doing well, we want to keep it that way. :) Especially with how difficult it is to be parents of an autistic child and how easy it is to get so wrapped up in parenting and get so tired that you forget your relationship with one another.

We also love our church. That was a huge decision, and I suppose that's another post too. We had gone on a Tres Dias weekend, and since then, we've really had God as the center of our lives more than ever before, and it's made such a difference. That's another post too.
My son just started a new medication. It's similar to the one he's been on, but this one is extended release so it's not supposed to make him as tired. So far, it's only been two days, but he doesn't seem too tired and he seems a little more focused. Time will tell.

My husband's parents were up for a visit, and we got to see them a couple of times. We had the annual family picnic, which was a lot of fun, and then we spent another day over my sister in law's house just hanging out and eating way too much. My WONDERFUL nephews gave my son one of their drum sets from Rock Band, which my son has been using every single's so nice to have something for him to drum on that's not the table, the lamps, my head...

I also got to go out to lunch again with my cousin, Carole to the CIA. That's another post too. We're going out again this week for lunch with my Mom and her Dad.

Sheesh, I have a lot of catching up to do.
I really should update the blog a lot more often. It's so nice to go back and read about things. It's like a journal. There are even services where they'll print out your blog as a book.

Well, I'll post more later, but at least that's a little bit of what we've been up to. :)