Navigating marriage, motherhood, a child with special needs, work, a social life, and life's ups and downs with faith intact.
When the Clouds Get Heavy
My son (diagnosed with ASD/SPD) had quite an “episode” in church today. No, this isn’t the first time this has happened or the first public place this has happened, but today it was just harder. Today was harder because it’s been an emotionally draining month thus far, especially this last week, and I’m not at my strongest right now.
Some days things happen that bring feelings right to the surface. I have had to learn that I can only deal with things as they come and in the present, and that the past and future are no place to dwell. If I were to dwell, I’d never be able to carry what’s here and now. Some days, though, it gets really heavy trying to carry it all, even just in the here and now.
My husband has given the term “sensory storm” for those times our son is dysregulated.
What really gets me is that I sometimes feel inadequate in dealing with my son’s needs, especially those of the sensory variety. I am not like him, and therefore cannot understand just what he needs. During these storms, he is searching for some sort of input to “regulate” him, but I am unable to give him what he needs. Therefore, he acts out and is in a state where I am unable to even attempt to reason with him. He is seeking something he cannot appropriately express to me. This is frustrating for us both. There are days I am able to provide at least some of what he needs, but then there are days like today, when I just can’t figure it out.
At home, this problem is not as frustrating because he is able to behave and seek as needed to find whatever his body needs to bring him “back down”. In a public setting, these storms rage at their worst. He is out of his element. He acts out physically and emotionally. Sometimes this means inappropriate laughing or giggling, crying, throwing things, kicking, pinching, biting, thrashing, jumping, yelling, screaming, grinding his teeth, throwing his head back, pressing up against anything he can, and any other thing he can think of to try to find whatever form of sensory input he needs to feel “normal”. To an outsider or stranger (or just most people in general) this just looks like a naughty little boy throwing a fit or tantrum — I often wish that was the case, as I would better understand how to handle that.
I do my best to try to handle these “sensory storms” in public, but there is only so much I can do. I have a few tips and tricks up my sleeve, but they don’t always work.
It’s not what other people think of me or my son in these situations that hurt me. What hurts me is that I am at a loss as to how to provide my son with what he needs.
I do my absolute best to be strong and calm because whether I know how to calm these storms or not, I am my son’s calm place. I am my son’s safe place.
I guess I am not sure if I will ever fully understand how to figure out just exactly what he needs during these storms, but I know I will always keep trying and that he and I will continue to learn together.
Of Note: This morning I woke up early before my family feeling well. I decided to spend some time working in my devotional journal titled: “Looking Up – Trusting God With Your Every Need” produced by Beth Moore with Lisa Guest. The devotion I opened up to started with: “Lord, You are the source of Light – the Light of hope and healing of truth and guidance; Light that darkness can never extinguish.” I worked through the exercises and thought about what areas in life I could receive more of His Light. This exercise set the tone for my day, and boy am I thankful it did.
It’s been a while! My last post was more on the informative side of things. Therefore, I think it’s time for a more personal update. On that note, Augustus is absolutely THRIVING right now. It’s more than amazing. He is doing things we didn’t know if he’d ever do. One of his therapists even commented “I never thought I’d see the day…” I attribute most of his success to his applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. He has absolutely flourished since starting.
It is very common with autism to have extreme interest in certain things or objects. They say that an autistic child’s interests are often lifelong. Gus has taken a real interest in animals, especially jungle animals. In ABA therapy, he has a place mat with jungle animals on it and a bin of toy animals. Since those were introduced, the words have been coming. It’s also not unusual for interests or preferred objects to come and go, but animals, music, and vehicles of all kinds seem to be a stronghold for Gus.
At first, he was just saying the name of animals. I hate to say ‘JUST’ because that in itself was huge. He said “tiger”, “kangaroo”, “froggy” (see video at end of post), “ducky”, “elephant” (his version), “giraffe” (his version), “bear”, fish (or shhhhh), and probably more I’m not remembering off the top of my head. What’s adorable about Gus is that he tends to whisper when he’s trying out a new word or sound, so it can be easy to miss. Once he is more confident, he will say the word or sound out loud. For instance, he was playing alone at home with his animals and I heard him whisper “turkey” clear as day. He has never said “turkey” when playing with me or in therapy, but I caught him in the act.
He then jumped from just saying the names of animals to actually labeling them! As in on his jungle animal place mat, they could ask him “Where’s the tiger?” and he would point to it.
It’s also important for me and everyone else to understand and remember that just because he develops new skills, words, sounds, etc. it doesn’t mean he will use them on any kind of regular basis. For instance, he may say a word and we won’t hear it again for months…or even longer. What is amazing though, is that you can see him thinking and recalling just by the look on his face. The other thing to keep in mind is processing time. It takes Gus longer to process things. We need to be sure to give him time and help to instill the confidence that he can come up with and say things on his own, even if it takes a little longer. I was told that there have been cases where processing time has been up to 7 minutes. I just love to see him thinking and studying and trying. It absolutely breaks my heart sometimes when I see him working so hard and I see his little lips moving, but he just can’t quite come up with what he’s trying to label/say etc. His brain and his body just aren’t communicating correctly.
Along with processing time, we also have to keep in mind that Gus is VERY stubborn. Seriously, who would have thought Dane and I would have a stubborn child? (HAHA!) We have figured out over time that there a lot of things he can do, especially physically, that we just have to wait him out on and make him do himself. Because he struggles with some things, it’s just easier for him to let others help him, but in order for him to get stronger and learn to do things on his own, we have to wait him out. It’s a tricky prospect. For instance, in the Sensory Gym at LifeScape where he receives therapy, there is a ladder leading up to a platform then to a slide. He had been working on the ladder for a while in Physical Therapy (PT) and always required help. Well, one day he was super motivated in ABA and we watched him go up the ladder almost completely by himself. Then we knew he was physically capable. So, from then on, in ABA therapy, we would put him on the ladder and just wait him out and encourage him because we now knew he could do it himself. We’ve waited several minutes before, but he will eventually do it. The other tricky thing is his sensory needs and lack of safety awareness. If someone stands behind him while he is on the ladder he will lean backwards and pretty much completely just trust fall backwards seeking pressure. So, we figured out that we have to stand at an angle and not too closely behind him so he knows the only direction is up. This is just one example. We’ve figured out a lot in the last month or so.
Speaking of sensory needs, one thing that has revolutionized his learning and attention span is a specific kind of chair, a Rifton chair I believe is what they call it (see photo below). It is a chair that has a part that comes up in the middle between his legs and almost like foot pedal looking things on the floor at an angle that Gus can put his feet on. The chair also has a straight back and high straight sides that keep him a little more tucked in giving him that sense of pressure he craves and needs to better concentrate. He loves to put pressure on things with his feet, so the foot pedal type attachment on the chair allows him to push down when he feels the need. We went from not being able to keep Gus’ attention for more than 30 seconds TOPS (usually less) to up to several minutes now. IT’S HUGE!! Who would have thought a chair could make such a difference. Oh, the things I’m learning.
I am starting to feel more confident in my parenting all the time. I am starting to figure out what Gus wants and needs. In fact, I was even able to bring him back down from a sensory meltdown at church a few weeks ago. I was so proud of that! I took him to the cry room for a while and got him calmed down. We were then able to go back out and sit in our pew for the rest of the sermon. I wasn’t even completely horrified that he had ripped a page out of a hymnal causing an older lady to audibly gasp as if someone had passed out or something. (Haha!) Nobody knows him like his mama. I’m doing the best I can to understand what he needs from me and his surroundings in general.
I have a lot more to share. I got busy and behind; more later.
Signing off for now.
OF NOTE: One of Augustus’ speech therapists said he could now probably be considered MINIMALLY VERBAL as opposed to nonverbal. We hope to progress to mostly verbal.
A therapy with a scientific approach to understanding and improving or changing behaviors. AKA Change the environment to change the behavior.
What is behavior?
Seems simple enough, but before I go on, let me first express that often the word behavior is associated with “bad behavior”, but there is big importance in that little adjective before the word behavior.
Behavior is simply what we do and how we act.
The dead man’s test…
To better understand what a behavior is, we were taught to use “the dead man’s test”. Can a dead man do it? If he can, then it is not a behavior. I know, a bit confusing, but once you think about it and kind of test yourself it all starts to make sense.
How does ABA therapy work?
ABA therapy is not based on figuring out how and why one behaves, but replacing any given behavior with a more appropriate or beneficial behavior.
How is this carried out?
A lot of positive reinforcement and repetition.
The therapists chart everything, and I mean everything. Therefore, there is data to back up what behaviors are being improved upon or changed.
When & Who?
You most often hear about ABA therapy used for persons with autism BUT ABA therapy is also used for people in relationships and for elderly to help them better cope with memory loss and loss of certain abilities as they age.
It is important that children begin ABA therapy before the age of 4 to see the best results, especially in those with autism.
It is an extensive therapy with best results being carried out 20 hours a week.
ABA therapists are licensed psychologists that have completed a training program and obtained certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Based on what theU.S. Beareau of Labor Statistics reports, licensed psychologists must complete at least a bachelor’s degree.Psychology Todaystates that to obtain the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential, the ABA therapist must complete at least a master’s degree and a specific number of hours of clinical education and experience.
ABA therapy is becoming more and more recognized as an effective therapy for anyone needing changes in behavior.
I was told by Gus’ first psychologist he saw when he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder that ABA therapy was seen as the “gold standard” for children with Gus’ diagnoses.
ABA therapy is a very controversial subject among those with autism and parents of children with autism. As I do with everything in life, I extensively researched, studied, and consulted. Per my findings, I decided ABA therapy would be beneficial for my son. I read the horror stories from those that received the therapy in the past, and those who are vehemently against it. Thankfully, things have changed in the medical field and things aren’t as they used to be. There is still some controversy even with ABA therapy today, but I stand by my decision and am glad I did because at three weeks in we are already seeing amazing things.
Also, nothing is addressed or worked on in therapy without MY consent. I am 100% welcome to attend Gus’ therapy sessions, and I do.
Gus’ ABA therapist has and is working hard to build a relationship with him. She will be a big part of his life for a long time. He adores her and that will make things that much easier.
During this journey with my son, I have seen him with a lot of therapists. Some go through the motions, but then there are some that go the extra mile.
ABA THERAPY & GUS
What is Gus working on in ABA therapy? A little bit of everything. We set specific goals, and he is already nearing completion of some of them. He is working on eating with utensils and keeping his hands out of his mouth while eating. He is working on following verbal commands. He is working on using his voice to request things. He is working on communication in many aspects. He is working on conquering his fear of public restrooms. He is working on generalizing things. He is working on joint attention. He is working on appropriate play with others. He is working on so much more. All of his goals are broke down into steps, and as he masters one step we move on to the next until he has conquered the task and goal. He is thriving!
ABA Therapy & The Family
My husband and I also attend sessions with Gus’ ABA therapist to be educated in ABA therapy itself, as well as what we need to do at home to apply what he is doing in therapy at home. Gus is very smart. If we don’t have the same expectations of him at home as are expected of him in therapy he will figure out that he just has to work in therapy and home will be a free for all. ABA therapy also works with all of his other therapies and therapists to be sure everyone is on the same page and that he is shown consistency in all aspects. It sounds like we will also have meetings with all therapists at once here and there to go over things.
Applying things at home takes a whole lot of patience and a whole lot of time. While I am not perfect and sometimes let things slide, I try to remember that all of this hard work now while he is young will more than pay off as he gets older.
Gus has been receiving ABA therapy for 3 weeks now. We started at 1 hour a day 3 days a week and quickly moved to 1.5 hours 4 days a week. This coming week, we plan to do 2 hours 3 days a week moving to 3 hours a day 4 days a week in July and going from there.
Gus also receives speech therapy and occupational therapy at home on Mondays and Thursdays in the morning before we leave for Rapid City. He also still receives occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy once a week at LifeScape.
Yep, that means we travel 83+ miles (166 miles round trip) up to 4 days a week. It’s been a spendy venture, but once we get going insurance will reimburse mileage; it just takes a while. I also had to quit my job, as there was just no way to schedule work around therapy and therapy around work. I still fill in when I can, though.
I take Ada (Gus’ older sister) with us 1-2 days a week. She attends part of therapy with him and eats lunch with him and the therapist and then works on joint play with him. Then, Ada and I go play outside, as she understandably has a very hard time keeping quiet and allowing Gus to focus. The other days of the week, Ada attends daycare.
It’s hard on me…and all of us, really. BUT what’s important to me is how Gus is handling it. As long as it isn’t too much for him it’s not too much for me. We are allowed to back off on therapy at any time we feel we need to. Gus is thriving right now. I keep in mind that a few years of this very intense schedule and intensive therapy will pay big later.
I also failed to mention earlier that Gus is the very first ABA therapy patient to be accepted at LifeScape in Rapid City, SD. Until now, ABA therapy was not offered at LifeScape’s Rapid City location. For a long time, we were adjusting to the fact that we would have to move to Sioux Falls, SD part time for an undetermined amount of time. Talk about STRESSFUL, but we were ready and willing to do what we thought best for our family, and kept moving forward, which is why Gus was accepted as the first patient; we already had everything done and ready to start at LifeScape in Sioux Falls, SD, so they were able to just transfer all of that information to their Rapid City campus.
I’ll keep this shorter by just sticking to the topic of ABA therapy in this blog post. We have a lot going on, and I have lots I’d love to share, but will do so at a later date.
Thank you for reading and taking the time to learn a little more about a life a bit different.
I’m learning all the time, and am always happy to share.
I’ve known this day would come…the day someone, a stranger at that, criticizes and tries to belittle me for the choices I make for my autistic son in a public setting.
It’s hard enough when any child is upset in a public setting. You don’t want the stares and the “looks”. Kids throw fits and tantrums. They can be unknowingly rude. They are messy. Add autism to the picture, and it only intensifies.
Lady, my son cried for a total of maybe two minutes. He wasn’t throwing a fit. It wasn’t a tantrum. He was hungry, thus the reason we were in a restaurant. He is not even 3-years-old yet. He just worked his tail off at therapy working on the things we all take for granted on a daily basis.
Your attempt to make a scene, all because I chose to seat my child in a highchair to keep him safe, was uncalled for.
Yep, I sure did see those booster seats “right behind me”, but they are not an option right now. My son bolts and wanders. He doesn’t know any better. He is perfectly comfortable and SAFE in a highchair.
Maybe had you used some tact or minded your own business, as your husband was so desperately trying to tell you to do, I wouldn’t be here typing this now.
Let’s be honest, you tried to embarrass me in a moment that was already hard enough. Talking about us loudly enough everyone could hear, and then having the nerve to confront us about it in a rude manner.
At first, you almost won. I got flustered and wanted to get up and leave. But no. I was doing nothing wrong, and either was my son. You, lady, are wrong.
I respect that you had the nerve to say something directly to me, eventually, though I did not appreciate your condescending tone and your extraordinarily rude demeanor.
Every fiber of my being wanted to tell you to “Mind your own f*!#ing business!” But unlike you, lady, I have tact.
I sure feel sorry for your horribly embarassed husband. And guess what? I feel sorry for you, too.
After causing such a scene and my incredibly polite response of “He has autism, and if he sits in a booster seat he will not stay and will wander around.”, which was the only thing I could muster to say, your simple response of “Okay, well I am always going to give my opinion.” I say this to you: you are lucky I kept my “opinion” to myself.
Had you politely asked or suggested maybe he would fair better in a booster seat; cool, I would have appreciated your concern and suggestion and politely explained the situation. But your insistence on making a scene and making sure your presence was known to everyone in the restaurant apparently outweighed your true concern for anyone but yourself.
This isn’t an autism issue, this is a people issue. I ask that the next time you see an obviously flustered person trying to calm their young child that you choose kindness, or better yet, to keep your opinion to yourself! Your “opinion” only made a small anthill of a situation into a mountain.
Ada & Augustus decorating eggs at their grandparent’s house for Easter.
We started our Easter festivities by decorating and dying hard boiled eggs at my parent’s house. Ada has the process down and speeds through her decorating. Augustus usually has little interest in the process and would prefer to eat the eggs; shell and all. While he did try to take a few bites, I was very proud of him, as he sat on his dad’s lap and later my lap and really paid attention and even drew on some eggs himself.
After decorating, they (we) got to find our Easter baskets from Grandma & Grandpa hidden throughout the house.
The kids received lots of candy, some outfits, shoes, and lots of other goodies. Ada’s favorite is always the candy. She only spilled her box of nerds twice. Ugh. Augustus’ favorites were probably the bubbles and a light up ball. (We work with bubbles a lot in speech therapy.)
Ada & Augustus popping bubbles at their grandparent’s house.
Augustus was happy and awake and ready to take on the day when I woke up Easter morning. He always wakes up happy, and I love that.
Now, Ada is a completely different story. First of all, I had to wake her up. She has been going through a phase with sleep. She will sleep very well a few nights in a row, and then for whatever reason, will fight sleep, tooth and nail, for a few nights. She fell asleep very late Saturday night, so wake up this morning was not easy.
Ada is always excited about church, and still was this morning, but she was weepy about everything. She REFUSED to wear her pretty Easter dress from grandma, or any dress for that matter. She wanted a shirt “with just one thing on it”. Okay… Dresses are “too itchy”. She could not be forced, bribed, or convinced in any manner, and we were out of time. “Pick your battles.”, as they say. She cried because her dad offered her some money to take to church for the collection plate. She cried because her dad asked her if he should try to catch the Easter Bunny for her while she was at church so she could see him. A morning of tears all around. Gah!
The United Church in Philip, SD, Easter Sunday 2019.
Grandma, my sister, and my sister’s daughter picked us up for church. It was a great sermon, and the church was beautifully decorated. Ada was tired and very clingy. Half of the sermon I was trying to hold both kids. Eventually, Gus migrated over to grandma for the latter half of the service. He was shoeless. They fell off. Oh well.
Augustus at church.
As grandma & Augustus arrived at the table to take communion, Augustus decided to grab the remaining half loaf of bread off of the table and attempt to eat it. Thankfully, Aunt Emily’s reflexes were top notch, and she got it from him before he took a bite. (Emily was behind grandma & Gus and I was behind grandma & Gus and Emily & Harley.) Gus was mad, he wanted some bread. I didn’t pack a snack, either. Normally I do! Grandma got him calmed down, and he was good other than getting a little wild towards the end of service and giggling up a storm.
Grandma, Ada, and Harley at church.
When we got out of the car to head inside the house, one of Augustus’ shoes fell off again. The moment we got into the house and up the stairs he faceplanted. He hit the ground hard with a very loud “thud” there was blood on the floor when I picked him up. He had a bad nosebleed. He got blood all over his outfit and me and himself and the floor. My poor boy! Of course, the Easter Bunny had stopped by while we were at church, and Ada could see eggs he had hidden. So, we had to slow her down and have her wait until Gus was done bleeding and feeling better. It was stressful, and I may have shed a few tears myself from the stress and because I was being selfish and feeling bad for myself because Gus doesn’t enjoy the usual festivities and excitement of holidays… Pity party over!
Gus wanted to calm down and relax and watch TV. Ada went and found the eggs the Easter Bunny hid, as well as her Easter basket.
We gave Gus his Easter basket, which had a soccer ball, and he was VERY excited about that ball.
Augustus and his new soccer ball.
Ada was all about the candy!
Ada and her M&Ms in her “not itchy dress” and shirt “with only one thing on it”.
Put simply, they are all a way of saying to “get it together” and find balance in your life.
Balance – a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
Balance is my favorite word in the English language. If we can find it, we can live a meaningful and fulfilling life.
But why is it so hard to find, and even harder to maintain?
I can’t answer that. Can you? It’s something I have struggled with since as far back as I can remember.
I truly strive to go above and beyond in almost everything I do. My problem is that I get too focused on what is requiring the most attention at the time and fall behind on everything else, and my ducks start wandering off, get lost, and then there is a panic or pity party (sometimes both) generally leading to making things worse and creating more problems.
I know this about myself, I can see it; so why do I keep experiencing it in a continuous loop?
How can I fix this? Do I need to let a few ducks fly so I can focus more attention on the others? Can we truly “have it all”?
I don’t know. I think life is one big balancing act, and we spend most of our life trying to find our balance…and we lose our balance All. The. Time.
It seems to be very common for people to reach a certain age and realize they are not where they expected to be or wanted to be and maybe don’t even have some of their ducks in the pond yet. That is normal, and it’s totally okay. I say that, I know that to be true, but I still struggle with it. We all do. The answer is in having the attitude and willpower to look at things realistically. The grass may be greener on the other side, but it also may be fertilized with bullshit. You see what I am saying?
We have to learn to expect the unexpected; and for people like me, that really sucks. I like plans and details and structure. Although it is happening slowly, I am learning to take a step back and let some things go for the sake of my (and others) sanity, although it is an everyday struggle. Things gnaw at the back of my mind, and sometimes instead of facing them and correcting them I find something else to focus on, even if it’s not a good thing, and I know in the back of my mind I am only making things worse.
Taking Steps in the Right Direction
I have often shared how overwhelmed I feel and that I sometimes feel like I am drowning. I am happy to say that I feel like I do have my head above water now, even if I do go back under here and there and have to come back up gasping for air. In other words, I still often lose focus and colossally mess up. I am pretty sure it will always be that way, but maybe we can get the “colossally” part out of there.
I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS
I am my own worst critic. I am very good at owning up to things and accepting consequences for my actions and being honest. Those are attributes I take pride in. What I am not good at is accepting that I make mistakes and mess up. I suffer with guilt, which is probably my least favorite of the human emotions.
Guilt vs Remorse
Guilt and remorse are very different.
Guilt is geared toward self. Guilt is paralyzing. Guilt is heavy. Guilt is fuel for self-destruction. Guilt is necessary, but nowhere you should stay.
Remorse is awareness. Remorse is aimed at the action that took place, not self. Remorse is where we need to transition to from guilt. Remorse is fuel for constructive action.
While I am good at showing remorse on the outside, I keep guilt on the inside, and if that doesn’t change it will eat me alive.
I am not a bad person. I am a very empathetic person. I am human. I make mistakes. I own up to my actions the best I can. I am learning. I promise you that. Even if it takes making the same mistake one hundred times before I learn, I will get up, own my shit, make things right, learn, and Let. It. Go. Forgiving myself is the duck that needs to take some priority right now, but I will not let the other ducks run amuck.
Keep My Eye on the Prize
I’m forgiven. You’re forgiven. Now forgive yourself.
It’s been a while since I have had a chance to write a blog post. I decided to make it a priority today. I will start off with one of my “A Day in the Life” segments. I find these most informative, as they often answer a lot of questions I wouldn’t otherwise think to address. I will then give you an insight into the progress we are making, and where we are at now.
A Day in the Life Wednesday April 3rd, 2019
6:00 AM – My alarm goes off, and it’s time to wake up and get my workout on. I don’t go to a gym or anything, just workout at home through a program I joined.Yes, you read that right. I am on week FOUR of working out 5-7 days a week, and attempting to eat cleaner. Why? I realized that life isn’t going to slow down anytime soon, and that I NEED to take care of myself to have the energy I need to keep up with my life. I have a new mantra for what I put into my body: FUEL vs FILL. There are already so many things in life I have no control over, and even more-so for me than your average person; and my body is one thing I can control (to a point). I have plenty of reasons to be depressed and shutdown, and I sure don’t need my body working against me when keeping those things at bay. Weight loss will be a great side effect of these changes, but the REAL reason I’m doing it is to have more energy and better health. I’m also working on not smoking. (I have only had a few in the last month when I was out drinking), and I have only drank once in the last month. I’m just trying to focus on what’s good for me.
6:30 AM – Cool down, get my breakfast ready to go (waiting to use my blender until the kids wake up) and share my workout on my accountability group.
6:45 AM – Shower and get dressed.
7:00 AM – Get a bag packed for Augustus for our trip to Rapid City, SD, for therapies at LifeScape, load the car, get breakfast ready for the kids, and start waking the kids up. (Gus is usually awake in his crib already making noise and jumping and laughing.)
7:00 – 8:00 AM – Give the kids their breakfast. Gus gets breakfast in his crib sometimes, as he likes to take it slow in the morning. I usually give him a waffle and some juice in a sippy cup. He usually begs for more food after he is up and dressed, but I try to hold him off, as we have feeding therapy first thing at LifeScape. Ada comes out and eats her breakfast. Then I get Gus dressed and ready for the day-no small feat. Dressing him is like dressing a small alligator. He likes to roll over on his stomach, throw his clothes on the floor, undo his diaper tabs, take things off the walls, occasionally bite, wiggle, giggle, and think everything tickles. Then the hard part, convincing Ada to get dressed and ready for daycare. This goes one of two ways, absolute refusal, tears, and drama or absolute cooperation. Thankfully, this Wednesday was absolute cooperation. I also have to keep an eye on Gus while getting Ada dressed, as most mornings he is in the kitchen searching for food, opening drawers and cupboards, grabbing dishes out of the sink, etc. Eventually, if Dane is home, I leave Gus with him and take Ada to daycare and gas up the car, as was the case this Wednesday.
8:15 AM – Get Gus strapped into his car seat-no small feat. He wiggles and chews on the straps and I get some good cardio in.
8:25 – 9:50 AM – Drive to Rapid City. Gus usually rides in the car very quietly besides a squeal or a clap here and there. He is generally content just chewing on his chewelry necklace or snuggling his blankey. He stays awake the whole time. I struggle to stay awake EVERY time, no matter how tired I am. If I am taking him alone, I listen to an audio book on my phone, which helps a little. I drink my breakfast shake on the way and occasionally slap myself to wake up when it gets bad (yes, seriously). This Wednesday we drove through rain the whole way to Rapid City, and then it started snowing right as we pulled into LifeScape. Halfway to Rapid, I realized I forgot to take my morning pills. UGH. I’ve only been taking the same things for like 9 years, but still often forget.
9:50 – 10:00 AM – We pull into the parking lot at LifeScape. As I said, it’s snowing, Boo. I get Gus out of the car and hold his sweet little hand and grab our bag and we head inside to check in. Then, we hang out in the waiting room; and by hangout, I mean I chase Gus around. I usually always need to use the restroom once we get to LifeScape, and unfortunately, Augustus HATES the bathroom there. I feel so badly, but if I’m alone, I have to take him in there with me. He stands there in terror and panic while I try to pee as fast as I can, all the while praying he doesn’t open the door and bolt. Then comes the worst part, the toilet flush. He absolutely loathes that toilet and the noise it makes when it flushes. So, I flush and run to the door as fast as possible so we can get out of there before he has a full-on meltdown. Hand sanitizer it is. No hand washing for me in these instances. We head back to the waiting room and wait for our turn with Miss Nicole, our occupational therapist (OT). The nice thing is, we are very familiar with all of the other families in the waiting room, as we see them weekly. They are all so kind and understanding and even very helpful keeping Gus contained and somewhat under control. They also have good advice to offer, as Gus is one of the younger kids there in this time frame. Their kindness, help, understanding, and advice is priceless and immensely appreciated.
10:00 – 10:30 AM – OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY with Miss Nicole Miss Nicole comes out and greets us and gets Gus’ attention and then we head back to our obstacle course. We do an obstacle course every week consisting of different tasks for Gus to do. Before we complete our obstacle course, we practice “good sitting” and cooperation while taking our shoes off. This can be a very daunting task for Gus, as he rarely sits still, but some days he does just fine. Our obstacle course usually consists of 3-4 tasks that help with our motor skills and finishing tasks. For instance, this week we crawled through a tunnel, we jumped on a trampoline, and we threw beanbags at some blocks. Gus is required to complete each task before moving on to the next. After the obstacle course, we again practice “good sitting” and cooperation to put our shoes back on and head to feeding therapy. FEEDING THERAPY with Miss Nicole We head to the kitchen. Gus then climbs up onto a step stool and Miss Nicole helps him soap, wash (“make bubbles”), and rinse and dry his hands, and then throw away the paper towel used to dry his hands. He is making fairly good progress with this, as he seems to like running water coming out of faucets and will even try to do this task himself at home in the bathroom. Then, Gus is seated in a chair just his size at a table just his size. Miss Nicole sits next to him, and has the food items for the day ready and prepared and on a plate ready to go. Gus and Nicole then try the foods on the plate; some familiar/preferred, and some new/non-preferred. They then experience the texture of the food, which is huge for Gus. He has to touch food before he will try it. Miss Nicole describes the texture and consistency for Gus. Then they try the new foods by first just touching it to the lips and going from there. Then they work on drinking from an open cup. As I said, texture and consistency are EVERYTHING to Gus; so, his first instinct with any open cup is to stick his hand in it. He is getting a bit better with this. Nicole helps him hold the cup (a handle on each side) and practice bringing it to his mouth. She has to remind him to use his lips, by smacking her lips together and saying “lips” and then he successfully takes a drink. We practice this at home, too. Then, Nicole works with Gus on his utensil skills. So far, we have started with a spoon. Like I said, Gus just wants to touch everything with his hands. That’s why we are sure to let him touch the food before we move on to using the spoon. Nicole helps Gus grip the spoon and the container he is eating out of using “hand over hand”. We practice this at home, too, and it is a lot of work, but he will continue to progress. Gus has progressed in leaps and bounds when it comes to the act of eating itself. Nicole has taught him to take small bites of foods, rather than sticking a whole item in his mouth. Then, once Gus and Nicole are done with trying their foods, etc. Nicole gets Gus cleaned up, which is a challenge, as Gus does not like having his face touched. Right now, we are working on him allowing his face to be cleaned with his help. Nicole has him hold onto the wet paper towel with her, and she is sure to state what part of the face will be wiped off, and using “hand over hand” has Gus help her wipe that part of his face off until his face is clean. Then they throw away the wet paper towel and we head back to the waiting room to await the next therapy session. Gus has come a long way in being able to sit for longer periods of time, which also helps with his feeding therapy.
10:30 – 11:20 AM – NORMALLY, we would have speech therapy next with Miss Jodi, but Miss Jodi was out this week. We had an hour wait until physical therapy at 11:30, so we decided to head out and come back rather than waiting in the waiting room for an hour. Gus has been in need of a haircut for a LONG time. I have cut his hair at home before using clippers, and it is never easy and never fun for either of us. In fact, we usually both end up in tears. Anyway, I decide we will brave it and stop at the Cost Cutters not too far from LifeScape and then be back for physical therapy. Let me just say, I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant or easy, but also knew it was a necessary evil we had to endure. I feel sorry for the sweet unsuspecting lady that was lucky enough to not be busy when we walked in. OUR FIRST OUT-OF-HOME HAIRCUT – a fresh level of HELL I first explained to the stylist that Gus had autism and did not handle having his head touched very well in general, and that this was his first time not at home, and would be a learning experience for all of us. We first tried to see if Gus would sit on a booster in the chair alone – no go. I held him. We tried to get a cape on Gus. First of all, he took the first tissue thing they put around your neck before the cape and bit it in half. So, I held his arms down and we got the tissue thing and the cape on him. Then, we tried to get a cape on me, which was only somewhat successful. At first, he was entertained by the mirror and such. Then, the stylist had to try to get all the tiny knots out of his hair. He was not having it! He swatted at the comb and screamed and wiggled and was pissed off in general. I can’t blame him. The stylist got out the spray bottle to wet his hair down, and he absolutely hated that, too. We had some suckers in our arson, and whipped one out at this time; early in the game. That worked a little bit for a little while. He was still distressed and swiping at his hair and face. Therefore, his face was a sticky mess. Because he was moving and rubbing at his face and hair, a bunch of hair was stuck to his sucker sticky face. Then he rubs this into his eyes. Things get worse, and worse, and WORSE, and we aren’t even close to done. To sum it up, we went through 3 suckers, 3 wet washcloths, and we both had hair ALL OVER US. A toy worked to entertain him for a little bit, and that was pretty much the saving grace to get his hair even close to finished. A couple of other stylist stopped by his chair to help. They offered him a spray bottle of water to play with, some clips, you name it. He WAS NOT HAVING IT. NONE OF IT. We resorted to me having to hold his little arms down and keep him as still as I could and the stylist working as fast as she could. Keep in mind, this kid is the size of a BIG 4 year-old and isn’t even 3 yet. He cried, screamed, yelled, fought. My little man ended up so upset he nearly threw up. I decided we were done. It was good enough. We were able to get all of his hair cut except for over his ears. We just couldn’t find a way to get to those spots without him being in danger of getting hurt. The stylist was absolutely amazingly perfect throughout the entire situation. She even offered to have him come in another time when he was “having a better day” to finish up above his ears free of charge. What I didn’t have the heart to tell her was that this was a good day for Gus, one of his best. Anyway, I tipped this amazing lady $29, and that probably still wasn’t enough for the 40 minutes of hell she endured. You, lady, are a saint to this mama! I guarantee you, if I had not already been prepped and prepared for how terrible this could be, I would have had a meltdown myself. I would have cried for me and Gus. We got done with this experience just in time to head to physical therapy. We were both exhausted. I was just a bit emotional and felt spent. I truly considered cancelling his physical therapy appointment, but because we finished in time, I knew we needed to show up, and he needed to work. DO YOU KNOW HOW BAD THIS MAKES ME FEEL? I feel terrible that this task is so hard for him and will be something he has to face for the rest of his life.
11:20 – 12:00 PM – We drive back to LifeScape. The tears are done. I push my feelings and everything aside and get ready to do what we need to do. In the waiting room, Gus sits quietly with his blankey, his favorite comfort. One of the moms we see there weekly comments that she has “never seen him so calm and quiet”. I then explained that we had just had our first out-of-home haircut experience and that I thought he was “shell shocked” by the experience, as was I. I could see the light bulb turn on in this woman’s head. She instantly understood. Do you know how good that made me feel? She patted Gus on the back and said she understood. She told me that it was the same way for her son for a long time, although he was finally better about it now (I believe he is 9?). The other familiar faces in the waiting room also shared words of encouragement and compliments on his new haircut. It takes a tribe, I tell ya, and who knows where you might find more tribe members. PHYSICAL THERAPY Miss Teresa comes out and gets us for physical therapy. In physical therapy, Teresa helps Gus to work on his abdominal strength, going up and down stairs, his coordination, his balance, and various other things he struggles with physically. He is also making good progress with these things; slow but sure! Teresa has to work very hard to keep him on task and does an amazing job with him. She finds different toys and things to help motivate him to do the exercises he needs to do. She definitely gets a workout in, too. He loves to be all over the place in that gym, and get into all the cupboards where all the cool things are.
12:00 – 1:30 PM – When we are done with physical therapy we head out for home. Some weeks we stop and grab some lunch. I enjoy these little lunch dates with my little man. This week, though, after so much trauma from the haircut and the questionable weather, I decided it was best we got on the road for home as soon as possible. I stopped at the Arby’s drive-thru and got something small and “healthy” for a fast food place. Then, we were on the road home. I turned on my audio book, and Gus fell asleep and slept all the way home.
1:30 – 4:00 PM – Most often, when we arrive back in Philip, I go pick Ada up from daycare right away. Since we were home a little earlier than usual, I knew it was nap time for Ada at daycare, and knew Gus would sleep a bit more; So, I went home and unloaded the car and got Gus inside and put him down in his crib after a diaper change. I then went and laid in my bed for a bit and tried to rest some, too. (WHEW!!)
4:00 – 5:00 PM – We pick up Ada and come home. Since Gus hadn’t eaten since his therapy from 10-10:30, I knew snacks and an early supper was needed. The very first thing we did was get in the bathtub since Gus had hair from his haircut all over. Ada claimed she didn’t want to take a bath and just wanted a snack. So, I got Ada a snack and got Gus in the tub. Ada eventually wandered in and wanted to take a bath, too, and jumped in with Gus. The usual bath time shenanigans went down. Gus threw cups full of water and toys out of the tub and caused a small flood. They fought over toys. They played together nicely. It was a fight to wash Ada’s hair. The usual. Gus got out first and I wrestled him into some pajamas. Then Ada got out and insisted on wearing her towel, which means before long she will be running around stark naked…her favorite. Some days, it’s not worth the fight to keep her clothed.
5:00 – 6:00 PM – Wednesday evenings kind of end up a blur for me…I made the kids some chicken nuggets and cheese quesadillas. They both happily accepted. We had the usual suppertime drama of Gus trying to steal Ada’s food after he ate his causing yelling, screaming, whining, crying, and fighting. I played referee. Then I got everyone cleaned up.
6:00 – 8:00 PM – Dane made it home sometime around 6. Amen. I didn’t tell him about Gus’ haircut in hopes he would notice. Did he notice? No. I eventually hinted at it. He still didn’t notice. I eventually just told him. Gus was just ornery and we could not keep him out of the kitchen, off of the table, out of the drawers and cupboards. It was constant. No “deep couch sitting” as those Swiffer commercials talk about. I had a snack of carrots and guacamole, which means the kids stole carrots and they ended up in various areas of the house and ground into the carpet. Gus did eat some. Then I hear Gus start to wail. Come to find out, he got his leg stuck behind the couch between the couch and the window. Dad got him out and he was happy. The TV was on and Ada decided to cuddle up with Dad. I followed Gus around the house attempting to keep him out of trouble. He finally settled down a bit before 8 after jumping on furniture, putting things he’s not supposed to in his mouth, and squealing and running around.
8:00 – 8:30 PM – BEDTIME Gus still sleeps in a crib. That’s our only way to keep him safe and contained at night. I am positive he could crawl out if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. Thank goodness. He is getting really big for his crib, but it’s still working so far. Putting Gus to bed consists of changing his diaper, finding his blankey, and taking his chewelry off. He HAS to have that blankey at bedtime. I would hate to know how many hours of Dane, Ada, and my lives have been spent looking for that blankey at bedtime. Gus is put in his crib with a sippy of water and his blankey, pillows, blanket, and stuffed animals. Gus usually stays up jumping, jumping, and jumping in his crib. He also bites his crib railing now. We have to keep his crib pulled away from the wall and his bookshelf or he will bang his crib against the wall and grab anything he can off of his bookshelf. Sometimes, he falls asleep fairly quickly (like in 30 to 60 minutes). Sometimes, he stays awake until the wee hours of the morning. We are all used to this, and thankfully he’s happy just doing his thing. Dane and I refer to it as “Gus being up partying all night”. This comes and goes and is just a part of who he is. This Wednesday was stressful enough that he was out fairly quickly. Ada insisted upon sleeping on her bedroom floor. Ok. Whatever. She was out of her room several times for various reasons.
8:30 – DAY’S END – Dane, thankfully, agreed to get some supper made. I ate supper and decided to go to bed. Ada was still wide awake. She eventually ventured into Dane and my room and laid down with me. I have no idea if or when she fell asleep. I woke up at one point and she wasn’t there. Apparently, she had ventured back to her room and went to sleep.
UPDATES/PROGRESS – shortlist Ada turned FOUR on the 28th of March. Gus seems to like the color green. He is interested in any green animal. Ex: Snakes, alligators, birds, frogs, etc Gus now says “SH” when he sees fish. Gus will sometimes whisper “go” when we use “ready…set………” Gus says “ca” or sometimes “cat” when he sees one. Gus is still very interested in cars and will say “car”. We have discovered he tends to whisper when attempting to speak and not just making noise. He says “da” and “dada” on occasion. He is getting better about saying at least the first letter of some words. We are still using PECS and he is making some progress with this, although it’s still not his favorite or preferred method of communicating. We had to put a child lock on the pantry to keep Gus out of it. He says “ssss” when he sees a snake. He is responding to certain phrases such as “no throw”, “good walking”, “walking feet”, “no fall”, “stand up”. He is doing a lot better with eye contact. He is doing better having “good walking feet”, as in he doesn’t randomly lay down on the ground as often. He is realizing he needs to hold someone’s hand before taking off after we get out of the car, and will often even reach for my or Dane’s hand. He is getting better at attempting to help when dressing him in the morning. There is much, much, more but nothing more I have the time to explain.
THERAPY Gus receives therapy 4 days a week. Gus is being evaluated for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy this coming Monday in Sioux Falls.