Navigating marriage, motherhood, a child with special needs, work, a social life, and life's ups and downs with faith intact.
Category Applied Behavior Analysis
Tearful, tantrum-filled goodbyes are common during a child’s earliest years. Around the first birthday, many kids develop separation anxiety, getting upset when a parent tries to leave them with someone else. Though separation anxiety is a perfectly normal part of childhood development, it can be unsettling.
Separation anxiety rears its head most often at the 8-month to 1-year-old mark; give or take. At first, most parent’s find it unsettling, and often feel just as upset as their little one. Later on, it becomes more of an inconvenience. They all eventually grow out of it, though.
My 4-year-old daughter is most definitely a mama’s girl. She went through separation anxiety as an infant, and again pretty significantly when she first started daycare. I expected as much, and was totally prepared to deal with it the best I could. While it was hard on both of us, it also made me realize and feel just how deeply we were connected, even at her young age. There is nothing like the love for and the love from your child. Nothing.
My now 3-year-old son was/is a totally different story. As an infant, he cried when he was hungry or had a physical need, but he had no reaction or preference to who it was that fulfilled that need. He would happily sit with or engage with anyone. He never once fussed when I left him somewhere; not even his first day of daycare. He always seemed to be in his own world and really didn’t care who was around, as long as his needs were met. He never really made eye contact with anyone, and never had any reaction to someone saying his name. It was often near impossible to get his attention. As time went on, this was all definitely a BIG red flag.
We expressed our concerns to his doctor, and he was eventually diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder.
Did I worry about whether my son and I truly had a connection? Of course I did. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t have the thought at least cross their mind. I was in no way being shown that I was anything other than a service provider for him. That’s hard to type, and hard to admit, but I want to be completely transparent. It in no way changed how I felt about him though; NO WAY. He was still a part of me and his father. Although he was different from my other child, he was chosen to be mine. He needed me, and I needed him.
My son is a “seeker”. This comes along with his diagnosis of sensory processing disorder, which is a diagnosis that very often goes hand-in-hand with autism spectrum disorder. His senses do not appropriately process the input of things (ex: smell, taste, pressure, sight/light, etc.). A seeker is seeking more input; more pressure, more light, more noise, more taste. Therefore, my son loves to rub on or against anything. He slams into things. He chews on any and everything. He spins. He flaps. He squeals. He licks. He jumps and jumps and jumps. He likes to push his head against things. He likes to be squeezed (on his terms). He likes to rock back and forth. He likes to feel and squish his food. He likes to take his food out of his mouth after it’s chewed. He likes to do anything that provides him with sensory input. Therefore, he is very accepting of hugs and sitting near people for sensory input. He will even wrap his little arms around my neck and return a hug. For this, I am very thankful. He will even let me kiss his cheeks. As he becomes older and more aware, these hugs and kisses mean more and more because they are reciprocated and not just appreciated for the sensory input. In those times of struggling to feel connected, his sensory seeking was a welcome recourse.
The opposite of a “seeker” is an “avoider”. An avoider avoids all forms of sensory input and attempts to lessen input. For example, they may plug their ears or need headphones to deal with loud noises. They often have aversion to certain textures and feelings. They like to do anything that provides them an escape from sensory input.
It is actually possible to have the tendencies of both a seeker and an avoider. For instance, my son is definitely a seeker, but he does have some avoider tendencies with certain textures. He has a huge aversion to Play-Doh and putty type textures, which we have been working on. He also has an aversion to smooth textures of food such as yogurt, mashed potatoes, etc. We are working on this as well.
Now that you have all of the backstory information, I can share what I’m actually here to share…
A few weeks ago, during my son’s ABA therapy session, there was a new registered behavior technician (RBT) working with him. His ABA therapist was also present and observing the session. I was in the waiting room.
After a while, his ABA therapist asked me to come outside where they were playing on the playground equipment because my son was upset. I got outside and got his attention and he stopped crying and was no longer upset.
It turns out that his ABA therapist had left the room to go get something during the session, and once she left him alone with the RBT, he got upset. Once the therapist returned, they still could not get him calmed down, so they tried taking him outside to play without success.
For the first time ever, my son had a case of separation anxiety. He was not familiar with the RBT yet, and his therapist he sees 3x a week wasn’t around, and he realized it. You guys, THIS. IS. HUGE. My son has become aware enough that he is noticing who is around him. He missed me, and I was able to make him feel better with just my presence, which has NEVER happened in the past. This is a milestone. This is big for his safety as well. I always worried about him (still do) because he is so friendly and has ZERO stranger danger and no awareness of danger in general. We are seeing a step in the right direction now. I hope his awareness continues to improve.
The thing with autism, is that often those diagnosed reach milestones at a much slower pace IF they ever even meet certain milestones. Therefore, we never know what to expect, but it sure makes it all the more exciting when one of the milestones is hit.
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.
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.
I will never forget Monday, October 15th, 2018 – My son’s long awaited Autism Evaluation at a LifeScape center in Sioux Falls, SD. I will never forget because this day made everything “official” and really “real”. I truly didn’t hear much I didn’t already know in my heart, but it’s still different to hear it come out of the mouths of medical professionals highly trained in the field.
Nonverbal moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder level 2.
Sensory Processing Disorder.
Not involving or using words or speech.
WHAT IS AUTISM ?
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that impacts the development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communications skills, and learning. Autism is a part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
The DSM-5 notes those with level 2 autism require substantial support. The symptoms associated with this level include a more severe lack of both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. This often makes daily activities difficult.
Common Level 2 Symptoms:
difficulty coping with change to routine or surroundings
significant lack of verbal and nonverbal communication skills
behavior issues severe enough to be obvious to the casual observer
unusual or reduced response to social cues, communication, or interactions
trouble adapting to change
communication using overly simple sentences
narrow, specific interests
SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
SPD is a dysfunction in the way the nervous system receives messages from the sensory system, and turns them into motor or behavioral responses. Misinterpretation of everyday sensory information like touch, smell, taste, and movement are indications of sensory processing disorder. Research shows that as many as 1 in 6 children experiences sensory symptoms signification enough to affect aspects of everyday activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, playing, and learning.
It’s a lot to take in…A LOT. I absolutely adored the team that did the evaluation. The team consisted of a psychologist, a speech/language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a graduate student, and a high school student. They were so knowledgeable and such kind and fun people. After the actual evaluation, we sat at a big table with everyone present and each specialist took the time to explain their findings and their thoughts on diagnosis. My husband and I were allowed to ask anything we wanted.
In addition to the above listed diagnoses, it is also recommended that my husband and I consider a dysphagia evaluation to address some oral issues.
It was recommended that therapies be increased by A LOT. Right now, we are doing joint occupational therapy (OT) and speech therapy sessions for a half hour once weekly. It is recommended that we increase therapy to a minimum of 2x weekly with OT and speech therapies separate. I completely agree with this plan. It is also recommended that we utilize both the South Dakota Birth to 3 Program as well as outpatient therapy at LifeScape in Rapid City, SD. This is what we wanted all along…
MY FIRST LESSON IN ADVOCACY
This is what we wanted all along…I explained to the team in Sioux Falls that when we first started therapy before the official diagnosis, we had informed LifeScape in Rapid City that we wanted to do therapy with them most of all, no matter what, and would even choose their services over Birth to 3 (which is FREE). I played phone tag with LifeScape Rapid City, and I talked to several different individuals. We were told we would be put on the schedule for OT and speech therapy at LifeScape, and even went over what days and times would work best for us and them. I never heard back and never heard back. So, I finally called them. Again, I was kind of given the runaround, but told they would talk to the person in scheduling and get things going. Then, I randomly received a phone call from someone in scheduling. She stated: “It looks like you qualify for Birth to 3 and should be able to receive all of the services you need. Congratulations.” (click…hangs up) I have to admit, at that point I just kind of gave up. I more than got the impression that they preferred we just do Birth to 3. I know there are waiting lists, and I know Birth to 3 is free, BUT I want what I feel is best for MY child. I loved the therapists we saw at LifeScape in Rapid City when my son was seen for his therapy evaluations. The therapists were more than happy that we wanted our son to be seen there. It seemed to be scheduling that thought otherwise. Anyway, I learned my lesson. I have to PUSH and SHOVE and SHOUT and RELENTLESSLY work and NEVER TIRE to make sure my son gets the therapy, care, and support that my husband and I feel he needs and deserves. The therapists at LifeScape in Sioux Falls really helped me to see that. In fact, they said they would call and talk to the head person of LifeScape to make sure that those at the Rapid City branch are made aware of the situation. (All of the LifeScape centers are connected.)
I am actively working on getting us a social worker or some kind of advocate to sit in on meetings and such and to help advocate for Augustus, as well as help us know what’s out there in the way of help and support.
With early intervention the outlook always improves. Unfortunately, with autism there really is no outlook per se. A word they actually use with autism (other than spectrum) is fluid. The autism level is actually fluid. Once my son is ready to start school, he may actually bump up to a level 3 as he is faced with new and difficult tasks, and may really struggle even worse than he does now. It is also possible that he could really grasp things in therapy, and for a while maybe even be at a lower level 2 or even a high 1. There are no answers. There is truly no outlook. I don’t know if I will ever hear my child speak a word, call me mom, tell me he loves me, tell me what he needs. I don’t know if he will ever be able to live on his own, use a toilet, be able to dress himself, have a job, have a family. That’s why I try not to waste my time worrying about the future. I want to enjoy the now and see where things take us. Otherwise, life would be full of worry, fear, and misery.
We will obviously be traveling a lot, and spending a lot of time in therapy. I’m not exactly sure what that means for us. It’s just one of those things we will have to deal with once everything is scheduled. The specialists on the team in Sioux Falls at the evaluation actually said one of their recommendations was for our family to move to Sioux Falls so they could work with my son, as they truly enjoyed him. Don’t think the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. I love where I live, and have never really had much desire to live in a bigger city, especially once starting a family…until now. Granted, that desire is only at about a 1%. You can bet your sweet butt I would do anything to make sure my kids have what’s best for them. That’s why nothing is ever off the table. No, we have no plans of moving right now; none at all. It was brought up, but not seen as being a necessity. Things will be wild and crazy for a while, but then it will become “our normal”. Therapy is always changing and adapting to where the child is at. Therefore, at any time, it could become more or less extensive. We shall see.
It is also highly recommended that we seek out Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and/or Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) therapies. These therapies are not offered at the LifeScape center in Rapid City, SD. Therefore, we are going to attempt to find another place to acquire these services in Rapid City, SD.
I’m sure there are plenty of words and things you may have never heard or do not understand throughout this blog. You’re not alone. I’m learning as I go. I have no choice. Never hesitate to ask. If you’re curious about something or don’t understand something, ask. I am all about advocating and educating.
That’s all for now, friends. I could go on forever. I hope you find these posts helpful or at least entertaining in some way.