My Only Child(ren) – Part 1

This blog post started as one thing and kind of morphed into another. Therefore, I will make this part 1 of more posts to shared at a later date.

Background History

My husband and I experienced fertility problems, and tried for a very long time to conceive our first child. With the help of a fertility specialist, and fertility drugs, we were finally able to conceive and welcomed a baby girl; now a clever and sassy 4-year-old preschooler. We were told our chances of conceiving again (naturally) were VERY slim, and that if we ever decided we wanted another child that we would most likely have to go about the same route we had with the fertility treatments, and that birth control wasn’t necessary if we were okay with potentially conceiving again, although very unlikely.

I so cherished those first months with my baby girl, and even quit my job and decided to stay home with her full-time no matter what sacrifices had to be made to do so. I knew that this would likely be my only child, and children were my dream and passion always. I was so blessed.

My husband and I left for a weekend getaway for our 6th wedding anniversary and left our 6-month-old baby girl overnight for the very first time. Lo and behold, about a month after this weekend getaway, I found out I was pregnant! I was absolutely SHOCKED, awestruck, taken aback, and even scared. I had no idea what my husband would think, as we (mainly he) had sacrificed a lot for me to be able to stay home with our firstborn, and things were not easy financially. Long story short, he was totally surprised and happy and the supportive husband I so needed.

My second pregnancy was really tough on me physically and emotionally. I had a lot of back issues and was trying my best to be my best for my babygirl. My body wasn’t even close to being back to feeling “normal” at just 6 months postpartum, and I definitely wasn’t even close to being emotionally back to “normal” learning to be a new mom and then having the crazy tiredness and hormones of early pregnancy on top of it.

Trust me, I know that people have children close together all the time, and it’s not that big of a deal. It was just such a shock to my system, as I was basically convinced I would only have one child in hopes of maybe trying for another years down the road.

After the initial shock I was very excited and so looked forward to adding another to our little family. I was even more excited once we learned our newest addition was a little boy. How perfect!

Just fourteen months after the birth of my first, I was holding my second born in my arms.

It wasn’t easy, as my oldest was not yet walking, and many a day I had one in a baby carrier and one in my arms; two cribs, double the diapers, and very, very little sleep. Little did I know, this wouldn’t even be the hard part. The hard part was yet to come.

I always heard from others that having children close in age was extremely hard in the beginning, but would become much easier once they were older, as they would be close friends and a huge help to eachother.

I looked forward to this. I couldn’t wait to see them play together and hear them giggle and chat in the adorable way young children do.

My little girl has always been a talker and still is. She started talking early and this seems to only increase seemingly by the day. I am serious in telling you that I have never ever met a child as articulate and chatty as this little girl.

My son, at first, was an overachiever it seemed. He was rolling over onto his belly at just two weeks old. He took to crawling earlier than his older sister had, although did take his time to start walking; just like his sister.

He started jabbering and before we knew it was saying words. The word he said I remember most was “grandma”.

To be honest, I took this time for granted. I was busy, things seemed to be progressing as they should. I just assumed we were on our way to hearing his cute little voice on the regular.

While I cannot remember an exact time (an estimated guess is all I can give), when he was somewhere around 14 or 15-months-old I began to notice he quit saying words, like completely. I always just thought he was “a man of few words” and liked to keep quiet since his sister did plenty of talking for the both of them, and then some.

Also of note was just how wild and active he really was. I kept getting the speel “he’s just a boy“. At first, I took this to heart. I am from a family of all sisters and primarily female cousins. I hadn’t a clue about what to expect from a male child. After a while, though, it just seemed unreal, out of control to me. He was always, always into something; fearlessly climbing and jumping, wrestling, head-butting, you name it. Fearless.

He was the absolute messiest eater I had ever seen. I felt like I needed a pressure washer for the highchair and kitchen after every meal and snack. He would squish food, rub it all over himself and his surroundings, throw it, all of that and then some. It seemed to only get worse over time.

He was an eater! He was born ready to eat and kept up that appetite from that moment on. His appetite has never changed. He often eats more than I do in a day. The thing is, he began to be particular about what he would accept and eat, which was a pretty sudden and significant change. (see this previous post.)

Then, it was if he had never known his name. I say this because he virtually stopped responding to his name entirely. It was near impossible to get his attention. I was really starting to get concerned. While he was still happy, healthy, and extraordinarily wild, things seemed to be regressing.

A lot of things went through my mind. All of those words we hear, but choose not to acknowledge until we really have to: regression, developmental delays, ADD, ADHD, autism, mental illness, etc…(see previous post)

I KNEW something was wrong and had been for a while. My mommy heart KNEW.

The straw that broke the camel’s back (so to speak), and really made me accept that we needed to look into things, was when he started jumping and flapping his hands (aka stimming).

I had basically already diagnosed him myself before he was even 18-months-old. That seems crazy, but since I had just been through seeing the milestones of his older sister, it was pretty easy to see where things weren’t even close to the same as they were with her. I, in fact, called his primary care physician and raised my concerns. The doctor was fairly skeptical, and I could tell he thought I was just overreacting, as I have always been a very observant and concerned parent. He did reassure me that he was sure I knew best, but that we just as well wait until his 18-month-Well-Child exam, since most times diagnoses of delays and such weren’t even done until the child was a bit older, anyway.

I made an entire written list of my concerns for the doctor before our visit. To say he was impressed by my observations is an understatement. To this day, he still praises my attentiveness and early intervention.

I will save you the story of the specifics of diagnoses (it’s quite a process and a real headache), but just after my son turned 2-years-old, he was diagnosed with nonverbal autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder. While I was totally expecting this, it was different once it was actually on paper. The silver lining of it being on paper, was that now we could seek out resources and help at the very susceptible and tender age of two. Early intervention is key.

Needless to say (type), I have yet to experience my children having a verbal conversation, or to see them playing in a traditional manner.

Balancing the act of raising a neurotypical child and a child with autism so close in age is THE REAL CHALLENGE.

To be continued…

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.

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sep-anxiety.html

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.

Here’s to milestones and inchstones.

– AMomsFaithUnbroken

Separation Anxiety

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.

THE DIAGNOSIS

  • Nonverbal moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder level 2.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder.

NONVERBAL:

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).

LEVEL 2:

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

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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.

sensory-processing-disorder-11-638Signs-of-Sensory-Integration-Disorder-

PLAN

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.

OUTLOOK

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.

Peace & Love,
– AMomsFaithUnbroken

DIAGNOSED