Friday, November 28, 2014

How big is a crowd?

Will and I have always noticed Max hates crowds, large gatherings and events with a lot of noise. 
His first birthday was loud, the singing made him cry, there were way to many people, and all the attention was on him.  Disaster. 
Last year on the Fourth of July Max was really shaken up by the fireworks, the loud noise, and all the lights.  We learned our lesson.  He doesn't like surprises.  He doesn't like when he doesn't know people in big crowds.  This has actually gotten worse as he gets older. 
Holidays are hard.  He knows something exciting is happening.  He knows there is an increased excitement, and that overwhelms him instead of making him excited.  Most kids would find excitement in the different schedule, the anticipation of a party or family gathering.  It gives Max extreme anxiety.  Most of the time at a party you will find Max playing by himself in a room where it is quiet. 
A few weeks ago we went to a good friends house for their sweet daughters first birthday party.  Max knew most of the people there.  But it was a new house and it was loud for Max.  They had a great play room that was off to the side and Max stayed there the whole time.  He doesn't eat cake, so to him he didn't miss anything. 
Max likes routine.  He likes Gerald to be close by.  He likes to know his blankets are near.  He likes being home.  He likes his cars, trains and trucks.  He is very particular with how he eats and how he drinks his milk and apple juice.  He has OCD tendencies and gets very overwhelmed and upset when something isn't part of the normal routine. 
Gerald, Blanket, and Mickey Blanket.
Max likes driving in the car.  He likes being in his car seat.  It is tight and safe.  He could drive around for hours.  He loves pointing out all the trucks on the highway.  It is familiar and safe.  We actually have started taking him for drives when the day has been hard.  
The focus is astounding. 
 Things we have learned that help Max:
-If we are going somewhere new we will let the people know that we might not be able to stay long, or even make it into the house.  Most people have been very understanding and have offered help when needed. 
-We talk to those who are at the party and let them know that Max will most likely be on his own planet, but he is okay and he isn't trying to be rude.  He is trying to figure out how to make himself feel comfortable. 
-We bring Gerald and Blankets to all new places.
-We always have a cup of chocolate milk or apple juice. 
-Talking to Max a few days in advance about what will happen does help.  For example we watched Curious George Halloween everyday for the whole month of October so Max would understand Halloween.  And it worked for the trick or treating part, which we thought was actually going to be the hardest part of the day. 
-We now can notice signs of him being overwhelmed before he gets to the tantrum, out of control, crying behaviors.  And when we notice these signs we leave, or remove him from the activity, place we are at, etc. 
-We avoid certain stores, times of the day to go out, and places where a lot of people are gathered.  Max loves walking around the mall but doesn't like it when it is crowded.  So we go during the day, when it is almost empty. 

We adjust.  We learn.  Sometimes we are shocked at how good he is handling a situation, and other times we realize that we made a mistake and shouldn't have brought Max into an environment that worries him, or gives him anxiety.  

And we laugh.  A lot.  Because Max is learning how to be himself, with all his quirks, and it is funny.
One Singular Sensation.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Max's first week at Giant Steps

Max started Giant Steps Preschool this Wednesday. 
I was very nervous to send him but knew it was the exact place he should be at. 
Giant Steps is a Government Funded Preschool specifically for those children age 3-5 with Autism.  I put Max on the waiting list last January and never thought he would get in.  There are 131 children in Utah County on the waiting list.  That is a lot of children.  There are three Giant Step Classes in Utah county and each class has 12 students. 

Max attends school Tuesday - Friday from 9am-3:30pm.  It is a long day, but worth it.  He gets one-on-one Therapy three times a day, plus Music Therapy, Physical Therapy, Computer and Speech Therapy, and even Food Therapy.  The day is packed, and busy. 

My biggest concern was Lunch time.  Max doesn't eat much in the way of solid foods.  We were told to pack a bunch of different foods that he is tried or even liked in the past.  The first day he hardly ate anything.  When he came home is drank two full sippy cups full of carnation instant breakfast.  Max only drinks out of a specific sippy cup.  And if we get him to eat one piece of solid food during the day we call it a good eating day.  He mostly drinks his diet of Chocolate milk and apple juice.  And YES we have tried everything, we have done everything and made anything he wants to get him to eat solid foods.  It is a texture issue and with some therapy and help outside our home we are hoping for an improvement.  So after three full days he started eating more and more.  I know he is hungry!!

Each day we drop Max off at 9am.  He can't be late.  They are on a very strict schedule.  And right at 3:30 Max is done and waiting for us outside the building.  The parents don't go inside.  Max doesn't bring in Gerald.  And he walks in with the help of an Aide.  It is all a system, and it is wonderful for a child who is Autistic. 

We got back the testing this past week and although I am not going to share his test scores, because in the scheme of things they don't matter.  We know he is Autistic, and the testing just confirms that.  But we do have a better understanding about where developmentally he is.  His speech is the most delayed, and soon Dexter and Max will catch up to each other in the way of speech development.  He is more sever in a few areas, and we will work with the Giant Steps teachers to help him in these specific areas. 

The first day I texted his teacher and she was so nice to send us pictures and text us back at lunch and share how he was doing.  They also send home a progress note daily that shares with us how he did during his Therapy Sessions.  So the "What did you do at school today?" question is answered each day by this progress note. 

Progress Report

So far so good.  Will and I are extremely happy with the choice we made.  It was made with prayer and guidance from Heavenly Father and I know he is watching over Max.  We are also overwhelmed by the support of friends and family.  Thank you so much for the notes, text messages, emails and phone calls asking how Max was this week.  We are so blessed to have such a great support system. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

School Changes

Max has some big school changes coming in the next few weeks.
This decision was one Will and I had to make with tons of thought, research and of course prayer.
We want to give Max access to the best education for him.  We want him to learn and grow in an environment that will nurture him. We are just like any other parent, we want the best for our child.  I think being a teacher has really opened my eyes to realize that children all learn VERY differently.  And my child is no exception.  And as his parent I want to make sure I am putting him in a school that will help him reach his own potential.

Currently Max is at Sunrise Pre-school in Provo.  It has been great for him.  But he needs more.  We have noticed growth but we have also noticed a plateau in his learning.  His teacher talked to me two weeks ago and she agrees.  Sunrise is a school for children with developmental delays.  They don't specialize in Autism.  They don't do some of the proven therapies that would help Max thrive.
Will and I started researching and finding out about our options.
Last year we put Max on the waiting list for a program called Giant Steps. And I honestly forgot about it because I was told that he might never get in.  The waiting list was very long.
Giant Steps is a preschool for Autistic children.  The main school is in Orem, but they started an extension program for 12 students in Provo.  And fortunately for Max there is a spot open!  We have a home visit to see if Max would be a good fit.  Giant Steps is an intense program.  He would go to school 4 days a week for 6 hours.  This is a lot of school, but it is also a lot of therapy that Will and I couldn't provide at home.  This program is also free and the state of Utah provides funding for the program.

Another option is a school called Clear Horizons.  It is a Private School in Orem specifically built for Autistic Children Pre-school to 17 years old.  We went on a tour on Friday and Will and I were very impressed.  They have a new Principal and he seems to be great at his job.  The facility is beautiful and Max would benefit from all of the technology, tools, and sensory rooms that the school provides.  The hard part is that it is a private school and therefore it has a tuition.  The tuition is expensive and not something we have in our budget right now, but we are hoping that in the future we can get Max into Clear Horizons.

I want to write more about the different therapies in another post.

These therapies include:
  • Principals of Learning and Behavior Modification such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
  • Attending Leveling (taken from “Getting Ready to Learn” model) and Curriculum Progress
  • Principals of Greenspan’s FloorTime/DIR
  • Basic principles of TEACCH (picture schedules)
  • Alternative Communication Methods such as simple Sign Language or the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Social Stories
But right now we are praying a lot and figuring out the best place for Max.