Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thank you Giant Steps - Year 1.

Words can't describe how blessed Will and I feel to have Giant Steps Preschool in our life.  Max started Giant Steps in November 2014 and has made amazing progress since then.  Early intervention is so important when a child is diagnosed with Autism.  It helps build a foundation for the future and gives the child coping skills they will use for the rest of their lives.  Giant Steps is amazing, and I am so happy Max has another year left in the program.  Giant Steps helped Will and I enter his world, and boy are we glad we did!  It is one amazing world to be a part of. 

What a difference 8 months has made:
-Max can now say over 50 words and makes some two-word statements.  In the beginning of November Max was almost non-verbal. 
-His tantrums have decrease tremendously. 
-He has inflection in his voice. 
-He can say names including his own, some friends, close family, and his teachers. 
-He is 80% potty-trained.
-He will look you in the eye when asked. 
-He loves school!  (Even though some days drop off still is hard and there are tears.)
-He is more confident.
-He is eating a little better.  He still mostly has a liquid diet, but has done a food program at school and will at least lick new foods.  
-He has friends at school and knows their names. 
-He knows how to follow directions with multiple steps.
-Knows when to use "please" and "thank you" and "sorry".

We are working on:
-Dressing himself.
-Potty training at home.
-Not running away. 
-Asking for things using "Can I...?"
-Drinking from a regular cup. 
-Writing letters and cutting with scissors.  (He is left handed like his Grandma Strong!)

This summer Max will be attending the Giant Steps Summer Program two days a week in July.  We are going to try our hardest to keep Max on a schedule.  *Try* is the key word.  

A few of Max's amazing teachers who we love so much:

This is Amber, the Autism Specialist in Max's class.  She is amazing and has helped our whole family. 

This next year Will and I have been made Co-Chairs of "Friends of Giant Steps" (FOGS), which is a non-profit organization that provides support for the Giant Steps Preschool.  We are both nervous and excited to have the opportunity to serve the program.  We are very proud to be a part of such an amazing organization, and we have blessed with so much love and friendships.  Wish us luck!  And when the Charity Auction comes around in March 2016 I hope to see you there!  We would love your support. 
If you would like to stay up to date on Giant Steps Events make sure to "Like" the FOGS facebook page:  Link here.  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Anxiety and Therapy Animals

I am an overly anxious person.  I am not afraid to admit that I take medication for my anxiety and have for years.  It helps me sleep and be a happier person overall. 

I never realized how anxiety can effect a child.  Especially when a child can't vocalize what they are feeling.  Max's anxiety has gone up a lot in the last six months.  It is effecting his school performance, and also how he reacts at home.  Autism and anxiety actually go hand in hand, so does ADHD, ADD, and Sensory Processing Disorder.  This is not saying that if you have one you have them all, it is just common that with Autism another side effect could be one of them. 

I love how it is explained in this article from Autism Speaks:
Children with autism express anxiety or nervousness in many of the same ways as typically developing children do. We often see separation anxiety, for example, when children must part with trusted parents or caregivers to go to school or camp. Many children worry and become preoccupied with challenges such as homework, friends or health issues. These issues commonly affect both children with and without autism. However, social anxiety – or a fear of new people and social situations – is especially common among kids with autism.
If your child suffers from anxiety, he may experience strong internal sensations of tension. This can include a racing heart, muscular tensions, sweating and stomachache. Intense anxiety can result in repetitive behaviors that appear to serve no function, such as shredding paper or clothing.
Of course individuals with ASD often have trouble communicating verbally. So outward manifestations of anxiety may be the only clue that something is bothering them. Some researchers also suspect that outward, physical symptoms of anxiety may be especially prominent among those with ASD.

I do a lot of research daily and read as much as I can about Autism.  It is fascinating to me.  I know as a mother and also a teacher it really helps me to be informed and to learn as much as I can so that I can best care for my child.  A few months ago Autism Speaks had a article about how animals help with Autism and Anxiety.  (This is the original article I read via Huffington Post) I talked to Will about the idea of getting a pet for Max.  We have fish, and to be honest, they are boring.  Max hasn't bonded over them.  He has put things in the fish tank a few times to "share" but they don't really do anything for his anxiety.  I started looking into a kitten.  I wanted something that was for Max, that we could help him learn with, that he could help care for, and could be an instant friend.  Therapy animals also help with social skills and making friends. 
I read a lot about therapy animals, specifically cats, talked to other mom's about animals and having a therapy animal in our condo, and felt so good about it.  Will and I talked to Will's parents, and they agreed that it would be okay for us to have a kitten for Max. 

Three weeks ago one of our friends posted on facebook that they just had a new litter of kittens.  It was perfect timing.  And I fell in love with a white and gray kitty they posted a picture of!  Will and I set up a time to come look at the kittens, and the very next day we brought home our kitty home.

Introducing:  The Magnificent Marvelous Mad Madam Mim.  We call her Mim for short. She is named after one of our favorite villains in Sword in the Stone. 

She is so tiny, has the cutest little nose and little kitten meow.  She is very loved.  Max adores her and has since she was introduced to him. 

The first night she was with us she snuggled up to Max and went to sleep next to him. 

When Max gets up in the morning Mim is the first person he looks for, when he gets home from school Mim is the only thing he cares about, and at school his teacher told us all week Mim has been a very popular topic of conversation.  He calls her "My kitty Mim" and I am really excited to see how much she helps our whole family. 
 He has even shared Gerald with her.  That means it is true love. 

Other interesting articles about Therapy animals not only for Autism for specifically for Anxiety: