Thursday, August 27, 2015

Every Child is Different

Every single child is different. 
They learn different. 
They each have unique qualities that make their individual personalities. 
They react to situations differently.
And over the past four years of being a mom I have learned that both of my children are as different as they come. 
But one thing is for certain they both crave love.  They want to be understood and loved.  And it is my hope that Will and I are doing that for both of them. 

When Dexter was born two years ago both Will and I knew Max and Dexter would have a close bond.  Will witnessed one of the cutest events when Dexter was just a day old.  Dexter had some breathing issues at birth and was in the nursery receiving oxygen.  When Max came to the hospital to meet Dexter, Will went to the nursery to get him.  Will leaned into Dexter's bassinet and said "Time to go meet your brother."  And Dexter smiled big and proud.  He knew how much he already loved him.  Max at the time wasn't expressing many emotions but as soon as Dexter was brought in the room Max put all his cars straight into his bassinet.  Brotherly love is deep with these two!

Dexter has had sleeping issues since birth.  And we have seen so many specialist and had so much advice given to us about sleep.  I have followed my mommy gut on a lot of decisions.  We as a family do not believe in the cry it out method.  Plus Dexter was physically hurting himself at night if he was left to scream and cry.  He would go into full panic mode, and has had many bruises to prove it.  He has never slept through the night and wakes up anywhere between 3-8 times.   
Dexter still nurses and that really has been a blessing.  It is the only thing that calms him.  And on really bad nights even nursing won't settle him down. 

Dexter also has sensitivity to noise.  Especially deep noises, or loud pitches.  This past weekend we were in Salt Lake with my Dad and we ate at Kneeders.  Every once in a while a high pitch beep would be heard from the kitchen.  Dexter would whimper and cover his ears. 

Dexter is very smart.  I know, I know I am his mom but I have never met another 2 year old that knows the alphabet upper and lower case, his numbers 1-20 (can say them and recognize them) and has now started to realize that letters form words.  He has known his letters since about 18 months or even earlier.  It has become a huge obsession just like Max's obsession with trains and wheels. 

About nine months ago we started noticing some concerning signs with Dexter.  Some were the same that we saw with Max and some were very different.  We talked to Max's teacher and also to our pediatrician and determinded that we needed to get him evaluated for Autism and Anxiety disorder.  The process has changed in the past 18 months because of insurance companies taking a more active roll in Autism treatments, which is a good thing, but makes the process long.

This past Monday we went to our final meeting with our case worker and psychiatrist.  And it was determined from all the testing we have done over the past few months that Dexter has a speech delay, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), anxiety disorder, and has Autism Spectrum Disorder. This was not a shock to Will or I, but it is still a diagnosis you don't wish upon your child.  We are prepared for the life that this means for our family with two special needs children. We have already started fighting for Dexter just like we do for Max.
We are very grateful for our family and friends who love, support, and listen to us on the hard days.  Thank you.  It truly takes a village.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Conquering fears

Last summer when my Dad came to visit we went to Park City and decided to give the Alpine Coaster a try.  We thought Max would love it because it is a car/train that you get to ride in.  Little did we know that after waiting in a line for 90 minutes Max would panic once it was his turn for a ride.  You can read about that experience here

This past weekend was a whole different story.  My dad came to visit and we again went to Park City to see if Max would try the Alpine slide and then the Alpine Coaster.  We had no expectations, we just knew once he got on he would love the whole experience.  His brother Dexter is a dare devil and we knew he would want to ride everything also. 

We went on a weekday and during school hours so the park wasn't crowded.  We did the Alpine Slide first.  We road the ski lifts up to the top of the mountain.  Max did GREAT on the ski lift.  He was excited and kept saying "so high" and "look train!"

The Alpine Slide was a huge hit.  I think I was more nervous than Max was.  He sang "Mickey Mouse Road Rally" the whole way down at the top of his lungs.  Will and I were singing along and cracking up. Max was so happy and had no care in the world.  It was awesome!
When we got to the bottom Max immediately wanted to "do it again!" This time we bought tickets for the Alpine Coaster.  This was the same ride that last year he was scared and didn't want ride.  The line was short.  It was only about a 30 minute wait.  When we got to the front of the line we asked Max what color car he wanted to sit in.  He said blue.  Then we asked who he wanted to ride with?  He said "Ride with Poppi!"  I had tears in my eyes, I was so proud of him.  We all rode the coaster, and the whole time my dad said Max was saying "Poppi go faster!"  When the ride was done he screamed "That was AMAZING!"  I didn't even know he knew that word. 

I realize that him being scared is more of an age thing rather than an Autism issue.  I know that being scared is a normal life feeling.  But the fact that he is feeling is what makes this whole event so special.  He is recognizing his own feelings.  He knows when he is excited, happy, and scared and more importantly can express these feelings.  Expressive language is something that children on the autism spectrum really struggle with.  They need to be taught how to appropriately express feelings and not just tantrum or scream.  Max made me so proud this past weekend.  And I can't wait to ride the coaster again!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

iPads and Autism

Hi, it's the dad again. My name is Will.


It's not a secret that tablet computers are great learning tools for kids with ASD. It's been reported on many times. There are even really boring scholarly articles written about it.

I want to give a shout out to some of the best learning apps I've come across. Max and Dexter both love these apps. You should check them out for your kids wether they are on the spectrum or not. Really good stuff here.

Endless Alphabet: I can't say enough about how great this app is. It teaches letters and vocabulary. It is beautifully designed and animated. And it has TONS of personality and fun. Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader, Endless Numbers, Endless Word Play. Get them all. Seriously.

Loopimal: This one teaches cause and effect relationships. And it's crazy fun. I'll even play with it sometimes. It's kind of brilliant.

Sago Mini Space Explorer: There are a whole bunch great of apps made by Sago Mini but my kids' favorite is the Space Explorer. They can be a bit pricey but if you watch you can find them on sale or in discount bundles. A lot of people would say that these apps are "just for fun" and aren't really "educational." But those people are dumb and don't understand just how important fun is in the life of a child.

These apps are great for any young child really. Check them out.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Potty Training - a pain in the butt.

I loath potty training. 
I don't hate a lot of things, but potty trianing is high on my list. 
Luckily I have a very patient husband who has been relentless this summer. 

Max doesn't have a "treat" he likes.  He actualy has made a drastic turn for the worse when it comes to food.  He only drinks his meals.  (Another post about food at a later time)

Potty training has been rought for Max.  And for Mom.  It stressed us both out. 
He doesn't really sense he has to go.  He needed a pattern.  I was still working during the year and felt like I wasn't a big help at all.  I felt really guilty about that.  
We started at school. His teachers were amazing and got him on a great potty schedule.  And once he mastered school we really started working on potty training at home.  We tried to have him on a schedule, we tried to use a sticker system, we tried so many things, but nothing worked.  We were all getting frustrated and upset.  So we stopped.  That was in the beginning of June. 

Max then went to summer camp at Giant Steps two days a week.  And there again, he had accident free days. So we knew he could do it at home. 
Max LOVES trucks and toys.  At school if they have a good work session he gets to have his special toys for a lotted amount of time.  We thought, could this system work at home? 

And then magic happened. 
We bought him the toy he has been wanting.  A rescue bot.  (We actually bought him the wrong one...but Poppi is going to be the hero and send us the correct one!)
Everytime Max is successful using the potty #1 or #2 we allow him to play with his Rescue Bot for 10 minutes.  We set a timer and when it goes off, the toy goes away.  I was reluctant.  I know, negative Mommy moments.  But it worked!  And he put the toy away. 
This has worked every single time.  He even tries to force pee out just to play. He also wants the Rescue Bot show on while playing with his toy.

*The real success story:
Today we were gone at a doctor's appointment for Dexter for 4 hours.  When we came home Max came in the house, he ran to the potty, went and then wanted his Rescue Bot.  Miracles do happen. 

Now, he still wears a diaper at night and in the car.  But, progress is progress no matter how small. 
And we couldn't be prouder of our cute little underware wearing boy!