Saturday, December 31, 2011

Don’t feel sorry for me

A couple of weekends ago I was working 1st shift on an airplane in the factory and I got to talking to one of the shop guys about the upcoming holiday, kids and such. When I mentioned that my choices this year were based on how best to help Alvin and mentioned that he had a form of autism he got very quiet and said, “I’m so sorry. That has to be so hard on you and your family.”

While his reaction is normal and I understand that part, I think my response caught him off guard.

I immediately said “I’m not. Alvin is very unique and autism or not he is still a 4 year old boy and at times just has more quirks than other kids his age. Even if we didn’t have the diagnosis I would (and do) treat him like a normal 4 year old.

I guess after a year of dealing with this I’m starting to learn to not let autism/asperger’s syndrome define my son. The diagnosis was a huge help to understanding him, but it doesn’t define him or his future. W and I have a running joke that our goal like any other parent is to raise him to the point that he can be self sufficient and leave our house!

Lately I’ve made it a point to reshape my view on autism.

Autism is not an excuse but a reason behind why Alvin acts the way he does. 

I’m not willing to just accept things as they are and shelter him from the world. I’m not willing to take the easy road. Lately we have been pushing him very slowly but surely. Every week there is a new challenge; be it at the gym, music therapy or just normal social interactions. We have begun to push his limits and its working. Verbal skills have increased and he is becoming quite the little professor. He has great manners and says hi and bye to everyone we meet. It sounds awkward as anything, but that doesn’t matter. The point is he is talking and interacting in his own way. He has now done 2 camps at The Little Gym and while the separation was hard at the first one it got better with the second, the rest of both of the 3 hour camps were deemed a success.

I guess what I am getting at here is that most days the fact that he has this mess fails to make any difference in what we do. I don’t feel sorry for us and don’t expect anyone else to. Sure I would love more understanding but who wouldn’t. I guess through all the craziness it can be I’ve adopted W (my husband’s) outlook on it. Autism can be pretty awesome if you just take the time to get to know the person!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Setting up for success

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Seattle Autism/Asperger’s conference and it was amazing. First off I got to hear Temple Grandin speak which was absolutely amazing. I also got to meet her in person and get a copy of her book, “Thinking in Pictures” signed.

Another person that I got to hear speak was Jennifer McIlwee Meyers. She was so engaging as a speaker and I took away one big thing that I am about to start implementing with Alvin. That is setting him up for success. She used a few example of how her parents used baby steps to prepare her for things and by the time she needed to use them all together it was a manageable task. Once she succeeded at one thing that gave her confidence to go and begin to tackle other things one by one.

Alvin’s overall new goal is working on gaining independence. Now that we have finally begun to really unlock his verbal abilities its time to focus on needing less re-direction and working more independently. This applies to what he does in gymnastics, music therapy, the preschool classroom and especially at home. We are working on this in baby steps very hard in the gym and music therapy. Making independent choices, verbalizing what he wants and doing a skill/task when asked to or saying no thank you if he doesn’t want to. This has gone pretty well and each week we push a little more.

We have also been using this schedule to help him when we go out to do multiple errands and we have had pretty good success with him. He loves knowing what is coming up next and loves reading and moving the stickers off when we are done with something.
Alvin's schedule. This is an example of what we do on his music therapy days.
I say all of this because next week Alvin is going to do a camp at The Little Gym. Does this make me nervous? YES! But is it time that we give him a chance to work on independence, yes.

What I am going to do is attempt is help him by making up a basic schedule that shows the order of activities that will be done during camp. This isn’t going to be detailed but just a high level. I’ve talked to a program director at the gym and she has agreed to help me out with this.

The whole goal here is for the camp experience to be very positive for him and the staff working with him. I want to do what I can so his first camp experience is a success. Its 3 hours around normal kids. Some of the kids he will know and some he won’t. He will know the instructors thankfully and that should make things easier.

I'll do another update after the camp is finished but right now all we can do is try and hope for the best.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Embracing the odd week 2

This week’s odd moment most any parent can relate to. For parents of kids with Asperger’s Syndrome this scene might really hit home and hopefully make you laugh far too much.

Let me preface this by first off saying Alvin has an obsession with toy cars. He loves to line them up by number. This can be ascending or descending order. The numbers can be arranged by even or odd as well. It can be by make or model, color, you name it. They can be racing or head to head crashing all in a line. He’s been doing this since he was about 2.5 and to this day cars with numbers on them are a big thing.

On Wednesday nights before gymnastics I generally take Alvin out to walk around stores, get dinner and otherwise spend one on one time with him. This week because I have rocks for brains I took him to Toys R Us looking for a specific Melissa and Doug toy band set. Well the general rule in a place that carries Hot Wheels cars is if he behaves himself he can get one. Well he had been pretty good. No major melt downs and didn’t run off so we went over to the large Hot Wheels cars display and he was allowed to pick one out. He grabs this one and I just cringe!

The next thing he does it say loudly “69!” I try and give him another number car but it doesn’t work. His mind is made up on that car. All I can do is shake my head and continue on. We pay for the car with no major incident and once back in my car he is very happy to have the number 69. We head over to Jack in the Box for dinner since he loves their rice bowls and so do I. Once entering he starts yelling 69 over and over. He doesn’t want to be in there so all he can do is yell a number. I get our food we sit down and all I can do is laugh. Then I text my husband and some friends and the laughter continues.

Now granted I know that what happened here is common. A kid has a very strong interest in something and doesn’t want to let it go. The main difference is most 4 year olds have better verbal skills that Alvin.

On the plus side though for once I was able to laugh at the situation instead of being embarrassed and think only Alvin would be proclaiming his love for the number 69 in the middle of a store!!