Journey Through Autism – Part III

The journey continues with Early Intervention services. The speech pathologist that arrived was a bubbly, energetic person. Looking back, she became my son’s lifeline. Her first goal was to teach him sign language as a means to communicate. This isn’t an easy task when a child won’t make eye contact with you.

I learned what is known as pigeon signing. Basically instead of signing a sentence, you are signing just the key words in a sentence. Of course, to encourage eye contact, we were signing near our face so he would have to look at us. We were talking as we signed also so he could still hear the words associated with the signs.

Seeing my son pick up the signs and start to use them was a major victory step for us. He started signing at thirteen months and by the age of twenty-one months, he could sign well over 200 words. The violent tendencies stopped. The nonstop crying stopped.

The obstacles weren’t over yet though. At age two, the speech pathologist broached the subject of autism with me. She had worked with numerous autistic children, and the sensory issues were beginning to become more apparent in my son. I started to absorb everything I could read on the subject. It all seemed to fit.

We talked about how he wasn’t sleeping at night still. The very next visit, she showed up with a weighted blanket. It was a hand made blanket with ten slots in it. In each slot was a pound of washers fit together by a nylon. They could be removed to make the blanket lighter. The very first night I put it on my son at bedtime, he slept through the night. Sweet relief to have a full night’s sleep!

Suddenly right after his second birthday, my son stopped signing. Refused to do it, refused to look at anyone once again. If we signed to him, he would get angry. At a loss, I turned to the speech pathologist. She decided to experiment and started signing full sentences to him. Wow – what a change. It was exactly what he wanted and needed to progress. Within days he was back to signing and again, the violent tendencies stopped. He could communicate on a full level with us.

As he was progressing through Early Intervention, it became necessary to make my son his “signing book”. It was a book full of pictures and words of all the signs he could do. This is a book he carried with him if he went somewhere I wasn’t such as the Church’s Sunday School class. This helped his other “teachers” or baby-sitters to understand exactly what he was trying to say to them.

Continue with me next time for the tail end of my son’s Early Intervention years. Thanks for following this journey.

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Journey Through Autism – Part II

I sit here preparing to write this blog, allowing myself to go back in time to when my son was an infant and this journey began, and it is difficult. It was a lonely time for me, even though I had two other children. A time where hurt, anger and yes, even resentment at times filled me.

This journey started as an unknown trek through uncharted territories. I knew there was something wrong with my son by the time he was three months old. I would lay him down on a blanket to play and he would just stare into space. No reaction to his sisters on the floor with him with baby toys trying to get his attention. When he wasn’t staring into space, he was crying. The crying really got to me. A crying baby I can handle, but one that cries harder when he is held? It started wearing on my confidence as a mom. The feelings of “what am I doing wrong?” and “what kind of a mother am I if I can’t console my child” filled me.

My sister would call from out of state and would hear the baby crying, and her first reaction was always “oh, he’s crying, I will talk with you later”. I would beg her not to hang up and to talk to me as I locked myself in the bathroom to try and find some peace.

As my son started crawling, his favorite place to head to was the family room closet. It was a closet that was pretty much empty. He would crawl to the side corner and sit in there and rock for hours. My feeling was that he’s a strange child, but he’s not crying.

At thirteen months, after violent hitting and biting whenever someone touched him, I called Early Intervention. As I said before, when they arrived and did the evaluation, he was evaluated to have verbal skills of a three month old. Validation broke me. I sat there with tears streaming down my face thinking it’s not me. There is something wrong.

By this point, as far as I could see, my son wouldn’t interact with his sisters very much – on occasion, but a lot of staring into space was still going on and he never made noises with the exception of crying. Speech delay, okay I could handle that.

Stay tuned for part III of our Journey Through Autism.

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A Journey Through Autism – Part I

Taking life for granted – how often do we do this? Over the past eighteen years, I have learned a lot about small victories and taking things for granted.

Eighteen years ago my son was born. By the time he was three months old, I knew there was a problem. There were no smiles, no coos, and no eye contact. My son was in a very different world than I was and it tore me apart. As time went by, it occurred to me that there was something wrong with him and I didn’t know how to go about finding out what.

A friend of mine who has a Down’s syndrome son encouraged me to call Early Invention myself and get him evaluated. By the time he was thirteen months old, my son had his evaluation and was found to have the verbal skills of a three-month old. Validation. Validation that yes, my instincts were right. Validation that someone heard me and really listened.

Over the first year of Early Invention, we taught my son sign language. I spent every spare moment I had learning about nonverbal children and sensory issues. As the speech pathologist worked more and more with my son, the word autism came out. I researched and researched. A name for the problem – was it possible?

Autism is such a hard spectrum to diagnosis as every case is different. A neurological disorder from birth affecting speech, sensory, and social skills in these children, yet affecting each one differently. For my son, he was completely nonverbal to over the age of three and his sensory issues were plentiful. Social skills that come naturally to more children had to be grilled into him before he grasped conceptions of acknowledging someone speaking to him, sharing and interacting with his siblings and friends.

The road was set to be a long and hard one. Join me in walking through my son’s journey in coping with Autism over the next few days.

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Is it really almost Christmas?

As I sit here this morning, having a little down time finally, it dawns on me that Christmas is just a mere 5 days away.  How did that happen? Christmas in my household is very different now than it used to be when the kids were little.

Having an autistic son, decorating when the kids were younger was always a challenge.  My son did not do well with change and so I would keep the decorations to the living room and the rest of the house undecorated.  It worked for us.  My son had one room that was “Christmas” and the rest of the house to go and find a quiet spot to regroup when he was overloaded.  And let’s face it — near the holidays a child with sensory needs goes into overload almost constantly.

I almost miss those days!  But now my kids are adults and have their own ideas of what they need to do for the holidays.  This year I started working retail and my hours have been all over the place so the house remains undecorated for the most part.  My middle daughter had put up some of the decorations and put up the tree, which remains in the corner undecorated.

The positive note is the presents are bought and wrapped and probably will go under an undecorated tree this year.  Ironically I don’t even mind that Christmas has snuck up on me.  I haven’t had time to think about all the changes that have happened in my life and ones that will be happening this year — big changes coming.  Instead I look forward to just spending a quiet Christmas morning with my three children and my new son-in-law opening presents and having breakfast before they all scattered to other places they need to be.

What are your plans for Christmas?  Are you with family or alone? A mixture of being with my family and then alone in the afternoon is okay with me. I plan on writing this Christmas in the quiet of the aftermath of the hectic morning.  Happy Holidays to all of you and may you find peace this season.

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Not the Way to Start the Day

Mornings are my time alone, coffee in hand, catching up on facebook, blogs….in essence my quiet time.  Halfway through my cup of coffee this morning, my son is getting ready for school.  Now he has never been a fan of school and sadly, prides himself on the fact that he has not opened a book for most of his high school career. (He’s a senior.)

He has had a permission slip for me to sign for weeks now, yet he sports the attitude of just not caring.  This is for a class he is taking — because he couldn’t take another study hall — that would give him permission to get credit for it as an independent study as he already took the class once.  A simple thing really.  Get mom to sign the permission slip.  His attitude:  I don’t really  need the class to graduate.  Sighs of frustration all around as I try once again to pick my battles.  In talking with my son, I feel my blood pressure rising, as he does also as a standard comment from him is “relax, you’re getting red again”.

So I once again ask for the permission slip and receive it.  SHOCK!  As I sign, I notice he is supposed to have the guidance counselor and principal signatures also.  Today is the last day of the term. Pushing me over the edge with a “relax, mom”, I told him not to come home until everyone had signed it.

As he leaves for his one final today, I sit there with my now cold coffee, a slight headache, and wonder if both of us are going to make it to graduation in June.

Do you have these moments with your teenagers? Do you have those days where you just want to strangle them and ask them “why can’t you see I push you so you can achieve the most you can possibly achieve”?

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Welcome to Talking Life With Moms. My goal with this blog is to provide some insight into my own chaotic and stressful life and tips on how I have handled things. There is no one size fit all for any situation. However, I think as moms we can gain a lot of insight from each other and just give encouragement to each other in our every day struggles.

A little bit about me and why I started this blog.  I am a single mom of three. My kids are not just about grown, but over the years there have been numerous struggles in which I just wished at times I had had other moms supporting me and encouraging me to get through the difficulty.  I have two daughters and a son.  My youngest, my son, was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder-NOS (high functioning autism).  Well, when he was a year old I didn’t consider him high functioning. Instead I was facing a child, who was only 18 months younger than my middle child, who was completely nonverbal and violent because of his frustration in not being able to communicate with his family.

He cried every waking moment because of sensory issues and it was a constant battle in trying to figure out how to cope with this. At the time I was married, but we divorced when my son was about three years old. Then I was suddenly a single mom of three and struggling to just figure out how to get through a day, never mind a month or a year. Some days it was a struggle to get through minute to minute.

Does this sound familiar to you?  Maybe not the autism, but the stress of parenting possibly alone and having no where to turn?  Maybe you are married and yet your spouse isn’t as hands on as you need them to be. Maybe you are a single mom, struggle to make ends meet and just feel completely alone in that struggle.  If you in any way feel you connect with this blog, you are in the right place. This blog will be a journey through my experiences with a special needs child, his issues and issues that became his sisters in dealing with a sibling with special needs. It will be a journey through how I made it through the stress, raised my three children to be young adults (they are now 23, 19 and 17) with the hope that any tidbit I may have found helpful in my journey, you will find helpful in yours.

Feel free to leave comments, questions or any vent you feel you need to. I will do my best to walk with you through the journey of life and any struggles you maybe experiencing.

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