Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Full Heart

I had the opportunity to take Dominic to visit my Aunt Penny ("Auntie") earlier in April. I have known my Auntie since I was born.  She was married to my mom's brother until his passing a handful of years back. I admire my Aunt Penny so much, she is an amazing and beautiful woman inside and out. Dominic and I had an awesome visit and the three of us had a wonderful time having lunch and catching up. There were definitely two highlights of the afternoon.  The first was when Dominic hopped on my Auntie's lap and she started tickling him.


I love, love, love this picture of them. He just has the look of pure joy and happiness.  They both were laughing really hard.  The second highlight was when I grabbed a book I had brought and Dominic squeezed in next to her and they read it together.


My Auntie is one of Dominic's biggest supporters and the two of them definitely have a close and special relationship.  I thought I was the one that had a way with words, but she wrote something to me recently about that special time with Dominic.  She said, "my heart was so full when he jumped into my lap, and then he let me read a long book to him. Joy, Joy, Joy!!!!" Her heart wasn't the only one that was joyful and full that day :) I think Dominic misses his "great-Auntie" already.  Since we've been back home, he has told me a few times, "Aunt Penny in Virginia!" What a blessing she is to our entire family - we are not bonded by blood, but by love!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spontaneous Speech

Yesterday morning, Dominic said two sentences spontaneously.  When he came downstairs for breakfast, he told me, "It's snowing!"


Then, shortly before he got on the bus, he looked out the back window, saw a bunny hiding behind one of the trees in the backyard and said, "bunny in the snow!"

 
That might not seem like a huge deal, but to me, I was ready to have a party!  For children with speech delays (like Dominic), getting him to describe what's going on and initiating conversation is a constant challenge.  At his parent/teacher conference in March, I talked briefly to Dominic's current speech therapist. He has been blessed to have had some amazing speech therapists that have worked with him since he started school. The speech therapist filled me in on how he was doing at the conference.  She gave me some great suggestions on how to elicit more spontaneous speech, like cover the words in a story and make him describe the picture or get him to identify features such as what a character has or is doing.  Dominic also has been working on using verbs correctly. When he said, "it's snowing" it was awesome because he could have said, "snow" or "snow outside." I was super duper proud of him!! This morning while Dominic was getting ready for school, he spontaneously said, "Hi, Mommy, blow a kiss!"  Does it get any better than that?!?!?!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Morning in the Park


GETTING READY


GETTING SET



AND GO!!!!


I took Dominic to a park recently on a perfect April morning. The sun was shining and more importantly, we were the only ones on the playground which Dominic thought was pretty cool. No waiting and he could play on whatever he wanted for as long as he wanted. A nine-year old boy's dream! His favorite piece of play equipment was definitely this one because he could spin around.

 
We played for a while and then headed towards the lake.

 

We ran into a few geese and continued around the lake and over the stone bridge.



We ended up back by the playground equipment again and I let him play a bit longer:



Then, we took a look at these magnificent daffodils:



Our everyday lives are so busy and hectic that I sometimes feel like I'm on a treadmill trying to catch up! It was nice to take a little break to slow down and hang out at the park all morning.  I think my boy might be a little too big for the plane, don't you think?!?!? 

 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Expecting Too Much?

Dominic's teacher (Mr. P) and I have spent this week trying to determine the cause of some of Dominic's recent avoidance behaviors.  I was beginning to feel like Sherlock Holmes trying to solve a big mystery. I was wondering if it had something to do with Ritalin, so I asked Mr. P to track his behavior and see if there was any correlation. There really didn't seem to be. When you have a special needs child, they are constantly a "work in progress."  All children kind of are, aren't they? Do we ever reach a point with our kids when we say, "okay, I'm done!" Not really :) We've certainly had our ups and downs with the potty training, but Dominic seems to be doing awesome in that area recently, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!  It's good to push Dominic, but at the same time I was wondering if maybe we were expecting too much from him.  Mr. P and I exchanged e-mails and had some conversations on the phone.  One of my questions was if any new things had been added or changed in his routine.  This is what he told me:

  • having him participate in longer peer-to-peer sessions
  • not allowing him to use items non-functionally during choice time (ex. if he gets out the Legos he would stack two or three on top of one another and let them fall for the entire time. I do not allow him to do this, rather, we work on using the toy for their true purposes)
  • increasing the amount of participation I ask of him during group activities (such as answering more questions about our topic, remaining seated longer to complete more assignments)
  • extending the amount of time we are at work centers
  • have him sit on the toilet to try a BM during bathroom trips
  • increasing time he spends in 4th grade class
Wow, that's quite a list, isn't it?  After I saw this, it really got me to thinking that he was probably feeling overwhelmed.  It's not like Dominic can say, "hey, it's too much, I'm really overwhelmed!" We still rely heavily on how he acts.  When he is under or overwhelmed a telling sign is that he starts talking to himself more and will get more isolated from us. Mr. P suggested that too much was being expected of him in a smaller amount of time and that possibly spreading the changes out over a longer amount of time might be the answer. The hubby and I discussed it over the weekend and I called Mr. P on Monday. I told him that even though we are Dominic's parents, he is the teacher and we will defer to his judgment. This week, the notes home from Mr. P were, "more cooperative, awesome day, did not engage in avoidance behaviors." Yesterday I asked Mr. P if he thought the mystery was solved.  He told me that it's too soon to tell and we need to keep expecting great things, but at the same time not push too hard.  One area that Dominic has been doing awesome in has been his reading. I will continue to push a bit in that area, because we are all big readers in this house!  I got out some of the Mr. Putter and Tabby books from our library and he LOVES them.  He especially liked the word "trifle" that was in the book. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Finding Support

Before Lauren was born, the only experience I had with babies was with my younger siblings or babysitting.  I worked right up until a few days before she arrived and then the hubby and I decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom.  Economically, it made sense, since almost all of my salary would have gone to daycare. Those first couple of months were kind of a blur, as it is with newborns.  Once she got a little older, I knew she and I both needed some outside stimulation.  I decided to take a parenting class close by hoping to meet new moms like myself.  Luckily, I did. I met a handful of moms and we all had babies pretty close in age to each other.  We started a playgroup that met at least once a week until the kids starting going to preschool. I lost touch briefly with those moms, but Facebook brought us back together again.  Now, instead of talking about diapers, we talk about what colleges our "babies" will be going to! I can remember back to when I had my first miscarriage.  I was devastated, upset and felt very much alone.  I found out about a support group a woman was running nearby and called her to get more information.  I chatted a little while and then realized the group probably wasn't a good fit for me. I instead talked a lot about it to a friend of mine at the time who had also had a miscarriage. I think she got tired of me talking about it all the time, because one day, out of the blue, she said something like, "it's a sad thing, but you really need to try and move on!!" When I had my second miscarriage, I dealt with it slightly better, but I wished I would have had a group to turn to that knew exactly what I was going through. With the explosion of social media, there are many ways that you can find support. I have found some amazing blogs written by parents of special needs. I tend to be drawn to the blogs that are inspirational and focus on the positives.  I comment on their posts from time-to-time, but mostly I just like to read them.  The first definition of support that pops up on dictionary.com is "to bear or hold up." When my uncle who lived on the East Coast was very ill, I would post updates on Facebook.  When he passed away at the beginning of February, and I was unable to attend his funeral because of the bad weather and my flight being cancelled, I was completely devastated.  Many of my online "buddies" comforted me and "held me up" through that difficult time and it brought me an enormous amount of peace. Sometimes, when I post something new Dominic is doing, I wonder if my friends and family think it's too much - I don't want to clog up their "Newsfeeds!!"  I hope when you need support for whatever is going on in your life, you are able to "find" it.  If have already "found" it, then you know how awesome it can be! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Making an Impact

Yesterday, we could actually be outside in a sweatshirt and not be cold!  I had a light jacket on Dominic and he told me the sun was too "hot." The temperature in the shade was 43 degrees :) Yes, it's been such a long winter that even 43 feels "toasty."  Anyways, the kids and I spent a few hours outside soaking up the rays and they started playing on the swing set in our backyard.  There is a set of rings and Lauren started doing back flips.  She looked at Dominic and said something like, "do you want me to teach you how to do that?" He of course said yes!  It warmed my heart to see her be so patient, but more importantly, encouraging with him, even when he fell.


It took him a handful of times, but he mastered it!!



When he did it by himself the first time, he said proudly, "I did it!" Each time he did it after that, Lauren and I clapped for him.  The two questions Lauren has heard since her senior year began has been, "where do you want to go to college?," followed by, "and what will you study?" She has known for awhile that she wants to work with kids and make an impact on their lives. With less than two months left of high school, thinking about her future has been HUGE on her mind lately.  When she got Dominic to do the back flip, she looked right at me and said, "I think I want to be a teacher." Little kids have always been drawn to her and she has some keen insight having a special needs sibling. This morning, someone asked her what she wanted to major in when she goes to college. She responded confidently, "Early Childhood Education."  I was telling her yesterday that she will do well in whatever she does in the future, she's already made such a huge impact on her little brother :)


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Acceptance

This past Thursday night, as Dominic and I were waiting for his music therapist, I noticed him displaying a "classic" sign of Autism. There were two men standing right in front of the water fountain chatting away.  Since Dominic had eaten some pretzels in the car on the way, he was thirsty. I told him to go over to the water fountain and get himself something to drink.  He walked right between the two men, it was like they didn't exist.  There are three areas that children with Autism have difficulties or impairments in - social, communication and behavioral. I did a little experiment with Dominic yesterday morning.  Usually, when he wakes up and comes downstairs, I say something like, "hey, how are you doing?"  Yesterday, I didn't say anything.  Within about 20 seconds, he said, "mommy."  That might not seem like a big deal, but it was to me.  I can be the "queen" of prompting.  By that I mean, I catch myself a lot not giving him enough time to initiate conversation - guess I get too impatient!  While Dominic is not where a "typical" almost 10-year old boy should be with language, he can string simple sentences together and let us know what he needs. I really feel for those parents of non-verbal children. They are my heroes, I can't even imagine what that must be like.  Lately, since we are pretty sure Dominic is going through a growth spurt, he has been saying, "I'm really hungry!" to the hubby, Lauren or I.  We look right at him and say, "well, go get yourself something to eat!" A favorite snack is an apple or strawberries. Dominic will go get a plate and put the apple on it.  If more time goes by and I haven't cut up the apple for him, he will say, "cut it up."  If we have strawberries in the fridge, he will go in, grab the container and put a bunch on a plate.  He will then say, "cut off the tops."  Behavior in a child with Autism is different for every child. It's not a one size fits all as far as therapies go.  A common therapy is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).  Here is a great link that explains more about that type of therapy: http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/applied-behavior-analysis-aba .  If you are a parent of a child newly diagnosed with Autism, I highly recommend the Autism Speaks website. It is a great starting point if you feel overwhelmed. Even if you don't have a child with Autism, check it out - here is the link to their website:    http://www.autismspeaks.org/ .  It tells you anything and everything you've ever wanted to know! When I found out that Dominic had Autism at about age 2 1/2, it was a difficult process towards acceptance.  Some of the feelings I felt were sadness and anger.  I spent two weeks feeling sorry for myself and then said, "enough is enough, now it's time to move on, how can I help him?" It's a process that is different for every parent and it can't be rushed. Once you make it to the other "side" of acceptance, then you can focus on what is best for your child.  Do I sometimes wish Dominic didn't have Autism? Yes, that thought does cross my mind sometimes.  Do I get a little jealous when I see kids Dominic's age being able to do much more than he can? Yes, once in a while.  Raising a special needs child is challenging, I won't lie. They are moments that are difficult, but you just have to keep moving forward (not backwards) and continue to be your child's biggest supporter!  This morning, Dominic got up at 5 a.m. again, but he showed me this Lego heart and said, "Happy Valentine's Day, dear Mommy!"  I love the added bonus of the powdered sugar on his cheek and lips from a doughnut!


How can I be too upset with him about getting up so early, when he shows me so much love?