Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Monday, March 1, 2021
This month marks the one-year "anniversary" of Dominic being home full-time from school. When the Pandemic started, I guess I was VERY optimistic and thought it would only last a few weeks. Little did I know, that almost a year later, the Pandemic would still be raging on. It has been of a bit of a "learning curve" having Dominic here and my husband working from home (the hubby likes to call it a "preview" of what it will be like when he retires)!! We have worked out a good system, so one of us is always home with Dominic. He can't be left alone because of his Complex Partial Epilepsy. He has had six seizures since the Pandemic started, the most recent one was the beginning of January. Since we have had LOTS of extra time in our schedule, in June of 2020, we went from once-a-week private speech therapy to twice-a-week. It has been a pretty seamless transition from in-person to "virtual" learning with her. His private speech therapist has moved away from worksheets and started to concentrate heavily on "work/life skills." It was her suggestion to start to have Dominic bake for her and then she would pay him for his finished baked product. We really wanted him to make that connection. I started to wonder if we could bake for other people and make it into a "business." I started to comb the Internet for information and found that Michigan has something called a "Cottage Food Law." I did some research and then sat on the information for a while. It was several pages of Rules and Regulations (very overwhelming and intimidating at first). I began to think long-term and after finding a free on-line workshop on running a "Cottage Food" business and registering for it (the workshop wasn't until December), I decided to move forward. I already had tons of recipes at my disposal on my food blog, so I knew that I wouldn't need to be continually testing out new recipes! I then began to think that we probably should come up with a name and a logo. This is where an artist friend of mine, that I had used for classes for the disability ministry came into the picture. I asked him if he could start private art lessons with Dominic (even though Dominic had showed ZERO interest at previous art events with the disability ministry). Dominic started his weekly private art lessons in August of 2020 and except for a few times, he has been going steadily every week! It has been AMAZING to watch his self-confidence grow!! A few months into the lessons, I asked if Dominic could start designing a logo for the business. My artist friend agreed and we let Dominic make all the decisions about what it would look like, the colors, etc. I even ordered a shirt with the logo on it for Dominic and one for his sister!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyways, we got our first order at the end of November and little by little, we started to get orders. In the second week of December, a few days after the on-line workshop about running a "Cottage Food Business," my dad (who lived back in Maryland) went into the hospital with what we all thought was a minor infection. It turned out he was in end-stage Congestive Heart Failure and my beloved dad passed away on December 17. I was devastated by his passing and it took me until a week or so into January before I felt like I could re-start the business.
Friday, December 4, 2020
I have mentioned before that when we first received Dominic's diagnosis of Autism at age 2 1/2 , my first thought was him as an adult sorting paperclips into boxes. I thought he would never talk. I knew nothing at all about Autism. I did grow up with a neighbor named Tommy who had intellectual disabilities and he would visit our home frequently. This was the 1970's when those with disabilities were separated in school and many parents were told to institutionalize their children. Looking back, Tommy's parents went against that thinking. They let him walk around the neighborhood unsupervised. I never asked Tommy if he had Autism, we accepted him the way he was. Speaking of acceptance, it took me about two weeks to come to terms with Dominic's diagnosis of Autism. In my own opinion, I think that is very important to do because you really can't move forward until you have done that. After the diagnosis of Autism, Dominic subsequently received diagnoses of ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Complex Partial Epilepsy. In a lot of ways, when Dominic received that diagnosis of Autism, I was actually relieved. I found it much more stressful before we got the diagnosis. We knew something wasn't right, but didn't know what it was. Dominic turned 16 at the end of July and in a little over a year and half and he will be an adult. Now that I have been on this Autism "journey" with Dominic for almost 14 years, I can say with complete transparency that he has surpassed many of the expectations that I had for him!! Dominic's speech is delayed and most likely always will be. When Dominic was able to say two or three word sentences, I felt like jumping up and down!! This past Friday, Lauren asked Dominic what he wanted for Christmas. He responded back with, "Legos and puzzles." This was the very first time that he ever told us that!! Woohoo!!!! Given that he is almost 16 1/2 we have been waiting a LONG time to hear that!!!! When you have a child/adult with learning differences and speech delays, when they are able to tell you spontaneously, unscripted and unprompted what they want, you want to shout it from the rooftops! I belong to several Facebook pages that have to do with Autism. Earlier this week, on one of my favorite Facebook pages, I saw a post about a 4-year old boy that saw one of his favorite Disney characters and spoke for the first time. Another parent saw that post and said, "thanks for giving me hope!' Since I was so excited that Dominic had told us when he wanted for Christmas, I posted it on their Facebook page. A different mom wrote back to my post saying that she would give anything to hear what Dominic said to us and that her son is 16 as well. I wrote back to that mom and told her I was sending her a "virtual" hug and to never give up hope!!!!
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
While this Pandemic in some ways has been good (like doing our daily walks), I have definitely noticed Dominic becoming more agitated at things that typically wouldn't have bothered him so much, pre-Pandemic. It has got to be SO hard to be a teenager with limited language and be in puberty. Everyone goes through puberty, whether you are typically-developing or not. When Lauren was a teenager, she would go to her room, shut the door and get some alone time. Dominic doesn't do that during the day. He only uses his room to sleep. We have worked really hard with the private speech therapist on how to manage his emotions. He used to go in our living room and hit the bay windows with the palms of his hands. Definitely not the best way to express how he is feeling. Slowly, he transitioned from hitting the wall to throwing a pillow on the ground. Last night, our evening was going well until he looked at his "schedule" from school. Dominic's teacher is awesome. She puts a daily schedule on-line for the entire week. It is very detailed with the times of all of his classes and the subjects. I print it out on Monday mornings and attach it to a clipboard. As he completes each class, we check it off. It also lists homework. Well, out of the blue, after we had eaten dinner, he picked up the clipboard, took a look at Tuesday's schedule and noticed that he hadn't done the homework. I told him we could do it the next day. He wanted me to cross it off, even though he hadn't done it yet. I told him doing that would be "cheating." Dominic didn't like that explanation too much and he ran over to one of the decorative posts in our family room and yanked it hard. I raised my voice and told him not to do that and to go to his room to cool off. He ran upstairs and immediately came back down. I told him that he could get his school computer back out and do it. He kept shaking his head and continued to tell me no. He then threw a pillow on the ground. This side of Dominic is a side most people don't see. The hubby had been observing the ongoing interchange between Dominic and I and finally said, "why don't you just stop talking about it?" I told him that Dominic was the one that kept talking about it and that he wanted me to cross off the homework even though he hadn't done it. I guess that would have been the easiest thing to do, but honesty is one of those traits that I strongly believe in. Both Dominic and I were standing our "ground." By this time, Dominic was REALLY frustrated. His face was red and he was doing a lot of grumbling. After another few minutes went by, he went over and took his computer out of the case and turned it on. I said, "do you want to do your homework now, so you can cross it off your schedule?" He told me he did. As he completed each assignment, we crossed it off. After he finished, he logged the computer back off and put it back in the case. I think Dominic had mentally exhausted himself, so he went to bed early. I felt that it was extremely important I didn't give in and let him think that type of behavior is okay, because it's not. It was mentally exhausting for me too (I was hoping he didn't have an Epileptic seizure, which are sometimes brought on by stress), but I am really glad I stood my "ground." I knew in the end that Dominic would do the right thing and he did!
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Saturday, August 22, 2020
He just turned 16 in July. Vince has watched Dominic grow from a boy into a man.
In case you were wondering, both Vince and Dominic had on their respective masks during the haircut. They removed it briefly for the picture! So, for those of you without sensory sensitivities, getting a haircut can be challenging because of the bright lights; the noise of the hairdryers, people and the clippers; having someone touching their head and lastly, the smell of chemicals. For most of us, those things wouldn't bother us or we block it out. For those with Autism or sensory sensitivities, it can be very difficult. Before Michigan lifted the restrictions for getting a haircut, I asked Dominic a bunch of times if he wanted me to cut his hair. It was always a resounding NO. I think he remembers all the years I cut his hair where it literally looked like I put a bowl on his head and cut. It was never a thought in my head of going to a different barbershop after the restrictions were lifted. When my husband and Dominic walk through the doors of the barbershop they are treated like family. Throughout these five years, Dominic has formed a trust with Vince. That is so incredibly important for someone on the Autism Spectrum. Dominic is very intuitive and he knows if someone feels uncomfortable around him. From day one, Vince has treated Dominic with respect, patience and compassion. Vince carries on a conversation with Dominic and even if Dominic doesn't respond back, Vince just keeps right on clipping. If you find a barber that is as wonderful as Vince, consider yourself very lucky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We sure do!!!
Saturday, August 8, 2020
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Saturday, June 6, 2020
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
I used to make a daily walk a priority. As I had gotten more and more busy over these past few years, I would find every excuse I could to not walk. I'm too tired, I'm too out of shape, I have a heart condition, etc. My husband tried to encourage me, but I ended up taking offense at his not so "gentle" suggestions. He stopped after a while. Up until the past four weeks of this Quarantine, I would come to the end of the day and realize I hadn't set foot outside of our house at all! Not even to get the mail from our mailbox. Yikes. Lauren has been temporarily living with us and she kept asking me to go for a walk. I kept telling her no, until I decided that for my mental health, I really needed to get out of the house at a minimum, once a day. I am so incredibly thankful to her and her persistence, because we are now on week 4 of our family "walks!!" The first week or two, I had to come home and lie down after our walk because I was exhausted. I have slowly built my stamina up and don't need to do that so much anymore. Dominic's private speech therapist has built his speech therapy into our walks. He has to find three things he sees on our walks and write them down in a spiral notebook. During his weekly Zoom sessions with her on Saturday mornings, he is able to have a conversation with her about what he saw on our daily walks. Pretty cool, huh? For consistency and routine purposes, we aim to go at the same time, 11:30 a.m. Lauren asked me recently if I was going to continue my walks even after the Quarantine is over. I told her YES!!!
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