Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Musings on parenthood and "Parenthood"

Yes, I know it's been a while since I have written here. Why? Summer with 4 kids is the main reason. The other is that I haven't felt the urge to blog. Nothing much has changed. Alex continues with speech therapy and continues to do fairly well albeit with the challenges that have always and will always be there for him.

That's the thing about something like SPD, ASD, or ADHD. There is no cure, there is no "growing out of it". Sure, some behaviors improve but there are always new challenges to take their place. It is not like an illness or injury when you can look back and say "remember when..." and recognize your child has healed or recovered. It just is. We are blessed. Alex is doing much better than I hoped for back when he was a non-verbal 3 year old. He has a new friend that lives down the street. He is participating in soccer and is mainstreamed at school. I try not to think too much about the future because that is when I get overwhelmed. I see my older sons in middle school and how vicious kids that age are and can't stand the thought of my vulnerable son in that place. I try to take it one day at a time while getting as much help as possible for him now to lessen his vulnerability when he is 12 and 13.

As I have blogged previously, I love the show "Parenthood" for it's sensitive and realistic portrayal of a boy with Asperger's. However, I was cringing last night about a new storyline that seems to have popped up: adoption. One of the characters and her husband are hoping to adopt. The "latte girl" at her office is pregnant and said she is not keeping the baby. This prompted Julia (who is hoping to adopt) to mention to family members she wondered if she could "buy the latte girl's baby". I think? it was meant as a kind of sarcastic joke (which wasn't funny) AND I suspect this storyline will continue and "something" will develop between the latte girl and Julia concerning the baby.

I read that one of the producers (or maybe writers?) on "Parenthood" has a child with Asperger's and that is why they have done such as good job on a subject where so many other TV shows and movies have portrayed only stereotypes. I can only HOPE that there is someone on set who can give the same kind of sensitivity to adoption but so far it isn't looking promising. I for one will be quite disappointed if the storyline devolves into a made-for-TV-movie type stereotype of adoption. Keeping my fingers crossed...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Goodbye OT!!

Alex has reached a milestone: he was discharged from OT a couple weeks ago. He went to OT for sensory integration which will always be a challenge for him. His goals were to stop chewing everying, to be able to tolerate smells better, to get a handle on his sensory seeking (the constant jumping and spinning, etc.), and to strengthen his core. (Many kids with sensory processing disorder have weak cores, including Alex.) He also worked a lot on motor planning activities. He was often unable to execute complex motor activities due to poor motor planning. It was interesting to watch him and Sara on playground equipments. She would be up and flipping around in seconds and he couldn't seem to figure out how to do anything.

The discharge does not mean he no longer has SPD or that his sensory issues are resolved. Far from it. We still have plenty to work on at home and he will likely always have issues with sensory processing. However, he has met the goals we set for him when therapy began and he is learning how to compensate for some of his difficulties. For example, instead of jumping mindlessly on the furniture or running back and forth between furniture pieces and slamming himself into them (to get needed sensory input) he has learned to jump on the trampoline or ask to swing on the neighbor's swingset. These are more socially appropriate ways to get his sensory input. He has stopped chewing on all his clothes, sucking his fingers and biting metal objects. We have learned that soda, with its carbonation, gives him the oral input he craves. Not that I love giving him soda, but it is better than having a 7.5 year old who sucks his fingers all day long or chews on metal fences and bleachers. We have learned that the therapeutic listening CDs really calm him, that doing wheelbarrow walking and therapy ball exercises will keep his core strengthened, and that word searches and puzzles help with his visual processing. We continue to work on these at home as well as other exercises and activities.

He continues in speech therapy to help with pragmatic language, otherwise known as social language. Recent testing indicates this is still a problem for him. He particularly struggles with inferencing. In other words, he can't guess what is going to happen, or what someone means unless it is said outright. Even in books for much younger children, he cannot guess what will happen next or tell why someone is doing something unless it is spelled out. He gets humor and sarcasm which is a huge plus. He is actually pretty funny and jokes a lot. I feel lucky about this. Many kids with pragmatic language problems don't understand humor and/or sarcasm. He understands that words can have more than one meaning and that some expressions can't be taken literally (for example: I was laughing my head off.) Again, many kids with pragmatic language disorders don't understand these types of expressions. He doesn't use expressions like these or speak as naturally as a neuro-typical child, but he does usually understand when others use them. Often when he speaks, it sounds like he is struggling to get his words out. He often whispers to himself and repeats words. These are issues that don't seem to be resolving despite 6 years of Speech Therapy and perhaps they never will. I am OK with that. I am so thankful he is able to fully express himself and carry on a conversation with me as there was a time when it didn't seem possible.

So...goodbye for now OT. Can't say I will miss you!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Yellow Card

Today Alex got a "yellow card" at school. This means he was given a warning. When you get to red there is a punishment. I am probably the only mom at my kids' school who was happy about a yellow card. He got the yellow card because he was playing tabletop hockey with another boy during classtime. That makes me ecstatic! Because he was playing with another boy. Because he wasn't obssesed with following the rules (as he is prone to do). Because he was behaving like a typical 7-year-old boy. I couldn't let him know I was "happy". But when he got choked up telling me about it, I let him know that it was OK and I wasn't angry. Because I know it is not likely to happen again. He is proud of his "green card" streak. He is more obsessed with things like that than is normal for a 1st grade boy. So although most moms might be a bit disappointed (as I always was when my older boys behaved that way), I am very proud of that yellow card. And we talked about how the yellow card doesn't take away from all the green cards he has gotten. It's funny how your focus changes when you have a child like Alex. I celebrate the everyday boy things that most parents don't give a second thought to. Yay!! He played tabletop hockey! And he didn't completely fall apart about the yellow card. He wasn't happy about it but he was able to handle it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Humming Along

I haven't posted in quite a while, I know. I don't want to jinx anything. Things are going quite well for Alex now. He has met all his IEP goals FOR THE YEAR already, at the half-way mark.

Here is what his special ed teacher wrote about his Communication strengths/weaknesses: "A has made some new friends this school year. He plays with classmates, shares, and has conversations with them. A is respectful to his teachers and peers and can work cooperatively in a group. A asks thoughtful questions to gain clarification during class discussions. A's oral language skills are on grade level. He continues to expand his listening and speaking vocabularies and adapts his oral language to fit the situation." NOTE, THERE ARE NO WEAKNESSES noted!!!!

Comments for Behavior/Social Skills: "A's behavior is age-appropriate. He no longer uses a behavior chart to monitor his behavior, and can follow directions and complete classwork. A is able to word independently and listen attentively. He contributes to group discussions and asks thoughtful questions."

I mean, gasp, so many phrases here NEVER used to describe Alex before: "made some new friends", "has conversations", "can work cooperatively in a group", "ORAL LANGUAGE SKILLS ARE ON GRADE LEVEL"!!!!!!!!!!!! "behavior is age appropriate" "able to listen attentively"

This is a child who was woefully behind in language just few years ago. Who could not tolerate being in groups, whose behavior was ALWAYS described as immature, and who needed an aide or special ed teacher to keep him on task.

OK, yes, he comes home and stims (sensory seeks? Are they the same thing? I never get a straight answer for this) for about hour every day. In the warmer months it is an hour straight of trampoline jumping. Now it is dribbling a basketball around the house while jumping around which some days drives me to the brink. But I grit my teeth because I know he has worked hard to hold it together ALL DAY at school. I know some days a recess he plays on the slides by himself and that some days he feels sick at lunch because of the smells. BUT he is still making tremendous gains.

For the first time since he was a baby, I am more concerned about one of my other kids than I am about him. My 7th grader is really pushing the limits these days. I thought this behavior would occur closer to 14 (he is 12.5). But we are in the midst of some rebellion and some bad decision-making. Now that my youngest is 6 and we are safely out of the sometimes difficult toddler/pre-school years I must gear up for adolescence! I have one right on his heels, turning 11 next month. The mouth, the eye-rolling, the word "whatever" which I now truly hate, the texting, the secret little jokes, the homework that is not done, etc. Why don't I feel ready for this???

On a side note, this same 7th grader did fantastic at his wrestling tournament this weekend. He won all 3 matches. His 2nd opponent threw up in the middle of their match and I was completely disgusted and rattled and wanted him to forfeit (the sick kid was not forfeiting) but my son said to me "Mom, it's OK. I want to finish what I started." and was not rattled by his puking opponent. Every now and then I see a glimpse of the man he will become.

Thanks to those of you who have inquired as to where I have been. Just busy and reading a lot of other blogs!!