Thursday, October 28, 2010

Perception and the Pumpkin Patch

Today, Austin, Kaleigh, my father in-law and I all went to the annual preschool field trip to the pumpkin patch.  Last year was extremely hectic with both kids, so I decided this year, I was going to bring someone along to help.  Now, it went much better than last year but it still had its moments.

We drove up and met the class at the pumpkin patch.  When we first arrived Austin was very excited, jumping and spinning around.  He stops if you tell him to and I have to go over and explain to him that he must calm down.  He has been told if he gets too excited, we must leave, it works and he settles quite quickly.  We all gathered and had snack before heading out on the wagon ride to get our pumpkins.  Austin and Kaleigh sat quietly and ate their snack with children running and jumping around them and they didn't even leave their seats! WOO HOO!  One hurdle down without incident!  YAY!  (Last year, snack time at this event was a disaster!)

Next, time to leave to get our pumpkins.  I would say at least 30 people (parents and children combined) were on the wagon pulled by a tractor that does 5 km/hr ... :D (if I don't laugh, I'll cry!)  Now, all the children are anxiously awaiting the arrival at the pumpkin patch.  It takes a few minutes to ride out there.  Once we arrive, we are all in line to get off the wagon.  Keeping the kids in a orderly line is difficult to say the least with all the parents and commotion.  We head towards the front and we are next to get off when I notice a woman with two children standing beside the opening and no one has let her off yet.  I figured we would let her out since she has been waiting so patiently and it is the polite thing to do.  Before I can say "please go ahead" my father in-law tells Austin to wait and let the lady out with the kids.  No way Austin was willing to wait.  Good Lord ... here we go!  My father in-law tells him to stop again but he won't, I think he tried get him but he was not within reach.  I got a hold of Austin's arm and told him to "wait"!  "LET GO OF MY ARM!  LET GO OF MY ARM!  LET GO OF MY ARM!"  I responded, "I am not letting go."  The woman who we were letting out, just stood there staring at this display as did the entire wagon of people behind me.  I motioned her to go when Austin had stopped screaming ... she said "thank you".  We all filed behind and on our way we went to "happily" (well, some of us) get pumpkins.

Now, I would like to elaborate on the "perception" part of this post.  Not my perception or even yours (because I am sure many of you have been where I was standing just a few hours ago) but the people on the wagon, their perception of Austin screaming.  I have told him over and over not to react like this because someone could misperceive the situation.  I do not like to have to hold onto him or carry him anywhere if he is protesting because I am afraid someone will get the wrong impression.  I do not want someone to think he is being harmed when he is not.  It is really a scary thing to me.  These people behind me (except the teachers, they know because they have to deal with Austin like this too ... thank God someone understands what is going on) all stopped.  If my son is melting down and I am standing over him or cuddling him, no problem, he is not reactive.  The same cannot be said if I have to hold him when he is trying to get away, like today.  It affects me because I have no idea what people are thinking.  Do you get it?  I am sure you get it ...

The rest of the trip went very well and Austin had a blast ... he painted his pumpkin without mixing all the paint colours together!  YAY!  (Last year he made a little guy cry because he wouldn't stop mixing until all the colours were one and he had black ... he painted his whole pumpkin black ... oh my!  I stood there apologizing to this little boy's mother, who was very understanding, thank God!)  So this was a huge achievement for Austin.  He did GREAT!  He also ran through the corn maze (which I may add, made me a little nervous, so I tried to keep up to make sure he is okay) and found his way out all on his own ... he was so proud, so was I!  He was so happy!  :)

I guess I know that if 9 out of 10 things go well, I should be happy and usually I am but sometimes how other people perceive something really hits me where it hurts.  It is really heartbreaking when your son is yelling at you to let go and all you want to do is let him go but you can't ... what else are you to do, really?  I had to drop off Austin at school after the trip and the teacher patted my on the back, smiled at me (she "gets it") and held my arm as I walked away, just to reassure me ... "it's all good". 

There is a lot of positives that came out of today though ... Austin had so much fun and he even picked out a pumpkin for me (what a sweetie).  He came in and out of that maze like he had run it a 100 times, he responded when I started to count "1, 2 ..." and left without protest.  I like to focus on the good but we need to acknowledge our challenges too ...

I would like to thank someone dear to me (she knows who she is) for she picks me up when I need it and helps me along on this journey more than she will ever know ... thanks hon, what would I do without you?  You have helped pave the road I walk now, thank you ... I LOVE YOU!  *HUGS* everyone! 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spooky Halloween Decorations: Outside = Good :) Inside = Bad :(

This is the first Halloween that Austin has really understood and talked at great lengths about this holiday.  Last year he came down with H1N1, so he was unable to go Trick or Treating, this did not phase him in the slightest.  Kaleigh went house to house with her Daddy collecting candy for Austin.  I thought it was a little strange at the time that he was not really upset, but I just figured, well "it must be because of the flu".  How wrong was I?  Very ...

This year is quite different.  Poor Austin is reactive and really understands Halloween now (good, he really gets it but bad, he really gets it, you know?).  Shopping for Halloween decorations a few weeks back, he froze and got scared.  A small aisle and all that spooky stuff, he was upset.  I had to hug him and help him cover his eyes so we could get to a "safe zone".  Lastnight I had to go back to the store to get more decorations for today.  (I wanted to surprise him when he got home from school, mission accomplished, just not in the way I was hoping for.)  He asked me to take him to the store to help pick out decorations, absolutely not!  Not after the last time ... he was so upset, I didn't want to put him through that again.  (We have some decorations in the house already and he likes them, so I just figured he was overwhelmed by too much all at once in the store.)  So I went alone.  He was okay about me leaving him behind ... eventually.

Today, I spent my morning decorating outside and inside the house.  It looked great!  (If I do say so myself.)  Anyway, we pulled into the driveway (home from school) and Austin LOVED it!  I was so happy!  Not only was he surprised but excited and happy!  I had the same decorations inside as I did outside.  Not too spooky, so I thought.  These decorations in the house had a terrible effect!  TERRIBLE!  Austin took one look and said "I don't think this is good inside" (something like that).  He proceeded to scream and cry out "take it away, take it down!!! ... put it outside!".  I tried to get them down but he kept looking at them and was very, very scared.  I got him into the other room and took them off the walls and into the garbage they went ... WOW!  I was not expecting that reaction.  I thought if he found it too much in the house (because of the store incident), he would tell me he didn't like it and I would just take them down.  (Kaleigh LOVED the decorations by the way ... sigh ...)  I guess I should have known better ... I feel terrible that he got so upset.  Poor Austin.  He calmed down and I gave him a cuddle and told him I was very sorry that he got upset, I only did it to surprise him not scare him.  (There are some other decorations still up ... toddler friendly ones, no monsters!)

Lesson learned, outside decorations to Austin are AWESOME!  The same ones inside are TERRIFYING!  I hope this Mommie Guilt subsides soon!  *HUGS* to all and have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN! 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Feed me like a baby!"

Now, as you know, children on the spectrum can be very picky eaters, Austin is one of them.  He used to eat everything, and I do mean, EVERYTHING!  At 18 months of age, his eating habits changed drastically.  He would only eat rice and pasta for the longest time.  I took him to the doctor (pre-diagnosis) and his advice was to "make it interesting" for him to eat.  Smiley face pancakes, star shaped sandwiches, etc., you get the picture.  So, I tried, no luck.  I started to give him multi-vitamins, he rejected those too.  He also liked milk and would eat yogurt but that was about it.  (I used to take my own snack to playgroup, yogurt, not that he would sit long enough to eat it.  Believe it or not, I did not find this strange back then.)  His limited diet was both frustrating and scary all at the same time.  (Austin has always been a big guy, 10 lbs 14 oz at birth and now at 5, just shy of 4 feet and 50 lbs, long and lean.)

I do have some encouraging news for all of you out there dealing with this predicament, Austin is eating and trying more foods than ever!  YAY!  He LOVES strawberries (the new addition to his diet), apples, bananas and blackberries.  I also give him V8 Fusion to drink, Peach & Mango is his favourite (veggies disguised very well), kudos for inventing that beverage!  :)  He also likes chicken nuggets, sheppard's pie, brown rice and of course, pasta.  Now, it may not seem like a lot of changes but trust me, it is!

I have recently found a way to get him to try pretty much anything.  One night I told him he must have spaghetti with sauce, he refused.  I told him he must try just one bite, he did.  The next time I made it he tried two bites.  This went on until we got to six bites in one sitting.  Then one night, he did not want to try it at all (he was very tired and just kind of cranky) so he said "Feed me like a baby!", so I did.  He ate the ENTIRE bowl of spaghetti with sauce.  I got him to eat tuna casserole the same way, and samples of other things too!  I intend to start trying mash potatoes and roast again (his favourite as an infant) and hopefully we can get him back on track, eventually (must be realistic, right?).  I wanted to share my kind of "off the wall" method with all of you as strange as it might seem, it works.  :)  Oh yes, a DQ cake in the freezer works as a good incentive for dessert also, periodically mind you ...  ;) 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All Hands On Deck!

I take Austin to swimming lessons every Sunday morning.  He is just learning how to swim and boy is he eager!  I mean he thinks he could conquer the English Channel ... no kidding!  Anyway, he is in a small group of beginners, the other children are girls.  There was another boy in the class but he was terrified of the water and after 5 weeks of trying, his Mother finally took him out of the class, thank goodness!  I felt so badly for that little guy.  I expected that behaviour from Austin, but no, I got the total opposite (I am not complaining, just to clarify).  He can't wait to swim across that pool (it is a shallow pool, Austin is tall enough that he can walk across it)!

Austin's instructor is a young (extremely patient) woman.  She has four children in the class to keep track of during this 1/2 hour lesson.  Austin is a handful, to say the least.  Sometimes he gets excited once in the water and just wants to swim or float on his back.  The poor instructor "Austin hang onto the wall."  "Austin stay here."  "Austin wait your turn."  "Austin stand still."  "Austin hang onto the wall!!!"  Now, Austin staying at the wall and waiting is usually the toughest part for him.  I am allowed on deck, so I walk along the side of the pool (if he seems to be more excited than usual) and count "1, 2 ..." (if I get to 3, Austin loses his computer time, that is precious to him, "currency" I call it) and he listens.  He listened to me so well the other day, he wouldn't let go of the wall when his instructor asked him to at the end of the lesson.  She wanted to let him play "rocket blast off" one more time because he did a good job hanging on and waiting.  I started to laugh and told him it was okay, he could go with her and I wouldn't count.  I told him I was proud of him and loved him very much.  He did a great job!

I have to say, there are mornings when I pace around that deck watching the clock, counting the minutes like a woman with a First Response test!  It is only 30 minutes and it goes fast but somedays (there have only been a couple) where Austin needs me to be on that deck to keep him focussed.  People all stare at me like I am some overbearing stage Mother!  I just let them stare through me.  After 6 weeks of swimming, I am alone on that deck ... all the other parents sit and read their books (there are about 40 of them by the way), joke, laugh, relax and enjoy watching their kids learn to swim ... wait, what is blocking their way?  That's right, "it's me baby!".  The only parent on deck, helping my son learn to focus, wait his turn and listen to his teacher.  When it comes to swimming, Austin is doing AWESOME!  He can do anything the teacher asks and his evaluation is Sunday.  Daddy and Austin are going swimming for that class.  We will find out if he moves up to the next level.  It doesn't really matter, right now he is having fun, he is happy and I am dedicated to helping him succeed ... at anything and everything he wishes to accomplish ... my sweet boy. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Meltdown = Parents' Heartbreak

Meltdowns, wow, this is a tough subject.  Just last week Austin had a meltdown.  Not a violent, lash out meltdown, he cries.  He cries like someone has broken his heart, it is truly a sad thing to witness.  He cannot calm down, he must be hugged, cuddled and ... loved.  My sweet boy, he has captured and softened my heart.

The meltdown took place at the park.  What was the catalyst for this meltdown?  Well, we were there with Austin's little friend.  Austin did not want to slide down the slide right away, he was waiting and waiting.  So I told him "come on down or we will have to go home" (it was almost time to go and he was tired).  He was still sitting at the top of slide when his little friend pushed and pulled him down the slide, in a playful manner.  (His Mother told me later, he did this because he did not want Austin to have to go home if he did not slide down.)  At the bottom of the slide, Austin's face lowered and he started to sob.  I held and rocked him for about 10 minutes and tried to calm him.  Finally he said he wanted to go back to the slide but wanted me to carry him.  (He weighs 50 lbs and just 1 inch shy of 4 feet!  Big guy!)  I told him I would walk him there as he sniffled all the way.  He asked me to climb the structure with him, I did, he didn't.  He fell into full sobs.  "I can't calm down Mommie!  I can't calm down!"  Okay, we have to go.  "Austin we are leaving ... please go to the truck."  "NO MOMMIE NO!" (This comes out more like pleading than screaming, it is really, really, really tough to see him this way.)  I picked him up and carried him there (he does not resist, he just clings to me) put him down as he still pleaded for me not to take him home.  He must get in the truck himself, and he will, so I count, 1, 2 ... in he gets on his own, sobbing and pleading.  I am still very calm.  I collect Kaleigh and apologize to my friend and her son who is under the slide very upset by Austin's rejection.  I try to assure him, it is not his fault.  Austin is just upset and wants to be alone.  In the truck I get with Kaleigh and we head home.  Austin pleading and crying all the way home (not far though, just a few minutes).  I unlocked the door to the house and Kaleigh set out ahead of us.  Austin got out of the truck and said again "I cannot calm down Mommie, I CANNOT CALM DOWN ... cuddle me, CUDDLE ME PLEASE!"  That was it ... my heart broke into a billion pieces.  I dropped to my knees, held him, told him it was okay and proceeded to burst into tears myself.  I picked him up and carried him into the house.  Cuddling him for about 5 minutes, he finally calmed down.  I asked him, once I felt he was settled, "Austin, why did you get so upset?"  "I didn't want anyone to push me down the slide Mommie, I want to do it on my own."  "Okay Austin, I understand ... next time I will know, okay?"  "Okay Mommie ... I love you ..."  "I love you too Austin."

Even though this is a very tough story for me to write, and this kind of meltdown is new for Austin, there are also positives to this situation.  First, Austin is not aggressive and does not hit or lash out when upset.  Second, a few months ago, he would have been oblivious to this, very passive and never would have stood up for what he wanted.  Lastly, he would have never been able to express himself like this verbally.  Sometimes you have to go over a few hills before you can conquer a mountain.  *HUGS* to all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's harder than the diagnosis? Pre-dignosis!

Prior to Austin being diagnosed with PDD-NOS, going anywhere (when he was 2 to 4 years old) was to say the least, a challenge.  I went to the museum today with my friend, The Maven, her little guy (his Birthday outing ... Happy Birthday again buddy!) and my 2 1/2 year old daughter, Kaleigh.  Kaleigh was assessed after Austin's diagnosis (only as a precaution, we never felt anything was wrong) and was found to be a "typical" child, actually, "above the curve" the therapist said.  She is a doll by the way.  Anyway, Maven and I were talking about what going out with Austin was like at 2 1/2 ... my goodness!  She remembers it as well as I do.  Nike sent me a letter of appreciation for being one of their best customers ... EVER!  Run, bolt, you name it, he did it.  I chased and chased!  It was impossible to go to playgroup, Walmart, the grocery store, a family function and the playground.  He would always run somewhere or be stimulated by the environment.  I had no idea why he was like that, I just figured he was being a boy, not like any of the other boys but what did I know?  Everyone would look at me funny.  Say my kid wasn't "disciplined".  Tell him to "be good for you Mommy, don't give her such a hard time".  Any of this sound familiar?  People can be so harsh!  Poor Austin!  He was a pretty good sport for all the comments he had put to him, me too, but I am a stubborn redhead ... thank God!

Today, after I got home, I left Kaleigh with my husband and went to pick up Austin at school.  He had a good day!  YAY!  I then proceeded to take him to the grocery store and the movie store both without any incident at all.  Not so long ago, I would have never thought this was possible, but it is, and I am so happy for Austin that he has gotten to this point.  You see, it all takes time, they get there.  It was truly much more difficult when I didn't know what was going on, now that I know, it is much, much easier.  :)

By the way, Nike dropped has me from their "most frequent purchases' list".  A nice place to be.  ;)

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Diagnosis: "Bad News"

I see this a lot, when someone talks or writes about getting the diagnosis PDD-NOS, its "bad news".  I think it is so sad they feel that way ... shows how far I have come in such a short time.  In May, on that day the therapist told my husband and I that Austin had PDD-NOS, I burst into tears and cried so hard I covered my face to prevent anyone from seeing me that distraught.  The therapist put her papers down and said "what can I do to make this easier for you?", "this is not a bad thing, we can fix it, we can fix this".  I couldn't speak ... just shake my head side to side ... devastated.  My husband tried to comfort me, there was none to be had.  In shock, I came home, found Austin, and held him as I sobbed and sobbed.  I felt so sorry for him, for his future ... for the unknown.  Why my little boy?  Why him?  How did this happen?  Austin giggled initially as I cried, it made him nervous to see me like this so I  tried very hard to stop.  I wiped away my tears and cuddled him ... my baby, still my baby, whom I adore and would give the beating heart from my chest if he needed it.  That will never, ever change.

For the next two weeks, I would just burst into tears spontaneously, especially if I was alone.  I was overwhelmed!  What now went through my head all the time was, "is my baby going to be okay?".  Well, he changes everyday.  Everyday something new comes from him.  His speech is getting better, his comprehension and his social skills.

I said I would give you hope, so here is a little story that I am sure will make you smile.  Austin and I went to leave the speech therapist's office the other day, there was a little girl waiting to come in the door, Austin initiated the conversation (which would have never happened even two months ago) and it went something like this:

Austin:  "Hi, what is your name?"
Girl:  "My name is Madeline."
Austin:  "My name is Austin ..."

The speech therapist and I were almost jumping for joy!  You'd think we were two tween girls who just won backstage passes to Justin Bieber or something!  Austin was still talking away to Madeline but I missed it because her Mother said, "your little boy is so polite!"  "Thank you", I replied to this obviously intelligent, well mannered and sensitive woman. ;)  My little boy, yes, he is: polite, sweet, adorable, funny, sensitive, cute as a button and, he is on the spectrum.  These are all things that make Austin what he is ... I am very blessed, very lucky to have been given such a treasure as he ... I promise that "bad news" feeling, will go away and one day you will wonder "why did I ever feel that way?".

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Away I go ...

Well, here I am, all alone, no one here but me.  I am a little nervous, my first post and everything, so please bear with me.  I wanted to start a blog to give people support, understanding, hope and (because I cannot change who I am) a bit of humour regarding life on the spectrum.  My son, Austin (then 4), was diagnosed on May 12, 2010, with PDD-NOS.  Even in a short time, he has come a long way.  I intend to write about experiences with Austin and hopefully help other people realize they are not alone.  That was one of the hardest things for me to get over but I realized, I am not alone, you are not alone ... I am here.  I am the woman you will see, when your child is melting down and everyone else is just looking and whispering, who will gently smile, say "it's okay" and help in anyway I can ... I have been there, I am there, I get it.