Such Wonderful Progress and Gold Star Person

I am a human that thrives on seeing results from any of my actions. Meaning I am that “gold star” type personality more often than not. I don’t need praise, but I do like to see that anything I am doing is helping someone, somewhere, somehow. I feel blessed to know that in the parenting world of my life, I am constantly rewarded for my decisions and parenting style. My kids are such amazing children, they make it easy to love and adore them, while they make mistakes, they are always somewhat ready to accept that mistake as a learning experience and move forward. With each step in parenting I get to see a positive result.

Case in Point … my middle child, Aj.

Positive Parenting Rewards

I have shared a lot about my son Aj and well he has come so far in such little time. I recall sitting in his counselors office and being led to feel that the counselor wasn’t really thinking that Aj is high functioning autistic {even though I have a paper that cites he was diagnosed this by someone who does have qualifications to be a valid person to dx people}. I feel this was a misunderstanding based loosely on the fact that few seem to realize the bond my three kids and I have. Few seem to really validate the real connection I have and power I have as an influence in their lives. With Aj, specifically, I have been able to work hard to teach him to understand some jokes, some social ques and have a level of tolerance for sharing {thinking of his siblings first} and being less agitated with sarcasm. For all of Aj’s life, the world was about him. Only him. This is totally natural for most high functioning spectrum children, from what I have heard and read. The fact that Aj can step back and take a moment to be more tolerable of scenarios he doesn’t care for and work harder to know how he works, doesn’t mean that he isn’t on the spectrum. This simply means, I have worked hard and continue to work hard as a parent.

And it’s paying off!

Working with Autism

Without medications to blur Aj’s mind and me helping to show him better ways to accept his world around him, by working with how he thinks and how his brain works, has shown to be a true blessing for Aj, his siblings and anyone a part of his world. Aj is now better able to handle sharing, taking turns, accepting my snide/sarcastic responses from time to time. Aj has come a long way but I have to be conscious of how his brain works every single day. This isn’t something that Aj does on his own completely yet, he is only 7 after all. It will take time, many years probably, for him to nail a method that works best for him as an individual. For now, I am working hard as  parent, so hard that by the end of the day I can barely speak, never-mind walk. It’s exhausting but to see my children, all 3 of them, benefit from my hard work in parenting makes the long days and tired brain worth every single moment.

So that is how I explain my “gold star” definition, I don’t need praise from the children, but when I see results … that makes me feel warm, happy and confident in the future days as a parent!

 

Updates on Aj, After our Last Counseling Appointment

This has been a journey and a half with my now seven year old son, Aj. First day he was born I could tell you something wasn’t right, he was more angry than happy. It appeared my son had inherited something that runs heavily in the gene pool; bipolar. So it began, a lot of testing and counseling to ensure we were parenting the way Aj would respond. Aj had test after test, all coming back that he was a normal child as far as brain goes and most of the developmental areas. Sure Aj was not speaking much by 15 months of age, but he ended up having glued up gunk on his left ear drum from too many ear infections as a child, tubes in ears were placed and voila, the child blossomed in speech. For every little milestone not met, there ended up being some medical reason. Nothing really waved a red flag other than the fact that Aj had a mood disorder going on. At first they wanted to say he was ADHD, but after ADHD medication gone bad, we realized that wasn’t the right diagnosis. After many years of counseling, parenting techniques taught to us and medication after medication for mood disorder as well as the one time try of Prozac for anxiety, it has now been brought into the light that maybe Aj is on the autism spectrum.

Raising my Son Aj

As we met with the counselor that has seen Aj from a young child to the current year, the observations I was making about Aj started to raise a light bulb with both the counselor and myself. I’ve been thinking the autism spectrum for a while with Aj but never did he have such strong symptoms of autism until this past month without medication. Aj hasn’t been on any medication since January 20th, 2014. In time I have noticed some things about Aj, that while some were there from the beginning, they are far more visible to everyone in his world now as time has gone on.

  • As a baby; Aj needed to have juice, milk and water in specific cups. If those cups were not used he would have a meltdown. I recall, back when I was married to Aj’s Dad that we left a note for my ex SIL that Aj must have his milk in “x” color sippy, his water in “y” color sippy and his juice in “z” color sippy. If you messed that up, he would have a meltdown.
  • Aj didn’t potty train until four years and 3 months of age; while I have no clue if this is part of autism signs or not, I can say it was abnormal as his younger brother and older sister trained by age 2.
  • Time went on and Aj still thrived on a very routine driven lifestyle; even with medication Aj needed to know x,y and z would happen in that area every single day. Should an appointment be scheduled after school and we have to go to that appt instead of right home for homework, Aj would have/will have still to this day, a meltdown.
  • Aj clearly is a rigid fellow too, with some anxiety which means he needs an almost unrealistic environment to live in; one in which everything happens the same exact way each day, down to his fried egg sandwich for breakfast each morning.
  • I found myself saying, as of late, that Aj would do best in a world where everything is the same every single day, nothing changes, there are no appointments, no changes in routine, where everything happens in an x,y,z format. Everything each day needs to happen how Aj sees it to be his norm, or else there is an extreme meltdown of frustration.

Raising my Son Aj

As time has gone on, now over a month and a half of Aj without medication, I am seeing the need for him to have more than one blanket to fall asleep. The need for everything at bedtime to go as planned, so let’s say his five year old brother goes off kilter and starts being silly during bedtime book time, Aj cannot handle it and will get fixated on something. If Aj has anything happen to deter him from his path of normalcy he will get into a frustrated mindset where he can be found to quickly go thru the home and hit things, throw things and just have a total rageful fit. I have noticed, as of late, his quick frustrations or rageful fits are derived from something not happening in the way they normally do or in the way Aj has it in his mind they should happen.

Aj thrives on electronics, the counselor has advised us to take them away from his life as much as possible and since they are such an important part of his world, to use them more of an incentive based privilege versus a norm thing in his daily life. Using the electronics as a privilege has really helped to get Aj come back down to Earth at times during his frustrations. I have had to restrain Aj more often than not these past couple of weeks due to frustrations beyond his control. I have had to hear him spout off words like dumby, liar, stupid … all words he rarely ever used in the past. My heart breaks watching Aj fall apart because the more each day goes on, the more I see a child that looks a lot like Max in the series on prime-time TV called Parenthood.

While it doesn’t matter to me what label is placed on my son Aj, I just need something to figure out what’s going on. I already know how to parent Aj, he is a unique child who thrives on routine. I do everything in my power to ensure his day is full of things that take on a daily routine, and in the Summer I even create a poster board with times for everything so that the days go by much smoother. Even my oldest, and only daughter, stated that Aj did really well this past Summer when I started using a poster board schedule for the family.

Raising my Son Aj

We have some great times around here, Aj isn’t really as moody as I once thought him to be. In the past he had two moods; angry or sad. There really was not happiness. I imagined my son Aj a lot like my sister who has bipolar. Still to this day with some of the symptoms Aj shows, I can see a slight mood disorder as part of him, but overall I am hearing my inner mom gut scream Autism. I asked the counselor about this and he said that mood and anxiety can take a part in Autism. I had no clue. I am meeting with Aj’s pediatrician in a week or two as a means to get Aj in for an autism evaluation. I never knew they had such a thing, but this is our next step in the journey of raising Aj. For now, I know what he needs; routine, routine, routine and as much of a free spirit person I am – I have to learn to be more routine driven for the sake of my  middle child’s growth.

We have previously questioned autism, so did Aj’s counselor but now the signs are far more than I can share in this one blog post, just know that I trust my instinct with my child and I also trust his counselor a lot!

If you have any resources for autism, such as a check list of symptoms or what not, that I can review to really get a grasp on things to share with the pediatrician for our appointment, that would be great. As this pediatrician hasn’t been so helpful in the past and I want so badly for her to hear me and help my son this time around!

 

 

When Certain Things are Out of your Control

I lead a very happy life, there is a lot of situations that occur and I just shake my head, realize I can’t control it and to just roll with the punches. The area that truly sucks for me, as a mother, that I have zero control over is getting a psychiatrist to realize what the counselor and my own self realize about my middle child. We have gone through so much with Aj, he is such a bright sweet caring compassionate child but he suffers from something that is, also, out of his control. This something is called a mood disorder that is reminiscent of bipolar disorder, not fun at all.

Seven Year old Son Proud of his PizzaWith getting a diagnosis of ADHD and then finally the pysch realized he has a mood disorder, Aj has tested out a variety of medications for the past few years. As of January 20th, the current psychiatrist has had him on no medications. I will say I have been having fun observing my child but right now is time for some medication plan to be in effect, but the psychiatrist is not calling me back. I have left three messages as of February 10th to this woman, who by the way is a “fellow” in a fellowship, not an actual full time pediatric psychiatrist which is frustrating in itself. There are many things I have noted with my son that just made me realize he does need medication, sadly, my sons condition is not something I, nor he, can control.

As a way to journal my experiences with Aj no longer on medications, I wanted to write a blog post, so that anyone out there dealing with a special needs child can know they are not alone and maybe there are some who can lend me more tips on coping and relieving the tension that comes from parenting a child who has special needs.

Week One – January 20th Starts No Medication

Aj gets a bug going around, not sure what virus it is but the rest of us (aside from my fiance) ended up with strep. Aj happened to get on antibiotics due to fluid leaking from his ears, two days before the rest of us got diagnosed with strep throat. Aj spent time missing school and sleeping 13-14 hours at a time. This was a decent week, no real situations to report because he was sick so that meant he was pretty laid back and easy going.

Week Two – No medications and No Sickies

There were some days of no school due to the scheduling of our school administration unit so Aj wasn’t having too many demands placed on him just yet. Aj did okay and seemed to really only have adverse moods that were ignited by something not going “as he had planned it go to”. One thing about Aj is that he is an extremely, over the top, routine driven child. Everything in Aj’s world must go exactly the same way every day or as he has it planned to go in his mind, if one thing doesn’t go that route, even if he is given enough insight that things are going to happen this way, he just cannot handle it and is thrown into a fit of frustration, anger, or tears. The response of Aj used to be of pure rage but these days you can see anything from a 2 year old style tantrum on the floor to running off to cry in his bedroom or a secluded area of the home when frustrated. This particular week, myself and his father at his home really saw the side of Aj that doesn’t do well with things not going as he planned.

iGami Cheap FunWeek Three – No Medications and Hello Bipolar

This week was rough, not only were we seeing Aj exhibit his normal frustrations with things not going as he had planned in his mind but his mood disorder really started to shine through. This made me sad, disappointed and just so out of control of my own child. I am blessed to have worked and currently work with an amazing counselor who has given us the tools to parent Aj, not to mention I am really good with instinctively parenting my children. One thing that I was reminded of this week is that I have to remain in control of my tone, Aj is sensitive to what tone you use. I am not kidding. It is extremely bad, for example if you say “what” to him when he says your name and that “what” wasn’t in an approved tone type of Aj he will not say what he has to say until you get the tone right. I played that game until I realized there was no way my tone would be approved by Aj this week, he simply was beyond irritable and there was no getting him to act normal. I use the term normal lightly. Most of this week Three and the weekend was spent trying to keep my own frustration down while still ensuring rules were followed with the up and down moods of my son. This week was not only rough, but more so a nightmare that spiraled downward.

Week Four – No Medications and Trying to Reach Pyshiatrist

As I write this, we are now in week four which is this current week we are in. I cannot give much of an update because it’s only Monday that I am writing to schedule this for later publication on site. I can say this; I left a voice-mail for his current pysch and left a message for his upcoming new pysch. The new pysch called me back as of the time I am writing this and has penciled Aj in for an earlier appointment, earlier as in 20 days before the one they had previously schedule his new patient visit for. That’s 20 less days of watching my son fall apart uncontrollably, it’s better than nothing.

A mother and her two sonsMy Wish for Aj and His World He Lives In

I wish for more people to have compassion for bipolar people. Sadly I see far too often that many tell me “well it’s just behavioral, you aren’t strict enough” or “he doesn’t need medication, he needs a firm slap on the butt”. I mean, seriously, I am so sick of everyone who doesn’t live this telling me what to do. I don’t mind those who deal with similar instances who want to lend me tips on how they survive parenting a child like this; one who has anxiety, a mood disorder and some ways that fall under the autism spectrum. I am not talking to other people, sharing stuff on Facebook or on my blog post to have people give me answers or tell me how to parent, I am sharing because this is my community that I reach out to for support, advice and love. I do that for others and only expect that in return. I hope that Aj can get moving forward soon, before it messes with his schooling, right now I am simply thankful that the situation is not affecting Aj’s grades. I just hope he doesn’t have to suffer for much longer and can get on proper medication to lead his happy life that he had many years ago when they placed him on a drug that worked awesome but sadly made him gain too much weight so it’s not an option for him to take that anymore for health reasons.

I just want my son live … freely, happily and steadily.

 

Parental Decisions Never Seem to Get Easier

It seems life as a parent and decisions we must make for what we feel is best for our children do not get easier as time goes on. One would think as your children grow that the decisions you have to make would be less but that is not how life works. My middle child was diagnosed with a mood disorder, well first it was ADHD then it was the mood disorder, basically mood disorders do run in the family so it made more sense he was bipolar than ADHD. The symptoms didn’t really point 100% to an ADHD type scenario and I knew that in my heart from the day this little guy was born. Now that my son has been on a medication that really seems to work; keeps his moods steady but allows him to still be a lively six year old boy, he has put on too much weight.

IMG_20130515_160310I watch my sons who are currently four and six play around and ride bikes outside. No more can my six year old handle riding bikes or running as much as he used to. My six year old son is left feeling out of breath and gets concerned because his heart “beeps faster” {as he refers to it} and then my heart breaks a tiny bit. You see, my six year old son used to be that crazy hyper super active boy that my four year old is and has been all along. You see, my six year old son used to be skinnier but with a muscular/stocky build versus the tooth pick-ish figure of his four year old brother. Always stocky but usually skinny for the most part was how Aj, my six year old son, was built and has always been up until recently.

This past year Aj was put on risperidone which is the generic form of Risperidal and is a pretty heavy duty prescription drug that has shown amazing results with bipolar children. This medication has truly worked with Aj just as the psychiatrists had thought but the downfall is the weight gain. With Rispderidone comes appetite increase and with that comes weight gain. Aj has gained a bit over 20 lbs in the year he has been on Risperidone and now it just breaks my heart to watch him have lack of energy due to the weight gain. There are other options, for example we can make the decision to try Abilify I believe it is called, that carries the same medical treatment as Risperidone but has less side effects; meaning Abilify does not carry that appetite increase side effect.

I am at a point where I feel that switching medications may be a better option. Sure it’s a risk because who knows if he will properly respond and the family ends up dealing with turmoil of mood disorder coming back, but to me it seems like a risk worth taking right now. A risk that may in turn help Aj have his energy back and a chance to losing these extra pounds he has gained due to risperidone. It is one of those things that is difficult to figure out and on Monday I hope that my ex husband and I can come to some form of agreement upon a conversation with the psychiatrist of our concerns for Aj’s weight gain and make a parental decision with the advice of the psychiatrist that may help Aj to keep steady moods but also have a chance to stop gaining so much weight and get back to his active ways that I actually am beginning to miss.

IMG_20130519_145304Changing medications isn’t just a matter of seeking professional advice combined with a co-parenting decision, it also involves weaning him off of one medication so that it’s out of his system prior to introducing his body to another. That is the part that has kept me from really wanting to switch medications. If you never knew Aj off of medication then you would think “no big deal” but my ex husband and I know all too well how Aj is without any medication and so does my daughter; it’s close to a nightmare and extremely scary combined with major angry mood swings that end up being violent at times. That is not something I would want to go casually into so that means we need to really just have a solid discussion together as co-parents with Aj’s psychiatrist to weigh out the pros and cons of possibly trying a different medication for his mood disorder.

The decision seems easy when looking from the outside in, but having lived through what we have lived through with Aj, the decision is no more easy than it was five years ago when we started down this path to determine his proper diagnosis and proper medication type and dose.

Constant Chatter

Your child chatters constantly.  S/he tells you his/her every thought and feeling.  S/he tells you stories.  S/he tells you about the thoughts, feelings, and stories of his/her little classmates.  And s/he asks endless questions.  Is it normal for a child to talk this much?  Should you do something about it?  Read on for more information.

First, you should know that some children can grow out of the need to chatter constantly.  Parents are tasked with helping their children mature and understand the rules regarding socially accepted behavior (hereinafter referred to as boundaries).  When your child exhibits a behavior that runs counter to a boundary, it is up to you to educate your child on where that boundary rests and how important it is to behave within the proscribed boundaries.  For example, if you and your spouse are trying to have a conversation but your child keeps interrupting and speaking ever louder all the while, it is up to you to take a moment to explain that, unless there is something truly urgent happening (i.e., your child wants to alert you to the small kitchen fire occurring just outside your range of vision), then s/he needs to wait his/her turn in the conversation.  You can speak to your child about how important it is to let people feel heard, each in turn.  You may help your child recall an experience in which s/he felt unheard by being interrupted.  You should conclude with a few sentences about how important it is for all people to be able to establish and maintain healthy relationships with others.

While you are imparting the above lesson (and, yes, you will need to impart it on multiple occasions), you can institute “quiet times”.  These designated periods of silence can be wonderfully peaceful for parents of chatterboxes.  Also, they are excellent opportunities to observe if your child is capable of maintaining silence for the designated length of time.

If you have repeatedly shared this learning opportunity with your child . . . all for naught . . . then it may be time for further inquiry.  Ask your child what makes him/her speak as s/he does.  Is something bothering him/her?  Is s/he feeling insecure?  Is s/he very bright and feeling frustrated that the rest of the world can’t keep up with him/her?   Is s/he lonely?   Could your child have ADHD?  If you cannot get to the root of the issue in parent-child conversation, then perhaps it is time to have your child visit with a child psychologist.

You want the best for your child:  good friends, a quality education, and a happy and healthy life.  You do not want people to flee from your child because of the incessant chatter, nor do you want your child to struggle academically (even though s/he may be very bright) because of chatter-related difficulties.  By identifying the problematic behavior and responding to it promptly as detailed above, you can take the steps necessary to help your little chatterbox mature, understand social boundaries, cultivate friends, and succeed in school.

About the Author:

Candi Wingate is an expert in the child care industry with over 20 years experience. She is the founder of Nannies4Hire.com and Care4Hire.com, and author of 100 Tips for Nannies & Families and The Nanny Factor: A Parent’s Guide to Finding the Right Nanny for Your Family”  and a mother of two. Connect on Twitter and Facebook with Candi.

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