My Son has had Amazing Progress #autism

I seriously am so happy about this autism diagnosis for my son Aj, while many may wonder why I feel that way, because no one wants to have a child that may struggle, but seriously? Aj is probably the most well rounded, honest children I have ever met. Aj says what he means and he means what he says. Aj looks at the world in such a simple manner that he is teaching me more and more each day.

My Autistic Son Teaches me #autism

I just love spending time listening and talking with Aj, he has been medicine free since January 20, 2014 and it was such a blessing to get him off of those risky medications. While, I did originally believe he was bipolar, what I learned in these past few months is that he most certainly is not. Aj needed that autism diagnosis much earlier, but didn’t get it, he has grown so much (as have I) since learning that he is truly high functioning autistic. I love this picture of Aj, taken just yesterday while he blows dandelion fluff and makes a wish.

Aj doesn’t believe in magic like most of us do, “wishes don’t really come true Mama”, he said to me. I told him that wishes can come true if you want them badly enough and think that they will happen, then yes, wishes can sometimes come true! He took all of those dandelions with fluff on them and puffed them to make his wish each time. He won’t tell me his wish, but I am pretty sure it was a wish to get Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare for the PS3.

My favorite conversations with Aj usually pertain to video games or metaphors. You see, Aj cannot stand metaphors or sarcasm, he thinks it’s dumb. Why would someone say “I am so hungry I could eat a horse if people like horses” . He went on to tell me that horses do have a lot of meat on them, but people like horses, so why would they say they could eat one. I am constantly amazed at how intelligent he is, he shows this at home and at school with his grades.

One thing about my Aj is that he has learned to be compassionate and have empathy, skills that some swear mean he isn’t autistic. It took us a lot of time to teach Aj to learn these skills, they didn’t come to him naturally by any means. Aj has found his sweet bone, he is often found helping a friend be happy at recess; “Mama, my friend was crying and upset so I told him a joke and he laughed. I made him happy, because laughing means you are happy and I made him laugh so I made him happy” is what Aj said to me one day after school. My heart beamed with pride.

This kid has come so far and I am so happy that we took that chance to allowed him to come off of all medications because now? I am seeing the real side of my son, his true colors are shining through and I am just so happy for this little boy!

It All Starts With Repeating The Lessons you Teach

As  parent we all want to ensure that our children are growing up to be a respectful part of society, but what happens when you are raising a child with autism high functioning who doesn’t comprehend empathy or compassion? I think we all can agree that having compassion and empathy are important skills to function in society, right?! The question is, how can we teach these skills to children who don’t pick up on social ques in the ways the rest of us do? I am not sure how you teach it or how you have worked with your autistic child, but this is how I have been able to work with my son and see progress.

It all starts with them repeating what you have been teaching them.

Teaching Empathy and Compassion #autism

January 20, 2014 is the date my son stopped taking any medications, after a ridiculous scenario using Risperidone which actually helped my son or so it seemed for nearly a year or so, we had to stop having that medication due to health concerns. We switched to Abilify and then they added Prozac. Long story short, those meds all messed with him on various levels, only the Risperidone created health concerns with weight and Abilify helped keep weight steady-ish but his cholesterol started to get a little high. Finally … we were brave and stopped medications. As of January 20th we have been working with my seven year old son on ways to blossom in society and at home, without medications.

He has come so far in just four months.

When we first started in January without medication, Aj was still having some difficulties because of weaning off of medications but then about 1-2 weeks later it happened; my son was started to be the son I knew was inside of him somewhere. We finally received a diagnosis that made sense; Autism High Functioning and while many said try anxiety medications, we were not on the same page with those professionals. Thankfully our wishes were granted, no one is pushing Aj to have any medications. I wanted to work hard as co-parents first, as his primary caregiver I end up doing a hell of a lot of work but I see progress in every scenario that arises.

Aj is participating in class now. Aj is able to have a play-date and handle slight conflict with his best friend in ways he never would have in the past – using his words and intelligence. Aj has very little patience but is getting better and the one area that is going to take lots of proactive measures is teaching Aj empathy and compassion. Aj comes off rude, mean and occasionally selfish with the way he sees the world, combine that with his outspoken nature, well I am sure you know – we have a recipe for social world failure.

I won’t accept failure for myself nor will I ever accept failure for my children. Ever.

The smallest ways I could help teach Aj the skills of empathy and compassion were to work with his family unit, we are a close knit family. I started working with Aj in how he handles his siblings; teaching him that sometimes we have to take turns or do things we don’t really want to do because we are a family and every family member’s wants or needs do matter. I started heavily working with empathy and compassion during the kids school Spring break week. I used my words. I cited examples through out our days and then it happened; one day K-man didn’t want to do something that Aj wanted to do, instead of Aj getting mad at his brother and just “telling him how it is”, Aj actually told his little brother this, “K I know you don’t want to do this but sometimes we have to do things that others want to do because it’s a nice thing to do.”

I get it. Aj was repeating words I have said to him in the past, but you know what? That is a huge start!

I think the best way to teach empathy and compassion to a child who doesn’t “feel” those things on his own are this;

  • Set the Example – cite times when you or another person have stepped back, outside of their own self to care for another person’s opinions, wants or needs. Explain intellectually the scenario and why the way the person handled it was in the right and being nice. Reiterate that we are to be nice to others in this world because that is what makes this world a happy place.
  • Use your Words – With any lesson you wish to teach an Autistic High Fucntioing child you have to learn how their brain works and formlulate the words you use and actions taken in a method that makes sense to them. I found having a logical, matter of fact discussion and emotion while speaking really has helped a lot.

I am sure there are other methods that work for others with a child on the spectrum, but this is how I have been working with my son and I have seen amazing progress, so I thought I would share as a way to help others who have the question “how do I teach my child on the spectrum empathy and compassion?”

Image shown is Aj on our deck one sunny day after a long Winter. Aj prefers as little clothing as possible and was happy to be outside barefoot for the first time since Winter.

Stop Explaining Yourself. Just Stop.

The real story of your life doesn’t need to be explained. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to explain nor get anyone else to understand the decisions you make in life. Sure people may shake their heads. Sure some may feel that you keep making the same mistakes. Who cares? I am sure every one of us makes similar mistakes over and over again in our lives, we are human.

You Make your Own ChoicesIt’s difficult for me, as a writer and avid talker, to not get caught up in explaining myself or my decisions. I have been raised in a way that I always felt the need to explain in detail why I have made decisions that I have made. Finally, one day it dawned on me that no matter how much I explain my scenario, no one else, aside from those walking in my shoes will fully comprehend the place I am coming from. The only people I take fully into consideration when I make decisions in life are my children.

That means when I have to move or spend money on something, or find more work; the ultimate goal is to ensure I am making a decision that benefits my children. I am not always perfect, occasionally I may make a decision that I feel isn’t bad for my children but may not be the best decision in the long run for my complete happiness. Yet, when faced with the scenario of having to make a choice again, I get caught up in the whole “what will people think” mindset. I need to just stop!

Those who are true to me, those who truly love me and care for me as a person will realize that they don’t need to accept, understand or comprehend my decisions; they simply need to be there to support me in all areas of my life. I have a few close people in my world and while I know full well they don’t always agree with my choices, they will support me and let me know that this is my life; at the end of the day I am the one who has to decide what’s best, not them. They respect that and I admire them for that choice they make, for those types of people are the ones I will go to time and time again for insight on my thoughts. 

Having my middle child recently diagnosed high functioning autistic, made me step back and realize even more so that I don’t need to explain anything. My son may look at people with a serious face that comes off as a glare, he isn’t trying to be mean; he is simply a very serious child who smiles at home in his comfort zone but overall doesn’t show emotions in the way everyone else expects him to. I want to raise all of my children through example that they, too, will never have to feel as though they must explain themselves to anyone!

So the next time you find yourself sitting down with someone and trying to explain to them why you made the decisions you made, remember that it doesn’t matter why to any outsiders. No one but you and maybe those who reside with you need to hear your reasoning, but even then, at the end of the day, you are your own person and must ensure that you are following your path in life. A happy person makes a happy environment.

Find that voice in your head that says “JUST STOP” each time you find yourself over analyzing, over explaining or feeling as if the world may shake their head at you. The world doesn’t matter, you matter most! Take care of you.

My Little Technology Monster so-to-speak #AutismAwareness

As we move further into the month, I am still talking about Autism Awareness because well it’s important alongside many other topics, but this is the one I am learning the most about this month with the recent DX of my son. Today, I discuss the technology addiction my son has always had and was easily confused in the beginning with an ADHD type of child.

autism awareness month

Aj has always loved electronics, video games could have easily ruled his world back in the younger days, ages 2-5. Then he got older, he learned about MineCraft and YouTube. Most days you will find my son in front of YouTube doing his research, as I like to call it. YouTube has become my son’s television so-to-speak, but he doesn’t just watch any old videos.

Aj enjoys watching videos that teach him something, that allow him to work deeper with his current loved video game, MineCraft.

The counselor, Aj’s Dad and I have all discussed this electronic “addiction” that Aj has and from time to time it had become quite the monster of his world, keeping him from interacting with his family on a more one-to-one basis. Then as time went on, I realized that Aj wasn’t using the laptop for the purpose of game playing, I realized he was showing a high level of interest in learning how to manipulate games or coding to make the game work in ways it wasn’t built from the “box” to do. It seems Aj has a bit of his father in him, his Dad loves to build computers and different things like that so it fits the mold of “like father like son” for sure.

In the past couple, almost three, months of having Aj off of medications, I have noticed that his brain is just intrigued by how things work, not necessarily the hands on building like his brother, but more so the “behind-the-scenes” of how things work and Aj gets it! Aj picks up on things that most of us don’t as it pertains to mathematics or how technology works. Aj seems to me to be that child who will grow up with a love of programming. Instead of doing what we had previously thought to be the right decision, keeping Aj from electronics, my ex husband and I have allowed the computer to be an open access item for him at both our homes. We have found in the past few months that Aj will not use the computer beyond a decent level of time, eventually Aj will bore of not being able to find just the right YouTube video for his needs and will see his family is interacting playing tag or Lego’s and want to join in with us.

I love that Aj is starting to take an interest in family life. I love that, while he isn’t as into the physical play like his siblings, he does take a part in it on a daily basis for a limited amount of time. Upon discussions with the psychiatrist who diagnosed Aj, she stated it is fairly common for autistic people to have a high level of interest in mathematics, and usually do end up in the field of programming. It seems we found just another area where Autism Spectrum – High Functioning makes sense for Aj’s diagnosis.

What are some things that your child just adores and makes you wonder why he/she is sooooo fixated on that area of their world?

 

What Autism Means to Me #autismawareness

April is Autism Awareness month. A time to celebrate, educate and learn to have more acceptance for those children and adults living each day in a world I know little about how to relate to. It’s difficult being a parent, I am sure, to an autistic child. From what I’ve learned thus far, it’s a broad spectrum and no two autistic people are alike.

autism awareness month

If you are an every day reader of my blog, you may have followed along my life in regards to my now seven year old son, Aj. If not, you can catch up, but there’s a lot there listed under Mood Disorder, but most recently Autism categories here on my site. Basically, about a week or so ago, my son Aj was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum – High Functioning. This diagnosis didn’t come to a surprise because for the past two and a half months I have observed my son, taken notes from his teachers at school and witnessed him in his day-to-day life. I already knew my child seemed to be showing more and more of the spectrum as time went on.

While Aj has undergone multiple diagnosis’s, we firmly feel he is on the spectrum. For years Aj has exhibited some autistic tendencies, as his counselor has called them, but never enough to get anyone to say “yes he is autistic”, while I didn’t need a diagnosis as a parent for I am constantly observing my children and adapting in ways to raise them, the outside world usually needs a diagnosis to work with. So here I sit and write about what autism is for me during this month to raise awareness of Autism.

When I called family to tell them about Aj’s diagnosis, they of course wanted to know the question many ask, “What does that mean?”

My simple explanation for what autism means for myself, my family and my son is nothing. Really all that autism means for us is that we have learned to have more acceptance and patience. You see, Aj really seems to think like a computer or a robot so-to-speak. Aj is highly intelligent, has amazing grade levels at school, but in a social environment he may show signs of awkwardness or uneasiness. Aj cannot pick up on all social cues like we can, Aj cannot handle sarcasm or jokes like we can, Aj may not always make eye contact but I have noticed he makes eye contact with me. Aj also has flapping of the arms with happiness or excitement as well as rocking that has appeared in the past couple of months when nervous or trying to cope with a scenario he may not be comfortable with.

Other questions that come into play for me as a parent are how I will ensure he is receiving the supports he needs at school for the social aspect of his autism, because it’s evident his grades are fine at this point, but as he gets older the social aspect of school could take a toll on him.

I am currently awaiting meetings with the school to work on a 504 or an IEP, so far it appears they are going to work with me on a 504, I am okay with that as a first step unless I am educated otherwise.

Autism … in my eyes …

For me, autism is simply another way of viewing life, being that I have always been an open minded person and parent, it’s easy for me to observe Aj and learn how he works, how he thinks, and what is going on as-he-sees-it. As my child has grown, and without medications blurring who he is, I have noticed that really Autism for me isn’t a disability per say; Aj has grown tremendously, he fixates on certain things that he loves doing but how is that harmful to him? Aj loves technology and he has also started to show a love of interacting with his family and his best friend who comes for play dates.

For me, autism is honestly more simple, at least at the high functioning state, than your average person I work with. For Aj his world is black and white; you do what you say, you mean what you say and life is fine. Sadly, that does cause a ruckus from time to time, because as a human we know there are sometimes where sarcasm comes into play or maybe we say “not right now” far too often, instead of no. It seems in society we tend to be non-committal and Aj requires a committed reply and answer at all times. Aj thrives on a structured environment, he goes by the clock with any electronic time, play time, diner time, getting ready for appointment times, etc.

Autism hasn’t changed our lives in a bad way, it’s opened our mind, heart and soul to love deeper, more unconditionally and has helped us have a better bond than most families I witness. For me, Autism simply means love. The love Aj has for those who are close to him and the love we have for him is stronger and so unconditional that it honestly warms my heart.

My advice to those who don’t know enough about Autism, is to ask questions without judgement. My advice to those who do know about Autism and may be told their child will never lead a life like “every other person”, keep hope and Faith, work hard because honestly no matter what disability your child is diagnosed with, the hope, love and Faith from their parents can make a world of difference in their future!

And so I remind you this month, it’s okay to ask questions about Autism, but it is not okay to judge an autistic child by the book, they are so much deeper than what you see on the outside, just like every other person in this world!

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