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.

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!

The Diagnosis We Received, Even Though I Already Knew

I have discussed my son Aj for quite some time now. Aj has been without any form of medications since January 20, 2014. Aj had been on some form of medications consistently since about age 4, he is now 7 years of age. These past couple of months have opened up a whole new child and a whole new opinion on what I felt was going on with  my son. I firmly believed Aj was showing more autism signs than anything else in the past coupe of months and we received confirmation from a psychiatrist that stated Aj is indeed Autism Spectrum – High Functioning. What does this mean? Well I am still researching it all but honestly it just means that now there is a better idea of how to work with the public school system for him because in all reality he is the same child I’ve been raising for 7 years, nothing has changed for us at home.

In the past autism had come up, but Aj wasn’t having “enough” signs for anyone to really look into it back then. Now that I’ve had this meeting with the pysch I am realizing there were more signs than we may have even been aware of, starting way back as a baby. For example, as a baby Aj never liked affection, he wasn’t that cuddly soft baby who enjoyed being swaddled nor snuggled. Aj was that baby who breastfed and when done eating was ready to be out of your arms. Aj also potty trained extremely late. Aj also had slight delays in speech. There are some things with Aj that he was delayed in but we found health reasons for the delay and the pysch said that is probably why no one really paid any attention, the variable of having a health reason made sense so no one questioned autism. Wow, what en eye opener.

One thing I have noticed, without anyone telling me, is that maybe most of Aj’s violent rages were not stemming from bipolar, as previously thought. Bipolar made sense, that is what Aj was having going on or so it seemed. Now that I have been observing Aj and working to adapt my parenting routine to the way his brain works, I haven’t had any outbursts from him in the ways of the past. I firmly believe that Aj’s violent rages or what appeared to be major mood fluctuations were actually pertaining to him not being able to verbalize what was going on in his own mind and me not understanding his dire need for a very routine, structured environment. Now that his home environment has been adapted to Aj’s needs, he is thriving and happy nearly all of the time! Aj now interacts with his siblings, he shows a strong family bond, something I hadn’t seen before. Prior years, Aj was closest to me, his Mama, but lacked that full emotional connection with his siblings or others that were a primary part of his world. As I’ve started to work with Aj these past couple of months, I have seen his emotional connections with those who he trusts grow!

Recent Autism DX For my Son

I must admit, when the pysch said out-loud that Aj is indeed “Autism Spectrum – High Functioning” I felt very blank. Even though I knew that was going to be the diagnosis, or at least had assumed and sort of hoped for because it was the only thing that made sense, I still felt blank. I felt sad. I wanted to scream and cry. Why? Well because this is now reality. This is now something I have to work with the public school system for student supports that he will require as time goes on. Right now, Aj isn’t suffering too badly from the way the school works but as each day passes I do see new things that really are signs he could go downhill if we don’t get a team together and figure a way to adapt his school days to the way his mind works.

In all honesty, I am having home school scream at me, but right now I must go through the steps in hopes that the public school system works for him because I don’t have a passion for home schooling my child. I am certainly the right fit Mama to home school my son if the need arises, and I always make decisions based on what my maternal instinct says is best for my children but I am not there yet. I will go through the steps with the school system and fight hard to see what can be done to support my son. As Aj gets older we are going to see more and more social issues with him; he never has been good with social ques, ever. Aj isn’t a child who gets into the emotional responses of people, to him it’s more about tones. So if someone has a steady, normal tone, then he doesn’t pick up much, if any, emotion behind it. If someone raises their voice, and that tone is more of a yelling it can send my son into tears.

As a parent it has been difficult to be aware of my tone and ensure that tone is proper but I think I am getting the hang of it. A firm, steady voice always works for Aj. A structured daily life, always works for Aj. I was even able to get him to attend a couple of school functions with his brother and me, something he never ever would have even attempted in the past. This shows me that whatever I am doing to work with my autistic son is actually working to better him, not make him spiral downward.

This is another journey to walk, but I am thankful right now it is a journey that is med free for my son!

Image Courtesy: http://nationalautismnetwork.com/articles.html/_/autism-treatment-news/autism-and-the-gluten-free-casein-free-gfcf-r1705

Cards for A Child Writes & Autism Awareness

My daughter is a member and has already been matched with a penpal at A Child Writes. She just loves the site so much and has been excited to even be able to hear back from her penpal already! Dwan Perrin matched my daughter up with the perfect penpal, they have very similar interests! One of the happenings at A Child Writes is that each month there is an awareness and you can do crafts or this month in particular is cards for children with Autism. My daughter was all too happy to submit her cards, she made three of them that had positive little sayings on them to brighten the days of autistic children everywhere!

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It was fun to watch her eyes light up when I told her that she would be making another child’s day brighter! A Child Writes is a great site for children their mission is pretty simple but I am sure something you can all agree with and support, “Our mis­sion is to nour­ish the minds of our chil­dren by bring­ing them together in a safe envi­ron­ment work­ing towards a com­mon goal and edu­cate them on impor­tant causes in order to shape strong communities.

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So if you haven’t checked out A Child Writes yet I am thinking that you should and remember to have your child send in their cards to A Child Writes so that they can help brighten the day of autistic children everywhere!

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