About this blog.

My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 24 months. I created this blog to bring meaning to the often-confusing label. Sometimes I have answers. Other times, just more questions.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

This is the pic we used for our holiday cards this year. Cheers!
From A Little Bit Autistic, Jeremy and Brad.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What to Expect: The PDD Years

If only such a book existed.

Alas, it doesn't, so here I will share a few tidbits I have learned, based mostly on my experience with Brad.
  • Acquisition of speech - As indicated in my sidebar, Brad's speech was delayed; he became verbal at around 25 months. Also, Brad is acquiring language in what appears to be the "gestalt mode." See this graphic for a comparison between the gestalt and analytical modes of acquiring speech. In lay terms, he acquired speech in part by rote and repitition. Typical children do this too - indeed imitation is the building block of learning. But typical children go more quickly from rote to generalization, whereas Brad gets stuck on repetition.
  • Dysfluency - As I blogged, Brad developed dysfluency at age 2.5. At the time, I called it a stutter, but it appears that it isn't a classic stutter. Rather, it's an offshoot of his dyspraxia and motor coordination issues. Simply put, his body doesn't comply with his brain. This plays out in his walk and his talk.
  • Stimming - For the uninitiated, "stimming" refers to actions taken to self-stimulate. Common examples include flapping and spinning. I didn't observe Brad stim at all until...just last week (2 years 11 months). He's flapping more now, not just when he's excited. Sometimes, it's just when he's walking. Note that there's nothing wrong with stimming, and I don't intend to take any actions to reverse this trend. However, this marks a new stage of symbolic importance to us: People take notice of him when we're out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

First IEP!

Brad's big month continues. First potty training, and now...school! On the horizon.

We met with the school district on Wednesday and received our very first IEP. We also received his evaluations. Lots of interesting observations, but the bottom line is that he's at the low end of the normal range for speech and gross motor, and below the normal range for fine motor.

The IEP result - all good news:
  • He will attend an integrated preschool four 1/2 days per week. The integrated class is currently 11 children, at least half of whom are typical peers
  • For specialty services, he will receive two half hour sessions of speech per week
  • With his class, he gets access to an array of group activities geared to motor, physical and social development
His classroom teacher is a real standout. First off, he's a dude. He's very nice, and very knowledgeable about childhood education. Second, he plays the piano, for the kids. Brad loves the piano. We bought him synthesizer, and it's his favorite toy. Third, he seems to appreciate Brad as an individual, which is his job (hence, the "I" in IEP). But after having heard enough stories about underestimated and misunderstood children, I appreciate that he seemed to understand Brad.

To anyone afraid the "autism" label is a one way ticket to some sort of educational ghetto, I can only say: that's not my experience so far. Quite the opposite.

I should also add that while his diagnosis guaranteed placement at the special education preschool, given his social and communication function, in all likelihood, he would have nevertheless qualified. The children that I know of who have gone to the same school didn't have a diagnosis, including a neighbor of mine.

One final note. I considered sending Brad to Montessori or a regular preschool. While I appreciate that Montessori is regarded as cultivating free thinking in children who break the typical mold, at this age, Brad needs structure and routine, not broad freedom. As for regular preschool, I was reminded of this essay in which Kerry Cohen writes:
When I picked him up from our first stab at a regular preschool, one where special needs kids were supposed to be welcome, I always had to brace myself for their day's account. He didn't listen. He cried and cried and they didn't know why. He wouldn't sit with the other children during story time.
I wonder if this isn't an inevitable result for SPD and PDD kids, the result of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Why subject Brad to that?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Potty Update

It's official: Brad is day-trained. He's been in undies for a week, with only one accident. Here's how we trained him:

Every weekend since the Countdown began (about 6 weeks ago), we gave him two hours of underwear time. On Saturday, I would make sure he had a success, basically by keeping him on the potty at the right time. I figured out that he pees at around 8:45 AM. When he "succeeded", I gave him an M&M. On Sunday, I would give him underwear time, but just let him do his thing, which caused him to have an accident, in which case, no M&M. Also, during the week, we started doing potty time after breakfast.

For the first four weeks, his weekday potty time (after breakfast) consisted of him sitting on the potty for a few minutes and not peeing. By week 5, he must have figured out how to hold it in because he started peeing in the potty after breakfast.

So that's pretty much it. But every kid is different, and certainly spectrum kids have body awareness issues that typical kids don't - what worked for Brad might not be the answer for everyone.

There's also a normative parenting issue embedded here - some believe any form of potty pressure or self-imposed timeline is wrong. I see it the reverse. I feel as though independence is a great gift to Brad - indeed, he smiles ear to ear when he potties - and as a parent, I feel obligated to at least give him that chance.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Quick Hit

New study reports on what I blogged about here and here: kids are growing out of PDD-NOS. [Via Left Brain/Right Brain]

Another piece of the puzzle...

It's said that those with dyspraxia (which is often comordid with autism) suffer from poor working memory. But what does that even mean? I stumbled upon the relatively new blog of a researcher in the field. She writes:
Working memory is our brain’s ‘post-it note’. We make mental scribbles of bits of information we need to remember and also work with that information. For example, if you were baking a cake that fed only two people, but you had four people coming to dinner, you need working memory to remember the ingredients and to multiply them in your head so that everyone gets a slice. Without it we would be lost literally, we wouldn’t be able to juggle directions in our head to get to that important meeting at a new location and would forget important phone numbers and contacts. Working memory is just as critical for a variety of activities at school, from complex tasks like reading comprehension and mental math, to simple activities such as navigating around the school and taking the right books for homework.
Anecdotally, I've heard that this is the reason why high functioning autistic individuals have difficulty with driving.

It appears there's a correlation between Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) (a term often used interchangeably with dyspraxia) and poor working memory. See, e.g.: Working Memory and Learning in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder and Specific Language Impairment. It appears that there is also a correlation between DCD and specific language impairment. See, e.g.: Comparing Language Profiles: Children with Specific Language Impairment and Developmental Coordination Disorder. For more information, see Dyspraxia and Working Memory.

My sense is that, with Brad, his motor coordination issues are connected to his cognitive issues. Perhaps the link is working memory. Perhaps it's not. Just another piece of the puzzle to consider.

Brad Update

Brad's changing every day, most recently becoming more of a sensory-seeker. All of a sudden, he has an insatiable need to hug, which I think may be a tactile thing. It's not really a hug, more of a head plant. But it's very sweet, and I'm lapping it up. He's also spinning around a lot, and jumping and rough-housing a lot.

We're in a holding pattern on two other fronts:
  • Potty - he's got bladder control, peeing in the potty about twice a day. Everything is going very smoothly in that department. Self-help is a different issue. Won't go there - TMI. Let's just say, we change his clothes even when we make it to potty on time. Next step is getting rid of the diapers completely. I plan on doing that in the next few weeks. btw, I'm the proud owner of two Piddle Pads (hat tip to Rainbowmummy and Patience). I haven't broken them in yet cause we're still using diapees in the car.

  • School - we meet with the district on December 17, at which time they present the IEP. I think it's a foregone conclusion he'll qualify for something - what that will be, I don't know. I'm hoping for a seat in my town's integrated program, so that he'll have some typical peers.