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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Brad Papers: Part 2

Here I will share an excerpt from a weekly newsletter from Brad's preschool:
Motor Groups for January
This month during Motor Group we have resumed our weekly warm-up stretches including standing on tiptoes with arms overhead while keeping our balance and jumping in place and jumping forward with a two footed takeoff and landing. We also resumed our walking “warm up”, running, and walking “cool down” laps in the gym. The children are always encouraged to pump their arms and run “just right” while traveling all around the gym. We see that the children have improved in their overall physical endurance for these laps since the start of the school year.

The children then played some new games. They listened very carefully and followed specific directions to run from one spot (a certain colored star) to another spot (a circle or cone of the same color). Children were assigned to different color teams for their stars/circles/cones. They listened very carefully for their “color” team before taking their turns. After running to their new spot, the children followed a multistep sequence for a motor activity, “RUN, STOP, DROP, and ROLL”. This was tricky and the children listened carefully, watched a model and then completed the motor plan for the activity. Another game we played included having the children start at their colored star, run to their colored circle/cone, pick up a bean bag, and run back to their star. We added several directions to the game including placing the bean bag “under” the cone or standing “next” to the cone. The children worked very hard listening closely to the multistep directions to complete each task.

We hope you are taking advantage of the many opportunities for outdoor snowman-building and playing in the snow during this month’s snowstorms. Snow shoveling with a child-size snow shovel is a wonderful functional, resistive, “heavy work” activity. Be careful on the ice but please keep your children active!

This is just the motor group. I reprinted it here because these are great strategies for PDD, dyspraxia and SPD (sensory processing disorder). So great that it's hard for me to imagine a richer, better suited educational environment for Brad, with his "ho hum" profile. (As an aside, it's a shame that some people feel the need to scare parents into homeschooling, lest some one use the word "autism" and their child's name in the same sentence.)

The preschool also engages the class in a range of cognitive activities. Not to mention the freeplay and the fun. (Also important!) His peers (hopefully, soon-to-be-friends) are a mix of special education kids and typicals. The special education kids seem like PDD kids (one older than Brad and nonverbal) and aspies. The only thing I'm certain of is that there are no Downs kids or physically disabled children in his class.

Yes, people. I have stumbled across some sort of Early Childhood Development nirvana.

The Brad Papers: Part 1

Here I will share the "accomodations" listed on Brad's IEP:
  • Model and expand language and sound development
  • Break down activities into incremental steps
  • Wait time for processing
  • Frequent breaks for movement as needed
  • Inflatable seat cushion as needed
  • Position pre-writing, drawing activities on a vertical surface
  • Adult assistance and cues as needed to encourage independent self help skills as it relates to outerwear, backback, snack, toileting etc.
  • Adult monitoring and cueing as needed for use of both hands together in functional activities thoughout the school day
  • Monitor use of utensils and classroom tools for hyper-extension
I think Brad's IEP hits the metaphorical bullseye.

A few notes of explanation:
  1. Monitoring the use of both hands is to promote bilateral coordination.
  2. The hyper-extension, also referred to as hyper-flexion, is related to the hypotonia or low musle tone. If a child has low tone in his fingers, the fingers bend way back and present special challenges with respect to handwriting.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The second birthday party clichee and a happy epilogue.

The second birthday party clichee goes something like this: the child, suspected of autism, is surrounded by a flurry of joy and merriment, but wants no part of it. Instead he is in his own world, isolated and alone. Mom is despondent with grief. The Autism Sourcebook, which I blogged about, opens with such a tale. Age 2 is generally when the symptoms of autism become evident, and a birthday party serves to bring out the typical/atypical contrast.

Sadly, this describes Brad's second birthday party to a tee, from my perspective anyway. I was mostly swallowing my tears, wondering if Brad would ever talk or return my affection.

Flashforward to last week, when Brad turned three. Yes, we have a label and it's the one I had dreaded just a year earlier. But with the realization came enlightenment and understanding. And Brad is doing so much better than I ever could have imagined. He's talking and showing affection. He charms us every day with his emerging personality, quirky as it is. We've come to appreciate his difference, not fear it. (Of course, that difference doesn't appear severe or disabling at this point.)

I just wish I knew a year ago what I know today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Big week coming up.

I'm going to be lame and just provide a preview:
  • Thursday, January 22 is Brad's third birthday.
  • Friday, January 23 we visit Brad's new preschool.
  • Sunday, January 25 we have a very small birthday party for Brad.
  • Tuesday, January 27 is Brad's official first day of school.
I'll be sure to post a recap...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

May 1, 2006

A Little Bit Autistic Presents...

"Good morning, Brad," I said wistfully, trying to mask the melancholy. What I wouldn't give for a return smile. But at this point, I had come to not expect it.


More pause.

And then...it happens: Brad smiles.

I rub my eyes in disbelief.

Brad is still smiling.

"You're smiling!!!" I screamed.

All of my fears and anxieties instantly melt away. My heart swells with joy and love. It was a true, rich social smile.

I gestated Brad for 9 months. I gave birth to him. I spent countless sleepless nights, not to mention the diapers. Now, all of the work and exhaustion suddenly seemed trivial. THIS is what it's all about.

Wow, I really dodged a bullet, I thought to myself. I can't believe I thought he had autism. How silly.

Here is a link to the pictures I took that day. The jpeg file names, which are the originals, reflect the mood of the day. My personal fave: "making up for lost time smiling."

2 - 7 - 2 - 0 - 0 - 8

April 30, 2006

A Little Bit Autistic Presents...

"Good morning, Brad," I said with exagerrated ear-to-ear smile.

Nothing. (Can you blame him?)

Brad was more than 12 weeks old and he still wasn't smiling.

What's wrong with him?

Of course, I had an idea. After all, I Googled "late smile" the first day Brad went into what I call the What To Expect (WTE) red zone. The WTE red zone is when a milestone is so delayed, WTE recommends you have your child evaluated for developmental delays. This happens at week 9 if the infant still isn't smiling. When I googled "late smile", of course all of the hits were "autism."

At that stage, I couldn't even process the possibility of autism. I did what most mothers do: I sublimated the fear. Even so, the fear kept creeping up on me. Like, for example, every morning when Brad didn't greet me with a smile.

2 - 7 - 2 - 0 - 0 - 8

A Little Bit Autistic Presents...

We're one week away from the premiere of Lost. As an homage, I present: A Little Bit Autistic time travel. Just like Lost, only with Brad instead of bunnies.

2 - 7 - 2 - 0 - 0 - 8

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Change of...ahem...topic.

Thanks everyone for the advice on Brad's latest issue. Still a work in progress here. We've begun an elimination diet - we're eliminating bagels. (Ha!)

I stumbled across this fascinating study. The conclusion is that those with "autistic spectrum conditions" have something approximating eagle eye vision. The study is based on the progressive philosophy that autism is in part difference and not disorder or disease. Dare I say this could be a coveted "biological marker" of autism? See what happens when we focus on the big picture and not just that which needs to be vanquished or cured?

The studied is co-authored by Simon Baron-Cohen, so it has credibility. Yet, I could find no press or wire reports on the findings. I couldn't find much by way of blogging either. Strange.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Brad is anal.

Brad is anal retentive. No, he's not fixated on order, nor does he insist on eating the same thing every night in a particular way, like say chicken fingers with cheese and fruit (hat tip to Kia). Brad is not anal in the freudian sense.

Brad is literally holding in his shit.

This is a new development. He had a few poop accidents in the wake of his potty training, and now he's freaked out. We've got issues.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Terrible twos at age three and why I'm a bad mom.

So terrible twos are upon us. It's mostly garden variety oppositional behavior, only delayed and exaggerated. Delayed because the onset is at almost age 3, and exaggerated because he's so very rigid. For example, often Brad will get into a snit just because Jeremy speaks. Or dances. "No, no, no!!!" he wails.

So why am I a bad mom? It's the limit setting. With Jeremy at this age, I was a model parent, setting limits firmly and consistently, using timeouts as needed.

With Brad, the limit setting isn't going so smooth. I'm neither firm nor consistent. I've identified five reasons:

1) I'm a softie. I just don't like to see Brad upset.

2) He's my baby. We're done having kids, and I cherish...I dunno...mommying him.

3) He's so far beyond reason. Even the action/consequence reasoning which provides the basis for time-outs doesn't seem to work. I can give him a time-out 20 times for the same thing and it doesn't resonate.

4) He's stingy with the sugar. Until about 3 months ago, he didn't hug or give me any sort of affection. So when he gets upset and he turns to me for comfort, I want to give it to him, even if he's completely in the wrong. I'm just so happy that he's in touch with his emotions and I can comfort him.

5) The frowny face. Brad has got the saddest little frowny face. And he often internalizes when he has a tantrum, quietly crying with a frowny face. I can't be firm to frowny face.

But I can't indulge the rigidity because so much of his unreasonableness is aimed at Jeremy, and that's not fair. Any advice?