Monday, June 30, 2008

Kids and Shots

Tomorrow afternoon I have to take my daughter to her pediatrician for the Meningococcal Vaccine—she can’t go to her new school without it. Good grief and good luck, right!! Meghan has autism, but she is also very stubborn and determined (hmmm, wonder who she got those genes from). This is not a good character combo: autism with a mix of stubborn determination. I am telling you that if she doesn’t want a shot in the arm (now how many can raise their mouse and tell me that they would), then she’s not gonna get one. The last time my son got a shot (the flu shot) he didn’t like it either but then he realized--after about 15 minutes of argument--that he had to get the shot and surrendered by hugging me as hard as he could until it was over---sooo sweet! Let me tell you now, this won’t be happening with my daughter, oh Nooo! She will fight us all to the end—until we are black and blue and down for the count!! Help!

Any do-gooders out there who want to come…or at least offer us a good luck and good-bye?

The StepMonster

I have a friend who is a stepmother…to a teenager, no less (hahahah—sorry, just had to get that out!), now if that isn’t punishment enough, then listen to this: not only does she not have control over disciplining the little “tricksy” or better yet, “daddy’s little angel who can do no wrong”, this “Little Angel” is quite aware of it, too!! Yup, if my friend needs to let's say “execute motherly discipline” in her own house, then Little Angel goes running off to clueless-to-the-world-of-disciplinarians, daddy. Talk about frustrating. Looks like Little Angel will be getting into some major trouble; hence, whatever Little Angel wants, Little Angel gets for the sake of peace in the marriage. Now if this isn’t a one-way ticket to a reputable marriage counselor, then what is?

Can anyone help or relate?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Friends and Autism--is it an oxymoron?

I’m not sure if other people can relate, but as a mom of autistic children I have found it extremely difficult to meet new people and friends. In the early years before anyone could tell that my kids had autism or social and communication issues (due to their young age), I found it easy to go to a favorite park and share quality time with other women. It was easy to talk about parenting, share snacks, and even meet for occasional dinners (wow, a mommy night out!). But ever since my daughter’s diagnosis, and I do remember the very harsh day when Meghan first “appeared” to have “issues,” it was as if all of a sudden we were lepers. Now I certainly did and do understand the reasoning behind the snobbery, people can’t be blamed for whom their children choose to play with. But to be openly shunned by my own peers (grown, educated adults--I might add) and being that I was still the very same woman that I was just the day before: not autistic and very much social. I don’t know, maybe I’m a bit too sensitive—do I have an attitude?

But what I do know is that I have gone down a different path than my peers … one day we are all hanging out at our favorite park with our kids and life is nice and, well boring … then one day while the rest of my peers were happily headed off to “mommy and me” classes and mom groups, I’m, most grudgingly, running off to "support" groups; they are with their kids enjoying "story time" at the library or bookstore, I can be found in a strange corner of the bookstore knee deep in everything from Autism: the facts, and Behavioral Issues and Young Children with Autism, learning everything from "who my children were" to the "workings of floor play and how to rescue your autistic child from the evils of her own world …"

And let's not even mention the, um, "missing" birthday party invites from my children’s classmates—never got one, not one! No attitude, just fact!

What seems interesting is that even some parents of typically developing children can relate to having some of the same difficulties meeting new friends/people (behavioral issues, personality conflicts)--you too?

Any thoughts or input on your social life with or without autistic children?

Earlier Detection Benefit or Question

It is a known fact that children with autism rarely receive a diagnosis before age 3 or 4. But behavioral researchers believe they are homing in on specific behaviors that should drop the age of first diagnosis down to as young as 18 months.

Early diagnosis has become increasingly critical as treatments for the potentially devastating developmental disorder advance and research begins to show that the earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the better the prognosis.

Here is the report posted by the American Psychological Association.

This article also points out that such "tools" for early detection are not proof of the disorder and could lead to a misdiagnosis and unnecessary therapies--given the fact that autism is a tricky disorder to diagnose due to the correlation of age and social behaviors in young children. This is why most researchers hope they will find biological or genetic markers for autism that could accurately diagnose autism at birth and would bolster the behavioral measures. Some teams are well on the way toward finding one or several autism genes.

Signs of Autism

Someone recently asked me how I knew my kids were autistic and what were the signs. I don't know if other parents with autistic children get this question and how they feel about answering it without causing unnecessary worry--given the fact that lots of kids develop at different speeds; for instance, a parent might make note that their 2 year old isn't talking very much or maybe not at all...(this was this person's concern) this certainly does not mean that the child has autism. My opinion about parents who "worry" about autism is that it is a very good thing, meaning that there is much more awareness of the disorder than ever before (given the fact that, as of today, 1 out of 150 children have been diagnosed with autism--when my daughter was diagnosed at age 2.5--10 years ago--the stats were 1 and over 1000 children were diagnosed) and that parents and their pediatrician are more aware of the signs of autism than ever before. In fact, as reported in this story by CNN, the American Academy of Pediatrics is making a push to have every child screened for autism twice by age 2. The academy's new report gives explicit instructions for the warning signs of autism at various ages.

Parents should watch for signs, including not making eye contact, not recognizing a parent's voice, not babbling by age 9 months and not using pre-speech gestures such as waving, pointing and showing.

Experts agree that early intervention is important in addressing the symptoms associated with autism. The earlier treatment is started, the better the chance the child could reach normal functioning levels.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Autism and Residential Option

Humor! Humor is how I do it everyday; that is the secret (shhh, don’t tell anyone—tell everyone!!). Let me tell you, if I didn’t crack a joke about my life (with two autistic children) once in a while, then I would probably cry, and we all know that laughing is SO much better than crying, yes?

This Fearless Female (FF) is soon to have the experience of her life. After 13 years of hard work, daily dedication and, yes, one too many bruises later (daughter inflicting on mother), my daughter (Meghan) will soon be heading off to a residential school--a school for autistic children to live during the week for continuous education and structure. Yikes! I never thought I would be saying these words, much less writing them. I remember one day about 10 years ago, I went to a support group (a new one to try out) and walked into the conference room and sat down to what I thought was a support group for parents of autistic children, but was, in fact, a support group for “residential” children. An interesting mistake in the advertisement. After discovering the mistake, I quickly shot up and walked out (briskly) as if I didn’t even want to make note that this was, in fact, an option.

After I stepped out of the room, two women followed me, one was apologetic for the mix-up and the other woman was a very kind mother of a 13-year-old autistic daughter. I asked her the inevitable question, “Why?” She smiled and explained “It’s the girls,” the girls seem much more severe than the boys (a fact that I had also heard), and that when girls reach the teenage years, they seem to become much more violent “Hurting people, tipping over armoires, tvs, etc.” she told me that she had no choice. I never forgot her smile and the way she was shaking her head; the look of just knowing that this was, someday, to be my own daughter's “fate,” as well. I told her quite frankly that I would do whatever it takes to make sure that this doesn’t happen to my daughter… and I really believed I would.

I believed that I had ten years of hard work coupled with the guidance of therapies that, perhaps, this woman (never did get her name) didn’t have to her advantage--at that time. I picked a great collaborative, teachers, ABA program (a learning style, technique); had lots of resources at my fingertips--and utilized them. I knew Meghan was much more “severe” than other autistic children in her class, but I would read, read, read, and do the work hard that I had to do to “cure” her, and that I had ten years to do it--WOW, what a feat!

In the meantime, my son was also diagnosed with PDD (Pervasive Developmental Delay), this is also on the autism spectrum. CRASH! Boy, was I busy. Tired. Angry. And, oh boy, did I have my work cut out for me! So, to start my long journey with autistic children, I went on a vacation--by myself!

Friday, June 27, 2008

My First Post (Yay!)

I am a mother of two autistic children: my daughter is 13 and my son is 14. My daughter is profoundly autistic and requires much of my attention and help, and has been my biggest struggle through the years...I will fill you in on how I survived later and ongoing... My son is more on the mild end of the spectrum, and is much more independent. I have certainly had my struggles through the years and wanted to "entertain" you with some of them through ongoing blogs and, perhaps, help and encourage others who may also have an autistic child(ren) to identify and share in their own daily struggles (and I know you have loads of them, as I do).

I have also learned that parents who do not have autistic children but may have children with other behavioral issues have an appreciation of the struggles and issues that I have had to deal with through the years.

Let face it, parenting is not easy, no matter the developmental or behavoral issues that may exist or that we (as the parent(s)) face on a daily basis. I've learned through the years that good friends and encouraging adult communication (okay, venting) can make a world of difference to how we approach our next full day of struggles (okay, torment).

These kids are out to get us, people!! Let fight back!