Breaking News! AAP to Change Stance on Screen Time!

Mothers everywhere, relax. You’re no longer a bad mom. From The Huffington Post:

Parents across the Internet rejoiced this week, declaring themselves well rid of “screen time guilt” after an announcement by the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly signaled it will amend media guidelines discouraging screen time for children under two and limiting it to two hours a day for older kids… after the organization’s 2016 national conference on the topic.

12003340_10153677979509801_2764872134249134331_nSo does that mean we can go ahead and let the TV babysit our kids? Of course not. But it does mean that the American Academy of Pediatrics is finally going to be up to date with the way real people live their lives. I’ll be the first to admit, as I have in the past, that screen time (a term I absolutely hate, by the way) plays a HUGE part in our everyday lives. Because JI’s brain is moving so fast and he has such a difficult time focusing and calming down, the tablet has always been a great way to get him to do those things. It’s also a great motivator, reward, etc. He plays with12027586_10153685243159801_9117712163234884203_n educational apps, such as Nick Jr (on the computer only), ABC Mouse, and Math Monkey to name a few. He also plays games such as Plants vs Zombies, which might not be educational per say, but that require a higher level of thinking and planning. I started playing PvZ when I was in my mid 20’s and had a difficult time beating some of the levels – hell, I still have a hard time with some of them! JI can fly through level after level with ease, earning the gems and sprouts and so forth that help him advance to higher levels. It’s amazing. Even Poke can’t play as well as JI does!

JI doesn’t care for movies or many TV shows, but he does like to watch videos on YouTube of people playing video games. He watches them play, and then goes and plays the same game and beats it right away. It’s not like he’s taking the easy way either, because he usually doesn’t follow their directions (ha!) and if he does, it’s only for levels that he’s really struggling with. The rest of the time he12002368_10153667994864801_3267765275522840393_o watches them for entertainment. JI also likes to watch videos of tornadoes, hurricanes, and other crazy weather stuff. He’s been interested in weather since he was a newborn, and meteorologist is on his list of things to be when he grows up.

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Is this your idea of fun, mom? Where is the tablet?

Would I like for JI to be more in tune with the present moment? Yes. But I know my child will never be that way. I used to think I was a bad mom because I couldn’t get him to play with toys or do puzzles or anything like that. Then I realized, through the whole autism evaluation process, that those things are, for lack of better words, beneath him. JI never played with toys creatively, and if he did play with a toy he played exactly how it was supposed to be used – ie, A spoon is for stirring, it cannot be a drumstick, and a pot is for cooking, it cannot be a drum. He gets angry at “silly” things. If he doesn’t see the point to what you’re asking him to do, he won’t do it. Using the tablet lets him be creative and learn at the same time, while also challenging him and adapting to his current cognitive level. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be an app developer and put mommy in the fanciest nursing home!

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Super Quick Update

Official diagnosis: Autism with Unspecified impulse-control and conduct disorder.

I’m relieved, grateful, and hopeful. I’ve been waiting for an answer for over three years, and I finally have one.

The Single Life

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wpid-wp-1444259775007.jpegWow. Being a single mom is absolutely nothing like being a single childless person. It’s awesome, because I am fully in control and I don’t have to worry about Poke fucking things up anymore, don’t have to worry about co-parenting or who is doing which chores, or if he’s cheating on me again. I don’t have to clear things with him, ask for permission, or wonder what effect my actions will have on him or our relationship. SO, basically, I’m acting like he did the whole time we were together! Ba-da-bup! But seriously, it is amazing. I am still incredibly happy, though the “honeymoon” – or anti-honeymoon – phase has ended.

I am glad that Seanatello was around for the six weeks that he was, because it helped me get through the toughest part of leaving Poke. If he hadn’t been here, there’s a good chance that on those long nights and difficult days when I missed Poke, I would have asked him to come back. But, because I was distracted with Seanatello, I never even considered it, thank wpid-wp-1444259589791.jpeggod. That would have been a huge mistake. Now that Seanatello is gone, it sucks to be alone, but at least he left his dog. *rolls eyes*

Being a single mom is horrible. Everything is on my shoulders, and I have nobody to blame but myself, ever. I never get any kind of relief, I am literally with at least two children 24/7 – during the day, it’s four to six kids, all boys! – and I have very little adult interaction in real life. When I need a hug, I have to get it from JI. When I am horny, I have to take care of myself. Well, that’s typical anyway, but as a single person with no kids, I could just go out to the bar and take my pick! And, because Poke and his heartless, evil mother refuse to take the boys on weekends anymore, I literally, literally have zero time off. Yes, you read that right, he’s completely abandoned his children, with the guidance or support from his mother. It’s disgusting, because Poke grew up without a father, so he should know better. Apparently he doesn’t give a flying fuck about JI’s feelings. Squeaks is too little yet, and hopefully will have no memories of this traumatic time.

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Speaking of trauma, JI has been absolutely fucked up by this entire situation. After Bitch Mother in Law came to my house and said, in front of JI, that she doesn’t want him anymore and that he is too bad to come over, JI has been a completely different child. He has had one green day, one yellow day, and FIVE red days in 7 days of school. Prior to her tantrum, he’d had only ONE red day, which was because he’d only gotten two hours of sleep before school. JI was set to have an amazing wpid-wp-1444259884824.jpegyear, and now he’s back on the shit track. I can’t control his behaviour anymore; he’s either angry or crying, clinging to me or being a bully to the other kids. He even hit two kids at school! Poke doesn’t care either; when I text him and tell him what is happening, he only has something snarky to reply or he doesn’t reply at all. What a fucking loser. In the long run these boys will be better off without him in their lives, but right now JI isn’t emotionally mature enough to deal with it, and I don’t know what to do. I’m trying to get him into counseling as a start.

…that’s it for now. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other, and so forth. Tomorrow I find out more information on JI’s autism (or not) diagnosis, so that’ll will hopefully be one less thing to worry about. Even if he does get an affirmative diagnosis, at least I’ll finally know.

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School’s Out for Summer!

JI had his last day of school on Thursday, finishing up a great last week of school. This school year has been very difficult for us, from starting out at another school as an NT peer to being recast as disabled by the school system, then switching schools at the same time that Squeaks was being born and record amounts of snow were falling on central Ohio causing several weeks of snow days.

wpid-20150523_182057.jpgLearning how to behave in a different classroom setting was a challenge as well. At the public schools here, a red-yellow-green system is used, and in the beginning JI was constantly on red (all kids start on green and get moved to yellow and then red depending on their behaviour). I was feeling really poorly as a parent, but over time I realized that he just had to work it out and learn how to do it their way. This was tough because I always want my baby to be his best! I looked at his sticker chart for the month of May, and he only had four redwpid-20150526_164525.jpg days! Spectacular! JI has ended this school year on such a positive note, and I could not be more proud of him for all the growing and changing he has done.

Also today I received the paperwork that JI’s teacher filled out in regards to his social behaviour and such in the classroom. There were three questionnaires to be completed, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the answers. There were a lot of things that he does that I thought he didn’t do, such as play with other kids and act wpid-20150519_111334.jpgappropriately in group settings. He wasn’t doing that at the beginning of the year. Now I’m wondering, and hoping almost, that he behaviour problems were just temporary and that he doesn’t have ASD or ODD or related disorders. Of course I’m still going to keep going with the evaluations, because I’d rather test for everything and get a ton of negatives than stop testing and have him fall behind again. He definitely still has sensory issues, so behaviour therapy will definitely help with that.

wpid-20150527_134717.jpgI’m very excited for this summer. I think JI is going to mature a great deal between now and August, and hopefully next school year won’t be as emotionally demanding as this past school year. I have heaps of ideas in my brain about what to do to help JI in that maturing process, and I cannot wait to share them with you all. The next three months are going to be unique in that JI is becoming an actual boy, not just a toddler or preschooler, and Squeaks is going to be doing a whole lot of growing, and might be sitting up and maybe even crawling by the end of the summer. I am just so eager to see it all happen!

JI Evaluation Update

So, no answers today. They’re referring us for behavioural therapy and scheduling a targeted evaluation. They will specifically screen for autism as well as give him an IQ test. She said normally she would not suspect autism based on his overall behaviour, but since the autistic behaviours that he exhibited in the past have gotten worse and more have come up, she wants the targeted evaluation. In regards to the IQ test, she said it is possible that he’s above average in some or most categories, but below average in another, which could be causing his behaviour problems.

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I don’t know how to feel right now. Like I’ve said before, I don’t want my kid to be autistic, but I want some kind of answers. It sucks being in this diagnostic limbo.

Special Needs Kids are the New Black

JI may or may not be autistic. He may or may not have ADHD. He does have SPD. He does have a speech delay. He does have a gross motor delay. He does have social/emotional behavioural delays. JI is a special needs kid. There, I said it.

I never thought I’d be this mom, this special needs kid’s mom, this mom who is researching how to get her son to recover from a meltdown faster, who has to interpret her son’s language for his father and grandparents, who has met with so many doctors and specialists and teachers and evaluators that she bought a day planner… a day wpid-20140527_122142.jpgplanner! But I love my son and I want him to have the best life he can have, and I will not let his disabilities stand in his way because he is so incredibly bright. I mean, the kid is three operating at a kindergarten level! Just because he can’t speak properly doesn’t mean he’s stupid.

So here’s what I mean when I say that special needs kids are the new black: everybody’s got one, and it is trendy to have one. You could say that special needs kids are the new tiny dog in a giant purse; if you haven’t got one to deal with and talk about and take pictures of, you’re out of the clique. At first it was okay – so many parents thought their kids had a problem, so they took them to the doctors and awareness was raised. No longer were autistic children put in homes to rot away, no longer were kids with ADHD labeled “bad” and punished, and so forth. But then, it became a thing. Every little kid who threw a fit wpid-june2014-076.jpg.jpegsuddenly needed to be on medication. Every preteen who rebelled was labeled as having Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The pharmaceutical industry boomed. There were so many kids on the spectrum that everywhere you turned another kid was being diagnosed. Then the celebrities started getting involved. Perhaps the most famous, Jenny McCarthy led the good fight against vaccinations and claimed that she healed her son, cured his autism, through diet and holistic treatments. The thing is, nobody knows what causes most conditions, and it is highly unlikely that what she did “cured” him. Certain symptoms can be alleviated, but there is no cure for autism.

I’ve read stories online of people whose child went through several major life changes in a short period of time and stoppedwpid-20141013_122605.jpg speaking. Are they autistic? No. I’ve heard about a kid who switched schools and fought with his teachers every day for months. Does he have ODD? Not likely. I have read about a parent who more or less ignored their toddler, so the child constantly acted out, ran away, and threw tantrums. Were they having ADHD related meltdowns? No. But all of these children were labeled special needs at the behest of their parents, and that is the problem. A diagnosis for your kid justifying your shitty parenting or lack of ability to deal with kids being kids does not a special needs child make. There are HUGE differences between a meltdown and a tantrum, as explained here.

The thing I don’t understand is why a parent would want a special needs kid in the first place. Those of us who have them, of course we love them, but I wouldn’t wish this lifestyle on anyone – and my kid isn’t even that “bad off”. I know people in real life who have nonverbal autistic kids, who have kids who have cerebral palsy, kids who have neurological disorders and their children all require round-the-clock care. JI can pass for a typical child on any given day, as long as you only have him for that one day. Between the struggles to make him comfortable, to make us comfortable, to get him the help he needs, it has been a difficult and lengthy process. I have cried, I have screamed, I have smoked so many anxiety cigarettes. Once again, I would not wish this easy-compared-to-others situation on anyone, so why parents push for it, I cannot comprehend.

wpid-20150218_194819.jpgPlease – parent your child. Try all the other avenues first. Are they acting out? Reward good behaviour with the attention they so desperately seek. Don’t put them on medication. Do they hit, bite, scratch? Teach them about others’ feelings and how to keep your hands to yourself. Don’t get them a label. And then, when all else has failed, then go to your doctor and discuss your child’s behaviour. I’m not an expert and I do not claim to be one, but I know the difference between a special needs kid and a kid just being a kid. Let’s let our kids be kids before we jump to saddle them with something that could potentially follow them for the rest of their life.

Check out this AMAZING video:

Posted by CCHR International on Friday, April 3, 2015

It describes perfectly what I’m trying to say.

Let’s Talk About Why JI is Extra Special

My older son, JI, is going to be four in July. When he was nine months old, I noticed that something was “off”. At first, I thought he was2012-03-27_16-47-42_778 deaf, until he passed a hearing test with flying colors. He never babbled, didn’t do much “talking” of the infant variety at all. He barely responded to voices and people, though he was incredibly alert. So we hooked up with Help Me Grow here in Franklin County, and they ran some tests on my little guy. He was ahead in his motor skills, behind in speech and language. Thus, from the age of one, JI has been in speech therapy continuously.

beechwold (1)The first suspicion the specialists and our pediatrician had was Autism. I was very leery to label him, however, because he was so young and because I feel that certain conditions are way over diagnosed in this day and age. It’s a good thing I held out, too, because after a few months of speech therapy JI was making eye contact, using letter sounds, and becoming proficient in ASL for kids. Between speech and occupational therapy, he had outgrown all the symptoms of Autism by age two.

However, at age two, he was still far, far behind in his speech and language, so we enrolled him in a school for special needsIMG_20140301_173733_621 kids. He went to school every day, rode the bus, and socialized with other special needs kids as well as typical peers. At the beginning of the school year, JI had about ten spoken words, and by the end of the school year, he had well over one hundred. Columbus City Schools did their evaluation and determined he was no longer “disabled” and invited him to return to that school as a peer. This year’s school year started off with JI in the peer group of his classroom, and it was apparent within weeks that he was absolutely not ready for that. Academically (language/math/etc) and in regards to fine motor, JI is at above average at a kindergarten level. However, his speech is at 15-18 months, his gross motor is behind, and his social-emotional-behavioural level is way below average as well. It took half the school year to have all the necessary screenings and evals done by Columbus City Schools until he was finally qualified as disabled once again. Unfortunately, that meant switching schools.

February of this year was a rough time to start with because I was set to have Squeaks, my newborn, by c-section on the 11th. He arrived early, messing up all our plans. JI attended five whole days of school in the month of February, between the waiting period from school to school, having to stay with my parents out of town when the baby came early, and many, many snow days. Life has been tough the past few months, but I am holding it together as best I can.

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Now that he’s been in his new school for almost two months, a new set of issues is coming to the surface. We have an appointment with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in May to once again have JI screened for Autism, as well as ADHD and other behavioural conditions.

I’m not trying to force a diagnosis on him, but it will be comforting and a relief to know that maybe it’s not just Sensory Processing Disorder or bad behaviour, and once we have something official I can get him the exact help he needs.