Parenting my Autistic Child

I had planned to post a few times a week now that summer vacation has started, but then, as always, time got away from me. It’s good though, being busy. I lost three of my clients and gained two, but I only had a week off in between, so everything I planned to do with only three kids had to be altered to involve five kids – two of whom are autistic. I’ll manage though, because I have no other choice. I just keep working and saving my money for the inevitable day when the house gets taken away.

Today I want to talk about parenting an autistic child. As I mentioned in my last post, itwp-1465917157645.jpg amazes me how many levels/severities/etc of autism I’ve encountered. My friend has two autistic kids and they’re different from each other, JI is different from them, and kids I’ve met in therapy/meetings/classes are different from them and each other. For me, that is the most frustrating part of being an autism parent. Yes, our kids all share certain traits, but even those traits aren’t necessarily addressed in the same way from child to child. I think that is one of the reasons why this past school year was so difficult.

I know exactly how to parent JI. We went through our rough patches, horrific patches, sad and frustrating patches. Now I know what I’m doing, how to handle his meltdowns, tantrums, fears, etc. Obviously I can’t predict everything or solve every problem, but I am really REALLY wp-1465917063884.jpgfucking amazing when it comes to parenting my child. It is so upsetting and frustrating when teachers or family members want to do things that I know will cause problems. It is absolutely infuriating when they refuse to follow my suggestions or directions. I understand that the educators’ job is to push JI, to teach him how to behave in certain situations, and that they are the experts at their job. It hurts me when he gets in trouble at school just for being himself, for doing things he can’t yet control, like lashing out physically. They say it’s not true, but I know he was labelled “The Bad Kid” in his class last year. I could tell by the way they talked about him, the way they dealt with him, the punishments and discipline he received.

If JI doesn’t want to do something, there are consequences. I utilize the amazing and wonderful 1-2-3 Magic system, and it works if you are committed to it – not gonna lie, it fails if you fail at keeping strong! You must use the system the right way, every time. With JI, there is no negotiating, there are no “threats”, just warning and then consequence. If he does something absolutely deplorable, such as intentionally injure someone, then he does get a more severe consequence. Unlike school, however, he does have the option to earn his things back. I make sure to recognize when he’s done something great, so that he doesn’t feel like he’s being “bad” all the time. I have to admit though, I have lost my shit on him more than once, because I’m a human being. It gets to be a lot, caring for five or six kids for 10 hours a day, and rarely having a moment alone from children. JI and I had a blow up the other day where I just lost it and yelled “Why does everything have to be a fight with you?!” and proceeded to list all the things he fought with me about that day. Not my best parenting moment by far, but I think it actually made him realize that sometimes it is easier to just go with the flow rather than resist so much. A huge part of his diagnosis was the rigidity, and it is by far our biggest obstacle to typical childhood.

I am hoping that kindergarten will be a new fresh start. JI says he hates school because hewp-1465916954013.jpg hates friends and hates to learn. I reminded him that he is learning every day, by asking questions, watching videos, helping me do things around the house, etc. He said that I
should just teach him at home! Well, homeschooling would be amazing if I didn’t have four or five other kids here to deal with, and if I could actually find a way to get JI to socialize in groups of peers. I guess we’ll just keep praying that the kindergarten plan works out.

Advertisements

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.

12065992_10153685494734801_5832452843057248111_n
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!

Backyard Waterpark!

Potential trigger: childhood drowning

wpid-20150612_144349.jpg

So, I didn’t just make up that 72 item list, I’m actually going to try and check off all those summer fun ideas! I’ve already made ice cream, popsicles, drawn a road on the driveway, had a yard sale, gone to the zoo three times (we go about once a week!), and hit up the Ohio Historical Society. It’s been super hot here lately, therefore I’ve also had JI in the pool just about every day. In fact, we’ve been using the pool way more than last year, and in order to save a little money on water, I went and bought chlorine and a test kit. This way we don’t have to dump out 500+ gallons every single day!

wpid-20150612_103905.jpg

JI likes to have the slide in  the pool, and it’s always very hot to the touch, so I rigged up the hose and sprayer to shower water down on the slide and cool it off, as well as make it nice and slippery to fly into the pool. When he’s not in the pool, JI is flying off the slide and down the slip’n’slide. The only downside to all this outdoor waterplay is that I can’t leave him alone. It would be great if I could safely leave him out there to play while I did chores or tended to Squeaks! I’ve heard way too many tragic stories about kids drowning in backyard pools, and even though the water isn’t deep and I know CPR, I don’t want to take that chance.

wpid-20150610_160906.jpg

wpid-11392808_10153405000644801_2573392609172075123_n.jpg

72 Fun Ideas for Summer!

wpid-20150610_161622.jpg

Outdoor Water Fun

  1. Backyard Waterpark – Set up a slide into the kiddie pool and turn on the sprinkler, hang a sprinkler from a tree and drive cars through it, your imagination is the limit!
  2. Driveway water darts – Draw a bullseye on your driveway with chalk and use wet sponges as the darts
  3. Waterballoon or water gun fight – Once you get hit, you’re out! Team with the last man standing wins!
  4. Ice block – Fill a container (I use a plastic shoebox sized one from the dollar store) with water, food coloring, and trinkets like dinosaurs or cars or whatever tiny things you have lying around. Freeze and let the kids go at it until all the tiny things are free!
  5. Amp up the slip’n’slide – Dish soap, shaving cream, no oil!
  6. Car wash – Do a real car wash with your neighborhood, or set up a kids’ car wash with sprinklers/hoses and dish soap.

Outdoor Fun

  1. Plant seeds – You can get a packet of seeds for less than $1 in some places; plant in a clear cup to see how the roots grow!
  2. Play ice cream – Empty a can of shaving cream into a container and freeze until hard. It melts quickly and has a weird texture. You can add colored rice to be the sprinkles! Give the kids scoops, bowls, etc. Not for consumption!
  3. Salt sculptures – Combine 3c salt + 3T water, mix until every grain of salt has gotten damp (add more water if necessary), dry for at least 18 hours. Use sand castle molds, deep bowls, etc. to build shapes.
  4. Find a new playground – Pick a random park from the map, or stop at one that you always drive by but have never visited.
  5. Picnic – Pack sandwiches, tea, and cookies. Find a cozy spot away from the ants.
  6. Bonfire – Roast hot dogs, make s’mores, tell stories, and enjoy the evening.
  7. Yard sale – Gather up all the stuff you haven’t touched in the past year (or longer!) and sell it at low-low prices. Buy something for the family with the proceeds! Donate everything that doesn’t sell – once it’s outta the house, don’t let it back in!
  8. Lemonade stand – Make homemade lemonade and give the proceeds to a children’s charity.
  9. Feed the ducksBut don’t feed them bread! Get some duck food from your local pet store, or opt for veggie trimmings, cracked corn, rice, oats, or thawed frozen peas.
  10. Go camping in the backyard – Build a tent from branches and a sheet, or just rough it under the stars.
  11. Backyard obstacle course – Jump over the rock! Go through the sprinkler! Hop on one foot down the path! The possibilities are endless.
  12. Draw roads on the driveway with chalk – Make a huge street for bikes and trikes, or make tiny streets for toy cars.
  13. Flashlight tag – My version: Everyone has a flashlight. One person is IT, and has their light on – everyone else has theirs off. IT counts to 50 or 100. Everyone else hides. IT has to find each person and shine the light on them. Once you have been found, you join the IT team and turn your light on, and you find the rest of the people. Last person to be found is the next IT.
  14. ABC treasure hunt – Make an alphabetical list of things to find in nature or in the house or backyard.
  15. Texture/nature rubbings (please, no gravestones) – All you need is paper and a few old crayons!
  16. See the fireworks – Lots of towns have them near the 4th of July, and you could easily see fireworks every day for a week!
  17. See a concert in the park – Many places offer free or very cheap concerts in the evening or on weekend afternoons.
  18. DIY projector for outside movie night – Add popcorn, a blanket, and some wine for the parents!

In the Kitchen

  1. Bake cookies and make ice cream sandwiches – Homemade chocolate chip + vanilla ice cream.
  2. Learn a new recipe – Let the kids go through your cookbooks and pick something fun.
  3. Make popsicles – You can simply put juice in a popsicle mold, or get a little funkier with fresh fruit combos!
  4. Homemade pizza – Buy a premade shell or dough to cook, or make your own. Top with anything you can think of.
  5. Homemade Ice Cream – It’s way easier than you think, and healthier than the store bought stuff (even if you make it with candies and chocolate and all that stuff!)
  6. Visit an ethnic grocery store – Make dinner from the interesting things you find there.
  7. Make smoothies – Take all your fruit, mix it up with milk and yogurt, and bam! Smoothies.
  8. Root beer floats – A classic summer treat! Invite your grandparents over and have them tell you stories about their childhood while you sip on a brown cow.

Places to Go

  1. Summer reading club – Most local libraries have a program for school-age kids and grown-ups too.
  2. Museum – Art, History, Science, etc.
  3. Visit farmer’s market – Usually on weekend mornings, Google “your town name + farmer’s markets”
  4. State Fair – The Ohio State Fair is HUGE and super family friendly! Check out a county fair if the state one is too far away.
  5. Zoo – If you have a large family and no membership, it can be pricey. Try to make it less expensive by packing snacks and drinks for everyone, and make sure you wear good shoes!
  6. Mini golf – Winner gets an ice cream sundae! Losers get ice cream cones! Hehehe 🙂
  7. Amusement park – The cheaper, the better! We have a few tiny parks here in Ohio, and in some places those carnivals in parking lots still show up from time to time.
  8. Waterpark – This can be an investment, just like the zoo. Once again, bring everything you need (towels, snacks, etc.) and try to resist all the souvenirs and extras!
  9. Local pool – Our parks & rec has a system of pools that only costs $1/person admission. Check your local community boards to see if there’s anything similar in your area! Sometimes the local pool is only $3-6/person, which isn’t too bad anyway.
  10. State park – There are so many parks to visit in our country. Try to see all the ones close to you!
  11. 200 mile road trip – For us, this would be Columbus to Cleveland or Columbus to Cincinnati, or Columbus to Pittsburgh. Go for a day or overnight, and check out how the other half lives!
  12. Camping in nature – As in real nature, not the backyard 😉 Get a cabin, rent an RV, pitch a tent at a campground.
  13. Do a kids’ workshop or class – Lowe’s, Home Depot, and local rec centers always have interesting things happening for people of all ages.
  14. Go to a baseball game – Minor League, Major League, Little League, Geezer League… tons of baseball in the summer!
  15. Go to the dollar theater – See that movie you wanted to see back in January!
  16. Go bowling – Especially good for a rainy day.

Bring Your Friends

  1. Talent show – Everyone can showcase their special or hidden talents.
  2. Visit residents at a nursing home – Put on a show with karaoke, play the piano or another instrument if you know how, or just sit and visit and let them enjoy your company.
  3. Wii Sports Challenge – Who in the family is best at Wii bowling? Which one of your friends can kick butt at Wii Tennis?
  4. Scary story scare-off (or silly stories for little ones!) – Tell the scariest or silliest story you can think of! Or, one person can start the story and each person adds two lines. Go around the circle until someone says “BOO!”
  5. Ice Cream Social – Invite your friends and have everyone bring one ingredient to make sundaes. Syrups, berries, sprinkles, jimmies, nuts (if you can), cones, waffles, anything you can think that might be good with ice cream!
  6. Volunteer – At an animal shelter, soup kitchen, YMCA/YWCA, food pantry, etc.
  7. Friends parade – Get everyone together and decorate your bikes, trikes, and other ride-on toys. Go through the neighborhood playing music on your mp3 player (back in my day, I had an FM radio on blast!)

Indoor Fun

  1. Funny dice – Make two large dice out of styrofoam blocks (get them at a craft or hobby store). On one die write verb phrases such as “play like”, “dance like”, “jump like”, etc. and on the other die write silly nouns like “a dog”, “an alien”, “a purple people eater”, etc.
  2. Streets on the carpet – Use painter’s tape to map out a city on the rug for your toy cars.
  3. Fingerpainting in the tub – Buy soap paint, or make your own with liquid food coloring and white liquid soap (add a few drops of coloring, stir up, enjoy!)
  4. Learn a skill – Bike riding, rollerskating, tying shoes, etc.
  5. Learn sign language – It is easier than you think! There are tons of videos on YouTube, or check out some books from the library.
  6. Build a bird house – Out of scrap wood, or popsicle sticks, or half a 2-litre, or any crazy thing you can find online!
  7. Sock puppets – Make them the kind that eat dust! Use old socks and draw on faces – if you want to get fancy you can add yarn hair and googly eyes.
  8. Write a book (or comic strip!) – Make your family the stars of your book.
  9. Castle/playhouse/fort out of cardboard boxes – The sky is the limit on this one. Give the kids all the art supplies and let their imaginations run wild.
  10. Pirate Day – Talk, dress, eat, and otherwise act just like a pirate all day. Rum for the parents after your little mateys hit the hay.
  11. Make bird feeders – Use pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed. Hang them near the windows so you can watch your new feathered friends feast!
  12. Establish family game night – Pick a night and time that everyone can come together. Make a special snack, and get those old board games out of the closet!
  13. Yarn lasers – String yarn between four chairs or down the hallway in a laser pattern. Touch the yarn and you have to go back to the starting line!
  14. Giant board game (could also be an outdoor activity!) – Make letter tiles out of cut up boxes and play Scrabble, spray paint Twister on your lawn, make a huge hopscotch with painter’s tape, etc.
  15. Dance party – Kids are sitting are BORED, turn on the music and start busting out those moves!
  16. Life size paper dolls – Have the kids lie on large sheets of newsprint or butcher paper and trace around them. They get to color in their faces, clothing, hair, etc.
  17. Pet rocks – Collect the craziest looking rocks from outside. Paint them and decorate them, then name them!

Summertime Rules

There are quite a few articles going around right now about how parents need to let their kid have the “1970s Summer”, and I could not agree more! I remember summer being an amazing time of playing outside with my friends, riding my bike all over the neighborhood, creating adventures and fantastical stories, putting on plays and using my imagination in the most amazing ways. I had a computer, and I would use it on rainy days, and we had a TV, and sometimes I just wanted to stay inside and watch TV all day or play with my Barbies for hours. Regardless, my mom and dad basically did little to entertain me. My dad would take me to the park after he got home from work or on weekends, but otherwise I was left to my own devices. When my brother Scrod was old enough to play, they had a harder time with him because he wanted to do EVERY SINGLE SPORT in the world (except soccer), so they had to run him all over the place and go to practices and games and all that crap. Not me!

But I digress.

Having a four year old is a little different from having a five year old, and having a kid period is very different from it was in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s. These days everyone is in everyone’s business, and not in the good way like it was back then. Now, instead of the village helping raise the children and looking out for each other’s families, the village is poised ready to attack when they see another parent doing something they disagree with. You have probably heard recently about somwpid-20150530_121405_20150602000413349.jpge parents who ran into trouble with the law – twice! – because they let their kids walk home from school and go to the park alone. The kids were ten and almost seven years old! If I thought he’d come back at a reasonable time and could pay attention to traffic, I’d have no problem sending JI to the park by himself. He’s just a bit too young and irresponsible this summer – maybe next summer.

My point is, though, and I think the point of the other parents writing these articles, is that we really need to disengage from the idea that children run our world or our lives. I have a few more posts coming up that will be discussing this subject, and I look forward to discussing with my readers about the subject. Back in my childhood, my parents were #1 – not me. Yes, I got everything I needed and practically everything I wanted. I was not neglected in any way. But my parents didn’t bow to me, they didn’t hover over me to ensure success, they didn’t pave the way with pillows so that I’d never get hurt. I had to take my lumps and learn my lessons just like they did. I don’t know when the shift occurred from family centric (ie, do what is good for all involved) to child centric (ie, make sure each child gets exactly what they want/need at all costs).

This brings me back to the idea of an 80s summer (I wasn’t alive in the 70s hehe), which is what I want for JI, and what I will be doing my best to accomplish for him. Yes, that statement sounds like I’m being child centric, but let me lay it out for you. I wpid-20150530_092849.jpgwill not be planning many activities. I will not be driving him to COSI, the Zoo, a hundred play-dates, museums, classes, etc. etc. etc. Yeah, we will probably go to the Zoo once or twice a week – because I LOVE the zoo and we have a membership and it is free. Sure, we will hit up COSI a couple of times every month, because we have a membership and it is free. I’m not going to go broke trying to entertain my child. I want him to get dirty. I’m going to let him eat lots of popsicles. I want him to get scraped knees and bruises because he is playing so hard. (Disclaimer: I don’t actually want my kid to get hurt! But if he does, it won’t be the end of the world.) The way he climbs without fear makes me worried that this might be the summer of a broken limb. I’m going to utilize The Bored Jar. I’m going to send him out in the morning after breakfast, let him in for lunch, send him back out until snack time, and then maybe I’ll sit him down for an activity. If I feel like it. I’m going to let him get sticky and filthy and have black bare feet. I want him to remember this summer as an amazing, awesome, wonderful time when he got to grow up and be a real boy instead of mommy’s baby.

But he’ll always be my baby, we all know that.

So the rules of this summer are as follows:

  1. No whining.
  2. No begging.
  3. If it looks fun, do it.
  4. If you get hurt, tell me.
  5. Be brave.
  6. Be strong.
  7. Use your brain.
  8. Use your muscles.
  9. Drink from the hose.
  10. Have fun!
wpid-20150531_101958.jpg
This is what adults do for fun in the summertime…

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!