Category Archives: Advocate

Acceptance Is Needed

Genesis 1:27 New Living Translation (NLT)
27 So God created human beings[a] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

April is Autism Awareness Month, but what I propose is let’s change it to Autism Acceptance month!   Awareness is okay, but acceptance is what is needed.  There are so many autistic individuals that hear ‘there isn’t a cure’ or ‘we don’t know what causes autism’ and for many individuals on the autism spectrum, they don’t want to be cured; they want to be recognized as individuals who have neurological differences and their brains are wired differently, but there isn’t anything wrong with them.  And guess what, they’re right. autism symbol

Tyson is still the same boy we loved before he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has had many challenges and he will, most likely, face challenges as he grows older because of the autism, but having this neurological disorder doesn’t make him less than someone without it, it just means he needs extra help.

When Tyson was diagnosed in July of 2016, he was diagnosed as level 2, meaning he would require substantial support. He has made great strides through intensive home and outpatient therapy, preschool and has added ABA to his list of supports. He no longer needs PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or sign language to communicate as he has found his voice. We are so thankful for and happy for him that he has. Communication is a big component of Autism. Some people are nonverbal indefinitely, other’s use visual supports and sign language or ACC devices to communicate.

sample pecs

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language.

Social cues is another big area where many autistic individuals have a difficult time. Depending on the individual they may learn how to ‘act’ like their peers and try to blend in; for others slang language or sarcasm is totally lost on them and they don’t understand why you can’t say what you mean, instead of ‘beating around the bush.’ Just be straight forward and say it! For Tyson, he is a very social person when he knows the people, but when we are in a waiting room or a store, he tends to hide and shy away from people. Too many people cause him to be afraid or have anxiety. Even places we go all the time, like outpatient speech therapy.

Sensory processing comes into play for a lot of individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Everyone is different. Bright lights, loud noises, the hum of fluorescent lights, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, lots of people talking in a restaurant, too many people in one place –  these are just some of the things people can be overwhelmed by and if they become overstimulated or overloaded, a meltdown may occur.

Our Autism Home

Meltdowns are totally different than temper tantrums. A temper tantrum is a reaction to not getting something you want and a person throwing a fit looking for a reaction or response to it.  A meltdown is a neurological response to overload and they have no control over it happening. A meltdown looks different for every individual.

Stimming is a term that most people don’t understand or understand the reason why many autistic individuals stim. Lots of neurotypical people stim but usually in a more quiet way.  For instance, if you are the type of person that gets nervous in a meeting at work, you may tap your foot or click your pen. But most NT people know when to stop. For autistic individuals, stimming is a way to self-soothe when everything becomes too much to handle. Some people flap their hands, jump up and down, spin around, hum, make noises only known to them and their loved ones, dance and the list goes on. For every individual on the spectrum, there are just as many different ways to stim. The only time I have stopped Tyson from any particular stim is if he will hurt himself. Then redirection is necessary.

The one saying that holds true in the Autism community is “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” There are families with multiple people that have autism and not everyone in the family will deal with the same challenges or respond the same way.  Each case is individual.

The last thing I want to say about this today is please be aware that parents/grandparents/caregivers of children/adults of autism don’t have all the answers, they have the answers that work for their specific human. And sometime’s they don’t even have those. It is very exhausting to fight a system to get services, some due to long waiting lists or fighting with the insurance company to approve it or finding services that will be approved.

There are many different types of therapies that can help people on the spectrum, but not every person needs every therapy available and not every therapy available helps every person. To date, there are no medications for autism. There are many co-morbid conditions that some people with autism have, such as ADHD or anxiety/depression and there are medications for those; as well as many holistic approaches to help people.

The Lord God created all of us.  None of us are exactly alike. All of us are “wired” the way He chose for us to be. Please think about that the next time you meet an individual with who is Autistic.

I know I have only touched on the basics of Autism, but this is only the first of the month.

May you know how much Jesus Loves You! Jesus can turn any mess into a message and any test into a testimony! #HopeAlwaysHave Faith

Many blessings~Carlene

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in a Battle Zone

Genesis 1:27 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

 

Constantly aware. Ever vigilant. Exits secured. Dodging bullets (nerf bullets, toy trucks, sippy cups, shoes, metal toy cars, anything that can be used to target a person or glass screen, window or door). No bunker to run to for safety. No place to retreat to escape the torment. Physically or emotionally. The only place to retreat is Jesus, crying out for shelter and rest as tears tumble down your cheeks. Mentally trying to figure out your next battle plan, strategy to calm the attacks. Weeping because you are exhausted of this every single day.  Thankful that 28 days ago, there was a truce of sorts. No battles, no lashing out, no rage at all. A day of peace with quiet, but sad because that was a day he wasn’t feeling good and just wanted to be held and cuddled. Wouldn’t let you let go, because he feels most secure when he’s close and held tight.

Sounds and noises we cannot hear, whether we have tuned them out because we have the ability to filter out noise or because we aren’t gifted to hear such quiet noises he can hear. The moment the gas furnace comes on before we can hear it before we can feel the hot air coming through the floor vents, he rushes over and is fearful, asking “what’s that noise?” but I hear nothing out of the norm. A few seconds later, I hear it chug to life and feel the heat. I assure him it’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s just the furnace (in the basement far from where he hears it).

Investigator of all. The coffee pot full of HOT coffee. The toolbox with sharp tools, that can’t be locked. The dryer that is big enough to climb inside. The vacuum that might need a new belt or part. The stovetop where he can cook his play food.  The step stool he tries to stand on to reach something that has been put up high, out of his reach. The tablet or smartphone that he probably knows how to operate better than us. There is never a time we can let him out of our line of vision. Because no matter how many times we say, STOP or DANGER he will still reach for them or climb on it.

Constantly moving, sits for YouTube videos and when he is in his car seat with a locked chest clip and buckle guard, so he can’t escape while the vehicle is moving or in his specialty stroller with a built-in torso vest and extra fasteners. Activities that once held his attention painting, playdough, putting puzzles together, coloring, matching sequences, matching objects in a memory game, no longer appeal to him.

Body slams into people and walls, gates and furniture. Climbing and jumping off of anything he can. Sliding down the stairs on his stomach face or feet first. The faster and harder the surface the better. Hitting and punching, pulling your hair, grabbing your eyeglasses off your face, biting, throwing his body on the floor, banging his head. All the while, trying to stop him from doing things to hurt himself or you. Holding him tight, hugging him, playing music, counting out loud, letting him swing, offering his trampoline, suggesting he spins himself around or jumps up and down. Let’s make a tent so you can hide in the darkness.

 

Houdini wanna-be. Made it past adult the other day, out the back door wearing a pull-up only. No clothing/coat or shoes. Hates clothing. It was 34 degrees. He didn’t get far this time, I was in the driveway. Doors are secured with locks at the top, every single door in the home, but where there’s a will, he always seems to find a way.

Sleep is either totally out or restless. There is no in between. If he goes to sleep too early in the evening (9pm), he’s full-on awake by 1 a.m. If he waits to go to sleep later in the evening, he’s too tired to function in the morning hours. Night terrors since birth. Some doctors say he will outgrow them. Cannot sleep alone due to health conditions. He co-sleeps with his mommy or me, so at least every other night, we can get some rest. Sleep only comes with the help of prescribed medication, otherwise sleep is like that of a newborn baby, constantly up and down all night.

Psalm 139:13-14 New Living Translation (NLT)
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Many prayers prayed throughout the day. Not to make him better, but to help him. Help him figure out why he acts the way he does, how to control his moods and impulses. Show us how to love him through it all in a calm manner. Help us figure out what sets off the explosions, the sensory overloads, the meltdowns, the anger. Help us know when he is in pain, help us to soothe the noise. Help us to respond and not react. Reactions are normally based on emotions and emotions ride very high when you feel like from the minute you wake up until you lay your head down for the night you live in a battle zone. Responding in love and compassion and words that lift up are always much better, even if it takes him a while to process it.

His brain is wired differently than ours. He sees the world differently. That’s okay. We need to learn how to teach in a way that he learns. In a way that he hears. Our expectations can’t be set so high that we set him up to fail before we even start. And we also can’t see our parenting skills as a failure. We know we are doing the best we can. He has one parent and two grandparents that care for him daily. That battle with him daily. That on occasion, we laugh and giggle with him daily.

We miss our happy-go-lucky boy. We miss the one that used to love to build block towers, play with toy cars on his toy race track, blow bubbles. We miss sitting and watching Paw Patrol and Blaze and the Stuart Little Movies over and over and over again.

We miss the child that used to love all types of food, raw vegetables, cooked ones, all types of meats, dairy products, foods that fueled our bodies. Now his main staples are chicken nuggets, chips, cookies, and juice. Occasionally a yogurt sneaks in. And cold cereal.  We miss the child that used to drink his liquids the right way and now we must watch him drink and make him swallow it or he will spit it out on himself, you or the floor, table, wherever he can.

We miss the child that didn’t seem angry and upset all the time.  We know he is still in there because we see glimpses of him.

We miss the days when he didn’t have to take medication unless he had a fever or an infection of some sort. Now he takes medications to prevent seizures from happening on a regular basis. Medication to help him fall asleep and stay asleep. Medication to help him focus and not be so aggressive. And I often wonder with all the medication he is taking, the constipation it causes him to have isn’t a source of the battles. We will find out more at the end of February when he goes to see a GI specialist.

When we are in public, we pray he will have a good time. No throwing himself on the floor. No knocking merchandise off the shelves. No meltdowns. But when he sees his developmental doctor, although we don’t want him to have problems, it would be nice if just once they could visualize the outbursts of aggression so they could understand it’s not just him having a bad day.  All of us have bad days from time to time.  Days we want to stay in bed, pull the covers over our heads and skip participating in life that day.

BUT, even with all of this, we are very grateful for how far he has come. Two 1/2 years ago there were no words. No way for him to communicate with us at all. And during this time he has had to endure extensive speech therapy every week. In-home therapies.

Soon, he will be starting ABA services. In hopes that they can reach him and help him and help us to live a little bit more of a peaceful existence.

We will continue to fight the battles and strategize the best way to live our lives with this amazing little boy. He is truly a blessing in our lives. We would never want to imagine him not with us, no matter how hard it can be.

Having a child with special needs requires a lot of perseverance and a whole lot of patience and never-ending unconditional love. And a grandma like me, that isn’t afraid to pray over him daily that Jesus will help him to understand the world around him and that the world will understand and love him just as much as we do.

In four days, his back to school will resume. The winter break has been brutal. His routines thrown out the window. And it will take him a couple of weeks to get back into that routine. Most families cherish winter and spring breaks, a time to refresh and rejuvenate and all I have been praying for is when the day comes to put him back on the bus and sit down with my feet up for a couple of hours and just rest in the peace and quiet.

animal army battle canine

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, the next time you hear someone say that being a special needs parent is much the same as being a combat soldier, their not downplaying the role of a soldier in combat, but relating the stress levels are just as high. If you know of a family that has special needs individuals, ask if you can help. If you are a special needs family, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support.

Love one another, through the good, the bad and the ugly. Show grace when you feel like you’ve failed. You are doing the best you can. Seek the Lord and His guidance. PUSH-pray until something happens.

Mark 9:22-24 New Living Translation (NLT)
22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into the water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

 

Tomorrow is a new day. A clean slate. I cling to Hope.

Jesus loves you more than you will ever know! Jesus can turn any mess into a message and any test into a testimony. #HopeAlways#HaveFaith

Blessings~Carlene

 

Daily Life Struggles

Proverbs 15:15 The Message (MSG)

15 A miserable heart means a miserable life;
a cheerful heart fills the day with song.

 

With joy in my heart, I still struggle.  Joy comes from the Lord and no one can take that from me. I can choose to live with a joyful heart and know that I will still face many struggles and trials, but still, love and be the person I am because God has placed Joy in my heart or I can choose to live without joy and be miserable always.

Over the weekend, the fibromyalgia flared up and reared its ugly head. The constant pain that never fully leaves, but some days are so rough, that just breathing and moving, make you question if getting out of bed was the right thing to do. And knowing that if you choose to remain in your bed, how many things will face you to take care of once you arise.  Most of us that have fibromyalgia know that sometimes the best we can do for ourselves is to stay in our beds or the comfy places we have carved out in our homes. We do not have the energy to get dressed, shower, or do any extra. Getting up takes every ounce of energy just to be able to spend time with our families, and going anywhere is totally out of the question. That was me on Saturday. I showed up, in my nightgown and I stayed in my nightgown all day. I KNEW I was not going out into the cold for any reason and I saw no point in causing myself more pain to get dressed simply because that was expected of me.

I have dealt with FM for 10 years. And for the past year, it has been manageable. But for the past several months, I have noticed since stopping the natural supplements I was using, my inflammation throughout my body and the pain levels have been increasing again.  I choose to work through my pain in prayer and time with the Lord. Limiting what I do. Staying in more than going out and while dealing with my own health battles, helping our grandson through his.

He has come a long way in the past two years since being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He talks now. He is becoming very independent, but also very demanding. He is four. When he wants something, he wants it now. And even though he asks for something correctly and always says please, he does not understand when he is told no.  He tries again, to word it differently or even smile and say please and sometime’s the answer is still no. I know it must be confusing, because he is being polite, and saying please, but simply does not understand that even if you do everything right, sometime’s the answer will still be no.

So imagine being in such excruciating pain, that you do not want anyone touching you; let alone a four-year-old jumping on you, bouncing into you, climbing on you, but you don’t dare say no because you don’t want to make him feel unloved. He doesn’t understand what it means when I say “that hurts” or “please don’t do that”. And he loves to give big hugs, he loves deep pressure. He loves climbing behind me on the sofa and me leaning back on him, but all I want to do is cry because every amount of playtime for him is pain time for me. But I do it because this brings him comfort and joy. Love is powerful that way.

I left my home on Sunday to go to church. I needed that more than I knew. I didn’t realize how much I missed the interaction with others until I was there. I interact with people daily through social media and texting, but it just isn’t the same as being able to see smiles, receive hugs and just be loved on for simply being you. By the time, my husband and I arrived at the church with our grandson in tow, we were both emotional. My emotions were creeping near the surface, ready to spill out in the form of tears. My husband was frustrated because our grandson is a runner and any chance he gets, he bolts. Even though he had his safety harness on, and my husband was holding onto the strap, he wasn’t ready to go on a run with him.

And Tyson has learned that if we are trying to pick him up from the ground, and we want him to stand, all he has to do is bend his knees when we are lifting him and he becomes heavier to maneuver.  He is big for his age. He’s four, but weighs 50 pounds and is over three and a half feet tall. Carrying him for any length of time is strenuous to us “old” folks. Wrestling him into his car seat so we can go anywhere is an everyday battle. Once in the seat, he does ok, but getting him in the seat is a battle, every single time. And he has to be in a five-point harness because otherwise he would be climbing all over the vehicle and exploring.  Safety and danger are words he does not understand. He always wants to sit in a regular seat with just a seatbelt but we know that won’t happen until he is much older.

Walking into the church lobby, as we were greeted, the tears started welling up, and I just didn’t have the strength to hold them back or hide behind a pasted-on smile and pretend everything was good. I was tired. Tired of my own pains, tired of always struggling with Tyson when we need to leave the house. Tired of always being the positive one. We all have our breaking point. Yesterday was mine.  I know the devil will do anything he can to try and break me. For the past three weeks, I have opted not to leave the house on Sunday. I’ve made excuses, stayed home, watched our church’s live stream of the sermon and remain isolated because that was so much simpler than struggling with him to go anywhere. In doing that, though, I lost out on connecting with other people and being surrounded by people that love us through all our struggles; people that are compassionate and caring and offer to help in any way they can.

Sailing Life

I think for most of us that live with autistic individuals it’s not that we don’t welcome the offers of help or hope that someone will be willing to help, it’s that we don’t know what kind of help to ask for. Our home is “proofed” for him. We have specialized gates, taller than him to keep him safe and confined to an area of the home where there isn’t danger. We have learned not to have “pretty” things that he can break. We know if he is outside, he must always be (1) holding your hand tightly (2) have his safety harness on (3) be secured in his specialty stroller with a vest and five-point harness or (4) be in a fenced-in area where no escape is possible. We know he has food aversions and sensitivities. We must always have his emergency seizure medications at the ready and available. And the list goes on. Going anywhere, we must still take a change of clothes bag and appropriate necessities, because he isn’t potty trained yet. And if someone opts to take him for a few hours, what if he hurts himself, has a seizure, breaks something, gets sick. Yes, he is verbal now. Can he communicate everything he needs to? No.

The one thing I can offer to those willing to ask: please don’t stop asking. For me, it’s hard to ask for help for anything for myself, Tyson or our family. But I am learning to accept it. Accepting prayers from others is easy. I love to pray for others too. Accepting offers of helping with Tyson is getting easier, but I know how challenging his behaviors can be and I know that we never know from one moment to the next what he understands and what he doesn’t, but we do know he is very smart and intelligent in many ways. And letting go and accepting help may not be in my nature, but being part of a community of people that love us regardless of our challenges does truly make all the difference in the world.

May you know how much Jesus Loves You~right now~right at this moment and always.

Jesus can turn any mess into a message and any test into a testimony! #HopeAlwaysHaveFaith

Blessings until next time~Carlene

 

 

In the Midst of it All

This week has been emotionally exhausting. For several years now, as we live with autism being part of our everyday lives and trek through the ups and downs, I have been sharing how tantrums are not the same as meltdowns. This week has taught me that no matter how much I try to share a glimpse of what a meltdown is or isn’t, there is no way that you can possibly teach others what one is unless they have personally witnessed or experienced it themselves.

raging fire

I can educate others on the differences. I can post pictures on the autism page I manage on Facebook. I can tell others what we go through, but until you weather the storm and watch them unfold, there just isn’t a way to truly get it. I never did. I thought I understood. I thought I knew even after reading different articles, posts from others going through the same thing, hearing about them, but there is no way for anyone to grasp the degree of how emotionally and physically exhausting they are unless you experience them firsthand. And truly, I pray daily that I never have to go through one again.

I will. We will. It’s inevitable. I know as Tyson gets older and learns a coping mechanism and self-regulating strategies, along with all of us learning what the triggers are and techniques to help him get through them, they may lessen and maybe even stop.

Today we are on our third or fourth day in a row of multiple meltdowns per day. The one commonality is that he is happy and playing and wants to do something and he is told, “no.”  Telling him, “no, not right now” or “no, you can’t have that (fill in the blank, it could be a toy, a snack, whatever it is at the moment)” and it starts out as a simple child tantrum.  He becomes angry and cries. And we ignore him, hoping he will settle down and go on, realizing that just because he didn’t get what he wanted, crying and throwing himself on the floor isn’t going to make it so. But for him, once he starts crying, it sets off something inside of him where he becomes very intense and inconsolable. No amount of trying to hold him close and hug him or redirect works.  In these moments, he is lost within himself. As the meltdown increases, his behavior goes from simply crying out, not getting his way to hitting, throwing himself on the floor, running and banging into the walls, furniture, others, trying to bite you anywhere he can to inflict pain, pain that he is feeling, I presume.  And the only way to get him to help him calm down is to forcibly hold him and hug him tightly, but beware, because then he is closer to you and the headbutting and biting are easier to do.

When he was smaller, holding on to him as he stiffens his body or tried to wriggle out of your hold on him, was harder for him to do; now as he as grown (3 1/2 feet tall and 50 pounds), he is a force to be reckoned with.  He has always had superhuman strength, but when he is in the midst of a meltdown, it is quantified. I joke with others that I don’t need to go to the gym for strength endurance because I have my own little personal trainer that helps me with that.  We can’t leave him to flail around on the floor because he doesn’t care in those moments if he hurts himself or hurls items at us. And that is not acceptable. We also know that yelling at him to stop is futile. By this time, it’s not that he isn’t listening to us, he’s past that point and isn’t hearing us.

Jesus gives me the strength to hold onto him, usually facing away from me, because it’s harder for him to aim his head toward mine. As I become the human papoose to restrain him until he starts to wear down, I silently weep, because I don’t how many minutes it will take to reach him. When he finally starts to relax and cries out for me or his mommy or papaw to hold him, we know he is calming down. He is finally back with us.

He can’t be put in timeout, although this has been suggested because he does not sit still for any reason. So, earlier today I put myself in timeout. As he sat with his mommy, after melting for 30 minutes, I withdrew from the room, just around the corner, locked the safety gate, and sat on the stair steps out of his view and I wept. I prayed through my tears.

I know Tyson is a gift from God. He is truly a blessing in our lives. Even in the meltdowns and they have been more than I care to admit lately. I know that there is a reason for everything that happens in our lives. And I also know that being an autism family, Tyson doesn’t need fixing. He isn’t broken. His brain is wired differently than ours and we expect so much from him to live in our world and conform to the world’s standards of how he should act and behave. I know that he sees things differently and I love that about him, he has taught me so many joys that I take for granted. I just always expect the Sun and Moon to be shining in the sky at the right time of day, but each time he sees them, his heart is full of gratitude that God gives him the gift each day.

Zechariah 13:9 New Living Translation (NLT)
9 I will bring that group through the fire
and make them pure.
I will refine them like silver
and purify them like gold.
They will call on my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘These are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

As we walk through his meltdowns, I liken it to the firestorms of life that God allows us to go through so He can refine and purify us into the people He created us to be. Yes, they are painful. No, they are not pleasant for any of us. But they are necessary. Everything each of us experiences during the midst of these teaches us to be a little more compassionate, a lot more understanding and out of the ashes, love for one another rises.

May you know how much Jesus Loves You~right now~in this moment! Jesus can turn any mess into a message of hope. #HopeAlwaysHaveFaith

Blessings to all~Carlene

 

 

I Often Wonder……

Isaiah 44:3 New Living Translation (NLT) 3 For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.

I often wonder if the answers will ever come. I often wonder what goes on in your mind that keeps certain things just out of your grasp and I often wonder what you see that makes you gaze off in the distance as if something has caught your attention that only you can see.

I wonder why music makes you happy, but instruments playing cause you to cover your ears and bury your head.

I wonder what happens when everything becomes too much and what is the one trigger that sends you into a meltdown. Is it something I can control or remove from your environment or is there any rhyme or reason as to why it happens at all?

I wonder why spinning around and around brings you the most amazing release and joy, but makes me swoon almost to the point of collapse.

I wonder what it was like at the beginning of your life when you couldn’t communicate, did you think we didn’t care? I hope not.

I wonder what it feels like in your head; do you hear everything in the same tone? Do you hear all the noises at once, because I know that processing information for people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, many have a difficult time processing information or input you hear and you may need more time than most people to answer questions or respond appropriately.

I wonder what is happening within you when you run and jump and slam toys and objects into the floor; when you throw things without thought as to what can happen. Someone may be hurt or something may become broken, but all you seem to know is you have to throw it, you need to do it to make you feel better.

I wonder what happens when everything becomes too much, and you cry and whimper, because they are no words to describe or explain the overwhelming feelings you have and sometimes no amount of hugs or deep pressure helps you feel better, only crying yourself to sleep helps.

I wonder what happens to you and how your brain is affected when you have a seizure. Will those seizures change who you are? Will they affect your thinking processes? No one seems to have an answer.

I wonder why vacuums and ceiling fans are your obsession. I can’t begin to understand, but I know they are. I have heard this is normal for people with autism, just like when you line things up. You can be so rigid with that, but you love the chaos of toys strewn everywhere and it drives me crazy.

I wonder if you will ever understand the danger of running into the street or running toward water without one of us with you.

I wonder if you ever get tired of me asking you to repeat the same word you just said and if you understand I am only trying to help you communicate more clearly.

I wonder if you know who Jesus is. I wonder if you like going to church because you get to spend time with other children, your age and learn about Jesus, or if you just like getting out of the house and have some freedom.

I wonder why you bang your head, and even though it hurts, you do it again and again.

I wonder if you will ever to be able to read on your own. Or if you will always rely on pictures to understand.

I wonder if you will ever be able to live on your own, or if you will always need the support of family.

I wonder why you have night terrors. I wonder what causes them and why you must experience them because you already deal with so much and you are only four years old.

I wonder if you will ever be able to be outside without wearing a safety harness as we go shopping or to appointments. I wonder if you know we only do that so you can have a little bit of freedom, but we can keep you safe.

I wonder if you will ever take your Epilepsy and ADHD medications independently or if we will always have to hide them inside your liquids and foods. I wonder if you will always have to take medications to keep your brain from misfiring and your hyperactivity under some sort of control.

And while I wonder all of these things, there are many ways that you amaze me every single day.Tyson Vacuum image

I am amazed at how much your ability to communicate has improved over the last couple of years and how you work over and over to learn new sounds and words.

I am amazed that when you started preschool last year, you were considered nonverbal and only had 24 words under your belt, but by the end of the school year, you were speaking in 5 Word utterances.

I am amazed that you love with such a huge heart and tell me every day, without prompting, that you “wuv” me.

I am amazed that at times, you can sit still and remain calm, if even for five minutes. That’s a huge success.

I am amazed that if we show you pictures marked on a calendar you understand how many days you have to wait for something to happen.

I am amazed that you know how to use the potty when you want. It isn’t every day, but someday it will be.

I am amazed that you go to Speech Therapy every week and you improve on what you learned the week before. And this is part of our routine. Every week for two years.

I am amazed that you try to write the first two letters of your name but recognize all of them.

I am amazed that you know how to count from 1-10 on your own and are learning how to go onto 20.

I am amazed that you can recite the alphabet and can also recognize letters, even if they are not in any particular order.

I am amazed that you know what it means to put things in a sequence and you do it without error.

I am amazed that you love foods that are good for you. Tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, watermelon, bananas, apples, vegetables, yogurt and cottage cheese.

I am amazed that you can name almost every vacuum made by simply knowing how they look and are designed and how impressive it is when we are out in a store and you can point them out to me.

I am amazed that you like the taste of my coffee, once it has cooled off.

I am amazed that you never give up when you want something. You are almost relentless in asking for it, even when the answer is no.

I am amazed that you are willing to share your toys, even if you don’t want to.

I am amazed at how much you love animals and are not afraid of them. I shouldn’t be amazed by this, because your mom loves animals too.

I am amazed that you are always willing to try and you don’t give up easily.

I am amazed that when someone doesn’t want to do something, you gently remind them to try.

I am amazed that you can watch ceiling fans and fidget spinners spin for hours and you love this. Who knew something so simple could bring such joy?

I am truly blessed that you are in my life, Tyson. You have taught me many things. Some I have learned by trial and error; in many ways, I have a ways to go. But you never give up on me. You bring such joy to my life. I cannot imagine my life without you in it.

Every condition and disorder you have been diagnosed with, one would be more than enough for anyone to handle, but you deal with five. So no matter how many times, I want to cry and feel sorry for what you have been dealt, I look at how resilient you are and I know that because you live with these, I do too. I’ve learned to look at life just a little bit differently and realize that although these disabilities may afford you some extra help, that they do not mean you can’t. You just do things differently.

I love you; I love you more; I love you the most; I love you forever! This is what we say to each other before bedtime. He repeats much of what he hears but will say I love you too, on his own.

*I wrote this for our grandson, Tyson. He is four years old. Someday he may be able to read it or have it read to him, but I want him to know that although we never expected to have a Special Needs grandson living with us and being a part of our everyday life, challenging us to think outside the box of “normal parenting” if there is such a thing, that without a doubt, he has opened my eyes to the world around me. He has taught me so much in these last four years, more than I could have ever learned in a book.

I am thankful to our Heavenly Father that he felt he could entrust Tyson to our care, along with his mom. And I pray daily that we utilize every opportunity to help him learn and thrive in the world we live in.

May you know that Jesus loves you~right where you are right now and always.

Blessings, Carlene

Four Years Already!

Romans 12:11-13 New International Version (NIV)
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Three days ago, Tyson turned 4. It amazes me how time seems to go so fast the older I get. I remember the moment he entered the world and what great joy he brought to our hearts! To hear his first cry and to hold him close and think of all the great things he would accomplish in his life, dreams you have for your grandchild; the same kinds of dreams you have for your children. Dreams they will be healthy and happy and know how much they are loved. That adversity and obstacles will not cross their path and if it does, they will be able to cope with those and continue forward.  I remember thinking how perfect he was as I held him that very first time in my arms and thanked God for this beautiful life he was entrusting to our daughter and us to nurture and love and teach. Little did I know that not only would he face many challenges near the early part of his life, but that they would also change the way I viewed the world and allow me to see pure and simple joys in so many things I had taken for granted for so many years.

At birth, he was almost 10 pounds. He didn’t look like a brand new newborn, more like the size of a 2-3 month old and most of his newborn outfits he didn’t even fit into, but that didn’t matter because he was healthy, and appeared happy and slept through the night. Yes, we had to wake him to actually get him to do his feedings. He loved being swaddled in a blanket; the tighter the better, on one condition though, his arms could not be trapped in that wrapping.  They had to be free. He still loves to be wrapped tightly in a blanket or sheet. He loves the deep pressure that he needs for his sensory needs.

Four years ago, I had no idea what terms like sensory needs or sensory seeker/avoider meant. but I do now.  And stimming, I thought that had to do with floral arrangements, not something that a child with autism does to calm themselves. And what the heck was PECS? Did that have something to do with bodybuilding??? Nope. PECS is a picture exchange communication system for people that do not speak or can’t speak clearly enough for you to know what they want or need.

When you have a special needs child, there are so many terms that seem so foreign and so overwhelming that you wonder if you will ever make sense of them. You wonder how in the world am I supposed to remember all this and how do I help him make sense of it all. But God knows what we need and he places people in our lives to help us make sense of it and get us through our journeys. No matter what our journey looks like, He always makes a way.

At 26 months, Tyson was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 2.  I had no idea there was such a thing as Levels for individuals with ASD and was level 2 a good or bad thing? Click here to read the difference in the levels and what type of supports need to be in place to help each person. There are three levels of ASD. Level 2 under the DSM5-Diagnostic Manual means he would require substantial support. He was non verbal. Made very little eye contact; and did not play appropriately with many toys. He was happy doing things on his own without interacting with others, but has always been very empathetic and loving, especially if he noticed a family member was teary eyed or not feeling well. He would hug you and pat you on the back, as if to say, it will be okay.

As the months progressed, after his diagnosis, we had many other evaluations done to determine if the reason he wasn’t verbal was because of a hearing disability or a speech impairment. His hearing was fine, so that meant either he didn’t know how to form words to speak or he didn’t have a voice, but that didn’t deter us. He has been in Speech Therapy for almost two years (in August we will hit the two year mark). And it has been amazing to see him learn how to tell us what he wants through the use of PECS, simple sign language and short to the point words. Most recently he has been putting 4-5 words together to express himself! His utterances may not be grammatically correct, but it is music to our ears!!

For him, his sensory needs are many. Some we are still navigating through and learning. He received a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder in October of 2016 from an Occupational Therapist that observed him and listened to our concerns/more questionnaires to fill out and he is definitely a sensory seeker.  Seeking out ways to get the input his body needs in ways that aren’t always safe or acceptable. He will climb on anything he thinks he can, even if it is not something any neurotypical child would consider doing. He plays hard. Danger and unsafe don’t mean a thing to him. He knows that my coffee cup is hot, but doesn’t understand that if he spills it, he could get burnt. No comprehension between what hot is and how it can hurt. He loves to bang his head on the floor, into the wall, on the back of a chair and even though he cries, the tears only last for a few seconds and he will do it again. And he has always done this for as long as I can remember. He LOVES water. But water is always a danger, because he doesn’t understand that you can’t go under the water and stay there. The street to him is a big place to run and be free, and the list goes on.

As a sensory avoider, he covers his ears when there are loud noises such as a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer turned on, but he can watch videos cranked at full blast, at a spring concert for our granddaughter the singing did not bother him, but the band instruments made him bury his head, because they were too loud. Every day is an adventure, because you never know what noises will bother him and which will soothe him. And bright lights or a very sunny day and he will cover his eyes, but he doesn’t like it totally dark either.  He has learned the difference between the sun and the moon. When we can’t see the sun anymore that means the sun has gone to bed and the moon lights the night sky. When the clouds are out at night and the moon is hidden, he searches to see where it is and he doesn’t like the explanation that the moon is hiding. Sometimes this alone can cause him to have a meltdown.

Stimming for him is a way for him to release when everything becomes too much in his brain. And just as ASD is different for everyone, stimming is different for everyone too. He loves to spin in circles until he gets dizzy which can seem like that will never happen. And when he finally stops spinning, he will start all over again. He laughs and smiles when he does this. And he loves to jump. On his indoor trampoline or a mat on the floor or when he grasps your hands and wants you to hold them while he jumps up and down over and over again.  Occasionally he will walk on his tip toes for a while and I have yet to determine if this is a form of stimming or just a part of who he is.

In July of 2017, he received an official diagnosis of MERLD. Mixed Expressive Receptive Language Disorder.  

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is diagnosed when a child has problems expressing him-or herself using spoken language, and also has problems understanding what people say to him or her. Follow the link above to learn more in depth information. Being in Speech Therapy, once a week for the past two years have helped him to expand his understanding, but there is still so much more for him to learn and understand. He also receives speech services through our local school district once a week as part of his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for the integrated preschool program he is a part of.

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He relies on visual supports at school and home to help him understand what tasks he needs to be doing and how to accomplish them. Or when we need to prepare him for appointments or outings, we can show him with pictures and he gets it, but tell him and he may or may not understand. And some of the visual supports need to be broken down into steps until he learns them.  It doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal, until you try to teach him something new and he just wants to try and figure it out on his own, but has no clue how to do it. Steps are important. For example let’s say we want him to wash his hands. When he first learned to do this independently, he thought you just got your hands wet and that was it.  So Step 1 – turn on the water (with supervision or the bathroom will be flooded in no time-no joke) Step2 –  test the water-is it too hot or cold?? Step 3 – put your hands under the faucet and get them wet. Step 4 – put soap on your hands. Step 5 – rub your hands together so the soap gets all over them. Step 6 – Rinse the soap off your hands with the water.  Step 7 – turn the water off. Step 8 – dry your hands. Step 9 – put the towel back. Step 10 – all done. (No more playing in the water!)  Now for you and I we just simply wash our hands. But until he learned those steps he had no idea what it meant to wash his hands.  And the school and us, here at home, still have to remind him that he cannot play in the water or turn it on without help. We will continue to work on that and he may get it one day or he may not, because as I said before he LOVES playing in water.  Imagine having to do that for everything you want to teach him, that’s  just one part of his MERLD. A very small part, but with huge skill set learning.

In October of 2017, after having two unprovoked seizures, he was officially diagnosed with Epilepsy. Since then he’s had many seizures and we’re hoping the anti-convulsant meds he is on will hold the seizure activity at bay. His meds are in liquid form which he gets three times a day in his juice or milk. Sometime’s he is wise to it and will comment how “yucky” it tastes; and I will suggest that we just need to shake it up and mix the juice. The power of suggestion has been enough so far and he will take it. Out hope is as he becomes older he will be able to transition to tablet form of the medications.

Each time he has had a tonic-clonic seizure (formally known as grand mal seizure) he has no idea what has happened only that he is extremely tired and sleeps a lot. He also has absence seizures, where he appears zoned out or staring at something no one else can see. The staring episodes have happened since infancy,but EEGs never showed any seizure activity so we had no idea to be worried or concerned. And the EEG/MRI done in September did not show any activity during the testing. There is no rhyme or reason to his seizure activity. He is not left alone because it is not safe for many reasons, epilepsy being one of those reasons.

And yes, there are many days I’ve thought how much more, Lord? How many more trials will he face, but I know that Jesus loves Tyson as much as he loves all His children.

Right now, Ty doesn’t understand and comprehend all of his medical and developmental delays, only that he goes to the hospital to see his doctors.

When he first went on the medications for his seizure activity, we noticed a shift in his happy carefree self. His meltdowns increased and his behavior became more aggressive and for lack of a better term, angry. His appetite that had once been healthy and hearty became almost birdlike. It turns out that many of the AED (anti epileptic drugs) medications used can have side effects such as the ones we’ve been experiencing and thru trial and error, it may take several different ones to find the right one.

He’s always been hyper, but never so bad that he would be too busy to eat or sleep and bouncing off the walls or invading others personal space such as his peers at school. And because he just started preschool this year, a baseline of data needed to be established before seeing if ADHD played a role in the hyperactivity. After consulting with his teachers and medical specialists, ADHD was confirmed in March of 2018. The seizure meds had seemed to exacerbate the symptoms.

Even through all 5 diagnoses, he is still  full of wonder and adventure, our little blessing.  Yes, some days are very challenging and difficult to find joy when looking on the surface, but if you take the time to get to know him and see  the joy in his eyes and the love he has to offer, he isn’t any different than any other toddler. He is pretty amazing that he holds it together so well and many days when I get tired and wish he didn’t have to follow a medication schedule or have extra therapy to help him learn and blossom, I am forever grateful he has treatments that help.

Two years ago, he was nonverbal and. we had no idea how much he understood and/or if he ever would. Now he plucks dandelions out of the yard and with beaming pride brings them to me to smell and keep!

I will continue to advocate for him. I will continue to educate myself, our family and friends on every special need he has, but most of all, I will continue to thank God that HE blessed our family with this bright eyed babe four years ago. Our life is so much richer.

Thank you for continuing to follow our journey and being so supportive and encouraging!

May you always know how much Jesus loves you~right where you are in this moment.

Many blessings to all of you~Carlene

#HopeAlwaysHaveFaith

 

 

 

 

Cry Out to Jesus

I’ve been crying out to Jesus in despair for several hours. Living with autism isn’t for the faint of heart. In the last four hours, I’ve been spit on numerous times, hit repeatedly, had blocks, toy cars, a toy cash register and anything else he could find to throw at me. My hair has been twisted and pulled, and stabbed with a fork repeatedly and raising my voice doesn’t help and letting the tears and sobs come doesn’t either.

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I don’t know what triggers these times or why Tyson goes thru these moments. I don’t like them and I hate that in those moments I just want to give up and throw in the towel, but I can’t. He is depending on me to get him through all he goes thru. He depends on all the people in his life to help him learn and grow.

Since he came into our lives almost four years ago, our lives have changed drastically from what we had imagined. There is no time to just sit with my husband and watch a movie, or take walks or have any type of just us time. When Tyson is asleep, that’s when we rest or frantically try to accomplish housework or tackle projects we can’t do when he’s awake.

He plays hard, throws himself on the floor, bangs into and on things, runs into walls, constantly climbing and jumping, banging his head on the floor, into the back of the chair and into other people.

His attention span is only a few minutes unless he is viewing videos or television shows he likes, but we know too much screen time is not good for any child, especially with one that seizures can be triggered by videos he watches depending on the content.

I love this high energy child that is constantly wanting to go places and repeatedly talk about what he knows. Vacuum cleaners are his favorite subject. He wears headphones when they are turned on, but when they are turned off, they are his favorite “toy” of all time. We have to limit his time because of the fixation. He can share with you every single detail and when its time to return them to their storage area, he clings to the vacuum, becomes angry and agitated and won’t let go.

We appear like a typical family outside of the walls of our home. We work really hard to keep him safe and keep him from having outburst or hurting others when we are out. He is always holding our hands, wearing a safety harness, in a shopping cart or any other means necessary to go out into the world. If we go to a park setting, there must be at least three people with him or the area must be fenced in. He loves going and playing at the park, up and down the slides; swinging with wild abandon, laughing and wanting more.

Our home is never clean. Never spotless. Every day, there are toys mixed with food particles from him being angry and throwing bowls of food off the table because he isn’t hungry or doesn’t want what was placed before him. Highchairs don’t contain him anymore. He’s too smart for the five point harness. He knows if can’t get the latches undone, he can wriggle out of the straps with a little bit of determination and grit.

He is so smart. He can figure just about anything out on how it goes together or how it comes apart. He can count to 13 on his own, the number of stairs in our home. He can recite the alphabet and label each letter if asked. He calls himself Ty. Tyson is too hard for him to say right now. He can cook the most amazing meals in his tiny kitchen. He loves mixing and pretending to cook just as much as he likes helping me mix concoctions in my kitchen.

Since beginning this post, most of his toys have been bagged and removed to another room. The TV has been shut off. Music has been turned on. I’ve had to stop writing multiple times to get him off of furniture he should not be standing on, out of paperwork cabinets that hold his care notebooks and IEP plans. Tell him no repeatedly because he wants to make raspberry sounds and realizes he can spray you with his saliva. Position my chair in such a way that he can’t climb on my desk to mess with the mini-blinds covering the window above my head.

In between, he’s had a cup of blueberry yogurt and a cup of milk for a snack and I’m using this opportunity to help him say blueberry yogurt. His language disorder for expressive language is a struggle. His version of blueberry yogurt is boo og. Every moment he speaks is used for speech language therapy. Those moments don’t just happen at school or in speech therapy appointments, every moment he’s awake is when it happens.

Ugh!!! He just drew on his feet with a green marker and dumped his yogurt on the desk! So much for the calm.

The struggle is real. Its a glimpse into living with autism. A mere 5 hours out of 24. One moment he is hugging me, giving kisses and the next he is trying to break out the front door glass with his wooden toy hammer.

I am looking forward to when his batteries run out so I can take a shower and just sit still for more than one second. Right now we need to be in a padded room with nothing but us. I just was hit in the head with his tiny shoes that pack a powerful punch.

My joy comes from the Lord. Not my circumstances. I am so very thankful I have Jesus in my corner.

To the other families that “do autism” everyday, please know you are not alone in your journey. Even though it feels like it.

To everyone, may you know how much Jesus loves you~in every moment you live.

#HopeAlwaysHaveFaith

Blessings~Carlene