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

 

 

Advertisements

He is Lost

Psalm 56:8 New Living Translation (NLT)
8 You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

 

I’ve shed many tears in the past several months. We all have. And I cry out to Jesus a hundred times a day seeking guidance, wisdom, clarity, and discernment. I cry because the once happy child we love that lives in our home and most definitely in our hearts is missing in action. And the child that can’t tell us what’s wrong, has become angrier by the minute. We don’t know why, but he has. It’s so difficult to watch the decline in his moods and behaviors.

Tyson and Me
A moment of rest for T and Me

The words, “No!”, “That’s not okay!”, “That’s not acceptable.”, “We don’t do that.” fall on deaf ears. The constant repetition of trying to explain to this beautiful boy that it is not okay to hit, kick, scratch, punch, bite and be mean to others  or throw toys, plates, cups or any item he chooses to use as a weapon to hurt someone or break windows, electronic items; it’s not okay and he can’t do that. Trying to explain to him, once you have his attention (looking into each other’s eyes and asking him to stop, let’s calm down, dry his tears) that not only do we not want to be hurt, but we don’t want him to get hurt either is an everyday task.

He has always been hyper, ever since he started walking at ten months. He went from scooting to pulling himself up to standing and walking. He totally skipped out on crawling.  Even now, if he is playing on the floor, he rolls or scoots or somersaults his way through the room, unless he’s walking on his tiptoes or running at breakneck speed.  He has one speed and it’s all or nothing. And the nothing only happens when he is given medications to help him sleep.  Even when he is beyond exhaustion, sleep does not come without prescribed medications. His brain never shuts down.

Some friends, suggest putting him in timeout. That would be amazing if we could get him to sit still long enough to accomplish that. Today, I put myself in timeout. Sitting on the opposite side of the safety gate on the steps. He was still being supervised, but I needed a good cry. Trying to remain strong all the time, and not knowing when an outburst will occur is heartwrenching. The child that used to love to play with blocks, legos, cars flying down his racetrack, counting and having fun, I don’t know where he is. The child that loved to paint with watercolors, scribble all over the papers and practice using his scissors to cut, he’s lost.  I see him stand in front of me, but he’s not the same. The little boy that I could scoop up in my arms, squeeze him tight and we could count or recite the alphabet and talk to one another, I don’t see him much anymore. I see a child full of anger, aggression and for lack of another way to describe it totally overloaded in his mind all the time. Shutting down the television, turning off video devices, taking toys away and never giving them back, doesn’t seem to faze him. The music that used to lull him to sleep, while being rocked, he cries and doesn’t want the music very often.

The night terrors are not as bad as they used to be, now we deal with daytime terrors. Fully awake, but he can’t tell us what’s wrong. Yes, he has amassed many words, but unless he wants something, answering questions is still yes and no for the most part. He can answer to what his name is, the street he lives on, sometime’s the city and who lives with him.

He has been up, five times since being put to sleep tonight. Whimpering.  “Please hold me.” So I hold him, we sway back and forth. As he falls back asleep, and I think it’s okay to lie him down. Sleep eludes. The minute I laid him down, whimpers, “please hold me maw.” I’ve decided sleep will come for me once he boards the bus to preschool in the morning.

And as  I ruminate about all the changes in the past year for him, I often wonder what happened? Have all the seizures he has had, accompanied by medications known to cause aggressive behaviors and irritability caused this drastic change in my little buddy? Is it the medication he is prescribed for the aggressiveness with the autism? Is it a combination of the medications? But which is worse, having multiple seizures often or living with the behaviors? I have no answers and the specialists don’t seem to know either.

I’m considering everything and planning on going back to Essential Oil use to help relax and calm him down. It worked when he was younger, maybe that is a missing link. I know there are supplements that have been used to help and maybe it’s just possible that is what he is missing.  The developmental pediatrician and his neurologist ask if I can videotape his behavior, but when you are the target of the behavior, grabbing your smartphone and turning on video doesn’t occur to me. Keeping him safe and others safe is my first priority.

It has been recommended to talk to an ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapist and see if that will help. I didn’t want to face that fact. But now, I must. We have to for him. Not knowing if his insurance will help with the cost or if we have to cut more corners than we have to pay for it, one more stress to be strong for. I do know, as tears stream down my face, I will do as much as I possibly can to help him. Loving him is the easy part. Knowing what to do next, and figuring everything out by trial and error is the worst. For him, as well as us.

I sit and wonder daily how difficult it must be that the only way that he can cope is to exhibit the behaviors he has. I wonder if the noise, lack of noise, the lights on and off, what is it that makes turn his world and our’s upside down? Can we reach him? I have faith and belief that God would not have let him come this far, only to lose it all and have to start over again.

Two years ago, there were two words. Very little interaction with others and the playtime was limited to large blocks his tiny hands could hold. His vocabulary has increased. He does engage with others, he can hold your gaze for more than a mere second, but the joy of playing, it’s lost. If he can’t throw a toy, he has no desire to play with it.

A  year ago, he was flourishing in his preschool class. Following a visual schedule, completing tasks, using listening skills and then midway through the year, it all changed. Once he started having his seizures and had to go on medications, he changed or they changed him.

And now, I look for glimpses of that little boy that laughed and giggled, would jump and spin for the pure joy of doing it. I miss him terribly.

My good friend asked if I know what causes all this. I don’t. I know that he lives every day with many Neurological disorders and maybe right now he is doing the best he can. I remind myself that Autism Spectrum Disorder has many challenges. I’m learning that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder isn’t just about focus, there are many symptoms I never knew were linked to ADHD. His Sensory Processing Disorder seems heightened more than ever and although his tonic-clonic (formerly grand mal) seizures are held at bay by the AED’s (Anti-Epileptic Drugs) he still has absence seizures, and as much as I would love to say he is just daydreaming as suggested by his Neurologist, I am not sure T even knows what daydreaming is or what it means. He’s 4 with a language disorder.

The one and the only area that his language is truly understood is when he talks to you about vacuum cleaners. That is what he fixates on. He has had toy ones, they don’t last very long. He’s rough on them. Two “real” vacuums in our home have succumbed to his mighty strength. He sweeps for a short period and then while pretending, he picks this heavy appliance up as if it was a feather and tosses it a few feet from him. And when he starts to do that, it is put away. He clings to it and has to be pried away from it kicking and screaming, “my sweep”.  Of all the things that he could fixate on, that was the farthest thing from my mind.

I’ve been silent about this. Not wanting to face that we have to find a way to help him. We have to teach him that the way he reacts and acts is not the best way for him. And we have to learn how to do that in his world. Because in our world, we are lost, too.

Lord Jesus, you know the struggles we are facing. Please help T and help us help him. We know how blessed we are to have him with us. We thank you for giving us the gift of this young child and trusting us to guide him. Guide us. Lead us. We want to see him bloom in only ways you know he can. Forgive us when we become frustrated and upset. Remind us that he too is frustrated. Thank you, God. In Your Name Jesus. Amen.

James 1:2-4 New Living Translation (NLT)

2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

May you know how much Jesus Loves You~right at this moment~as you are!

#HopeAlwaysHaveFaith

Until next time~blessings, 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

Keeping it Real

For the Lord, your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

 

 

I am encouraged by reading the above passage of Scripture.  Yes, Jesus is living among us. His Holy Spirit lives within me. He is Mighty and Powerful. He delights in me! He calms my fears with a love like no other and He rejoices over me with joyful songs.  This verse reminds me that no matter how things may appear to me, my Heavenly Father rejoices over me and my life!

I firmly believe that everything that we go through in life is for a greater purpose than we can see or imagine. I know that God is in control and when you have a personality like mine that wants to fix all the problems around and ease burdens, it’s easy to think you’re on your own.

HAHF

I love the Lord with an everlasting love. One that cannot be diminished by my circumstances. I know there is nothing I will ever face that he can’t possibly understand or hasn’t overcome.

I’ve been feeling out of sorts of late and I cannot pinpoint why.  I can think of many reasons but not specifically pinpoint it. Two years ago, when an invisible chronic illness forced me to reevaluate my life and retire early at the age of 51, I wasn’t sure what would happen or how our family would make it without my income, but I knew God would provide a way.  It was scary.  I had worked since I was 16 and being someone who typically fixes problems, I really had no idea how to fix this. I knew though, that if I didn’t start taking care of myself, I wouldn’t be good for anyone else.

I have never been the type of person that puts my needs above others. I am not wired that way, so trusting God and the Peace He imparted to me, made the decision, although scary, so much easier to make.

Three months after taking early retirement, my daughter and I sat inside a small exam room of our local Children’s hospital Developmental Pediatrics clinic finding out her son, our youngest grandchild, had Autism Spectrum Disorder and that opened up a whole new set of scary challenges. He was nonverbal. That was in 2016. He has found his voice but doesn’t answer many questions yet, unless they are specific questions he can answer.

No matter how much pain I was in, every day I would research and work with him to help him understand, teach him simple signs so he could make his requests known and try to bridge the gap between his mind and the world. His favorite phrase, now is “I love you too.”  He climbs up on my lap, wraps his arms around my neck and repeats that phrase over and over. Melts my heart.

Living within our means was a challenge when I was working full-time and bringing home a paycheck every other week. Living on a fixed income and having enough to last from month to month is nothing less than a miracle from God. And there are some months, there isn’t enough, but God always provides for our needs. We have found hope through food pantry programs and installment plans on bills to carry us through and the love of family and friends.

Somewhere along the way, dreams changed, priorities shifted and I feel like a failure. I know I should not feel this way, but deep down, if we are keeping it real, I do. I can’t be on my feet for very long periods, or my legs go numb all the way to my feet, the searing back pain makes me want to sit down and cry, but I hold the tears back.  The widespread pain I used to experience throughout my body is held at bay by all natural supplements I use and I thank God every day that I found those.  However, they don’t help with the searing pain in my back. It’s the type of pain you learn to live with and you adapt. Pain changes a person, even if you try your best not to let it.

I had hopes of working til actual retirement age and retiring to a warmer state with no snow and no cold weather.  But I don’t see that in my sights anymore. Now I see therapies, medical appointments and helping our grandson thrive in his life. And I truly am not trying to sound like I am complaining, because I love this little guy and would do anything within my power to help him succeed.

I don’t like clutter anymore. At one time, it didn’t bother me as much as it does now. I would guess the fact that I see it 24 hours a day 7 days a week probably has a lot to do with that. When I was working, and then coming home to a mess, wasn’t as important as sitting down and relaxing before cooking dinner, bathtime, and bedtime. Now everywhere I turn, there is a mess. Yes, having a toddler in the home is a tiny part of the problem, but the biggest reason, is I have become too complacent in keeping the house in order. For the past two years, I have been saying the clutter has to go, and yet as I view the room around me, it seems not only has it not gone anywhere, but it has increased! My answer is simple, rent a dumpster, and start tossing. It sounds like an amazing idea until you figure the costs and realize the budget you live on will never work with the idea.

A year ago, my physician encouraged me to consider having a bariatric surgical procedure to help me feel better. And I did consider it but knew there was no way that I would be able to have the allotted time for recovering from such a procedure available to me, so I gave up on those plans. I have been considered morbidly obese for years and no amount of changing the way I eat, ever seemed to help. Exercising is so difficult because of the searing back pain that I have become resigned to being the size I am. And that is scary because I know that if I don’t lose some weight and get down to a healthier weight, I am not only putting my health at risk, I am shortening my lifespan.

This depression in me has rendered me “stuck”.  I want to do more with my life. I want to be a light to others. I want to be healthy. I want to be around for at least another 40 years or so, God willing, but I know that if I don’t find a way to get moving, more than I am now, I may end up more disabled than I already am.

Since 2005, I have struggled with a thyroid problem. I was diagnosed with Graves disease that year, because not only did I have a thyroid disorder, but I also had an autoimmune disorder. I have been without a thyroid gland since 2006 when it was eradicated by radioactive iodine treatments and have had to remain on medications that replicate the production of thyroid hormones that control the organs in my body.  I have been struggling with keeping my TSH levels in the normal range and finally some good news that the dose they have me on is finally showing good results.

Living with obstructive sleep apnea requires me to wear a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask every night and the machine forces air into my throat and keeps my airway open. About a year ago, I found out that even though my CPAP equipment was working properly, my cells and organs were not getting enough oxygen to live well. So, supplemental nighttime oxygen became part of my routine as well. When someone lives with OBSA, if they sleep for 12 hours or 2 without equipment to help keep their airway open, they will always feel fatigued and may suffer from headaches, leg cramps, falling asleep the moment they stop moving or talking. I never realized how important oxygen saturation in our bodies was until I was lacking it. I felt like a zombie and couldn’t comprehend why I was feeling so horrible, until I was informed, after testing, that even though my airway was remaining open during sleep with the CPAP, my oxygen saturation levels were dangerously low nearing 60%, not the recommended 90% or higher. For me, sleeping without my CPAP/Oxygen is not optional. The only way I can sleep without it is in an upright position and then I am still lacking the proper oxygen my body needs.

As my husband, grandson and I prepare to take a vacation, that has meant putting aside money we really don’t have, so we can get away and relax, I have come to realize this may be what I  need to get back into the right frame of mind. A change of scenery and climate, along with being able to visit a loved one that I miss deeply, might just boost my energy levels again. I am counting down the weeks until this becomes a reality.

Every morning as I sit with God and pray, I see the clutter in my home and I don’t want my heart to remain in a cluttered state. I need to embrace the purpose in my days. Seeing the same four walls and facing the same daily challenges in raising a special needs child can make anyone feel isolated and alone. I know it has for me. I have always been a “people person”. I love being around others and engaging in conversations and somehow, I have got to find a way to do that again. As far as the clutter, I know that many experts suggest starting off small, working on a small area at a time and not looking at the big picture. It’s just so hard when you see the entire picture daily. There is no shutting it off.

I know our lives are always a work in progress. Growth can’t come if we are not willing to change or try things in different ways. I know that for every failure I have ever experienced in my life, there has been a lesson learned and life always looks better when you get through the testing than when you are going through it.

And I know, that the feelings of failure and sadness that have been holding my heart hostage, they too shall pass. I know this because I am loved. I am worthy. I am enough.

Thank you for listening to the ramblings of someone who knows that I have much to be thankful and grateful for and that no amount of “feeling sorry for myself” will help. I guess I need to see the words and read them to realize that. And I owe it to all of my readers. Without readers, there would be no blog and no reason to realize that God will allow many events in our lives to take place as He works on molding and shaping us into the person He created us to be.

May you know how much Jesus Loves You~right now, wherever you are and He is always available to you! #HopeAlwaysHaveFaith

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.

received_2179141075706423

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.

20180408_183447.jpg

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undefined Chaos

I miss my laptop. I know its just an electronic device, but as someone that loves to write, and share my thoughts, I’ve come to realize how dependent I had become on that somewhat portable device. Yes, I can use my cell phone, as I am now but its difficult when the hard drive on your computer has all your reference material, media and other information you’ve saved that you may need. My memory on my phone obviously cannot hold as much. In the grand scheme of life though, it is very trivial to many problems others face.

I can use my husband’s computer but only if Tyson is sleeping because there are too many “cool” things he can get into in that space. And let’s face it, if you parent or care for a child on the autism spectrum when they rest, you either rest too or you clean and do things that need done that you can’t accomplish while they are awake.

This week has been a challenge. The local school system has been on Spring Break and the thought of getting any kind of break has been just that – a thought.

Tyson and I have been passing a cold back and forth between each other and I am so ready for it to be gone. When feeling under the weather, cleaning really becomes a chore.

Its almost 2a.m. here and he is wide awake! He’s currently taking my Crayola markers and stacking them together and showing me how high he can stack them. And exclaiming, “really tall”. I’ve tried several times unsuccessfully to remove them and put them up but he will have no part of it. I use them to color with, he uses them to line up and stack. He doesn’t want to go to bed, but I sense he’s wearing down. He stops what he’s doing and comes over to me and wants my hair down out of the ponytail so he can play with my hair. We have speech therapy in less than 8 hours and he’s not even asleep yet! His sleep schedule is getting worse by the day. Something has to give. Its not good for either one of us to have little sleep but it really isn’t good for him because it can bring on a seizure if he’s overly tired.

He’s become more aggressive than he used to be. Headbutting and hitting in the face and holding him tight doesn’t work as well as it used to. I’m praying his Developmental Pediatrician will have some answers or solutions so he can get back on a better schedule than we’ve had this week. For both of us.

He can’t be put to bed in a separate room to sleep in because the minute you put him in the bed, he’s messing with everything, pulling clothes out of dressers attempting to unplug lamps.etc., climbing and jumping,  removing hot bulbs from lamps, opening lotion bottles dumping them..and the lists goes on. If you lay with him, you become the object he jumps on, climbs on, pulls your hair and again no sleep.

The music is playing in the background now, soothing in hopes he will start to unwind and want to sleep. The only light in the room is the glow from this tiny screen. He’s still full steam ahead.

I know I’m rambling and I apologize. He’s my 24 hour job. I love him. I wouldn’t even want to imagine my life without him, but he is ALWAYS busy. My house always looks like there have been a multitude of children here, while there has only been one. Dishes and laundry get done on a regular basis when my husband is home because Ty knows how to climb out of his five point harness chair. Or done in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep and I should be sleeping.

Every child is a gift from above. I know God never gives us more than we can bear because in those times where we feel all alone and helpless, those are the times He wants us to allow Him in. God wants us, all of us. He is our strength our joy and our peace. Jesus gets me through all the craziness and chaos. Even now. Even when my eyes are heavy and sleep is at hand and I have a 3 1/2 old crying out “no bedtime.”

I’m learning to embrace all these moments. To savor the mess and all that comes with it and to realize His grace is enough. In every moment.

May you know how much Jesus loves you. In every messy moment of this thing called life. Cry out to Him. He is always listening.

Blessings from me and Ty.c046dec741cdaaaeb6e5bb14f47afc91