He’s Naked Again!

You know those nightmares we all have about showing up to work in our pajamas, or being on stage in our underwear, or – God forbid! – forgetting to get dressed before going out in public?  Do you recall the acute feelings of horror and embarrassment, of mortification?

Yes?  Well, my son will never have those nightmares.

How do I know?  Because he is completely unaware that other people have any interest in what he does.

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A Tribute to Autism Dads

To all the men in the world who call themselves “Daddy” to a child with autism:  Thank you.

For being there during the hard times – the diagnosis, the denial, the anger, the acceptance, the fear, the sadness, the confusion: Thank you.

For the long nights of sleeplessness, for the constant vigil, for tag-teaming it so that the rest of the family can go on outings: Thank you.

For trying so hard to communicate with your child, for playing and wrestling, for your silliness and goofiness, for your willingness to do whatever it takes to make a connection: Thank you.

For cleaning up messes without complaint, for changing an 8-year-old’s diaper, for tolerating the constant noise and chaos at the expense of an afternoon nap: Thank you.

For getting down on your knees in public to wrap your arms around your screaming child, for calming him during a meltdown, for protecting him from dangers: Thank you.

For your willingness to take your child out in public despite the difficulties, for showing him as much of the world as he can tolerate, for explaining to strangers why he makes “those noises:” Thank you.

For keeping a sense of humor throughout all the disasters, for being a stalwart advocate for your child, for working hard to ensure a secure future for your family: Thank you.

For being there always and forever.

For being you.

Thank you.

Scene of Destruction

You wouldn’t think that a child who has been sick for four days – who has eaten nothing and barely moved from his bed – could cause such destruction:

Three hours ago, Peter was whimpering in his bed with a temperature of 101 degrees F.  He was diagnosed with Strep Throat yesterday and has had two doses of antibiotics, but his fever still spiked and waned throughout the day.

At 3 pm I was finally able to dose him with Motrin by injecting it into a juice box with a plastic syringe.  An hour and a half later he was bouncing off the walls!

I really shouldn’t be surprised.  On the one hand, I will admit that I’ve never given Peter Motrin before, and it didn’t occur to me that it might make him extra-hyper. On the other hand, Peter is always extra-hyper.  That’s just him.  He makes messes.  HUGE messes.  All. The. Time.

Here is some photographic evidence:

It’s not that he is deliberately being naughty.  These are simply things he feels compelled to do.  His physical therapists call it “Heavy Work.”  Since he is hypo-sensitive, meaning he craves sensory input, pushing his full-size mattress off his bed satisfies a sensory need.  Pushing chairs over and shoving cushions off the couch makes him feel.  It sounds odd, I know, and I plan to write a separate post on sensory issues in autism.  But for now, just know that it takes a LOT for Peter’s senses to kick in.  The majority of kids with autism are hyper-sensitive, but Peter is just the opposite.  He craves sounds, lights, movement, and a variety of sensory input. 

Hence, he is messy.  And noisy.  And busy.  And energetic.  This is why we were so concerned that for four days he has hardly moved.

He put our fears to rest this evening, though.  He’s still tearing around the house; I just heard a crash downstairs.  I know the medicine will wear off soon and then it will be bedtime. 

I did learn an important lesson today.  Motrin?  Never again.  Next time around, I’m going to stick to Tylenol and Advil.  

When Our Son is Sick

Nothing is easy with autism.  Every aspect of a child’s life – and a family’s life – is affected.  It’s when the child is sick, though, that a parent feels the most helpless.

Peter has been sick with fever and vomiting for about 24 hours now.  Last night, we had no warning that he was coming down with a bug – if that’s what it is – other than a slight dip in appetite at dinner time.  He didn’t eat all his grilled cheese sandwich and applesauce.  That was the first red flag.  Peter loves to eat! At bedtime I noticed that his eyes were a little droopy, and I felt his forehead.  It was hot.  I took his temperature with a “behind ear” thermometer (the only kind he will tolerate) and – sure enough – he had a fever of 101 degrees F.

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He Knows More Than We Think! (Technology as Teacher)

In recent months, we have discovered that Peter knows a lot more than we ever imagined. It is technology, among other things, that we have to thank. These days, parents are so concerned about electronics and their detriment to child development and learning. However, studies have shown that children with autism gravitate towards electronics and can even learn better on tablets or computers. Tablets are predictable, they stimulate the senses, and they don’t require social interaction. All things that appeal to those with autism. Peter got a Kindle when he was three years old and has had some kind of tablet ever since. In this YouTube video you’ll see him learning to use the Kindle on the very first day. Today, we try to limit Peter’s time on his iPad, but we also recognize that technology is helping him to learn.

It has always been difficult for Peter to learn in a traditional school setting. He is completely nonverbal. He has sensory issues. He never sits still. He has trouble attending to tasks. He can’t take standard tests and evaluations are difficult. He was enrolled in an autism classroom in a public school for three years, but we were never sure if he was learning anything. Yes, he had an IEP (Individualized Education Program), and yes, his progress was measured. But the problem has always been this: how do we really know what he knows?

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Rock Stars

Recently three of Peter’s favorite therapists left his school to move on to other employment.  They had all been on Peter’s team for some time, and it was sad to see them go.  One of them sent me a personal text to actually apologize for having to leave Peter.  “Pete made me grow as a person and as a therapist,” he wrote.  “He is a sweet boy who just needs someone who knows him well and is willing to take that extra mile with him while being a friend and a teacher.  I hope that I have been that for him.”

It choked me up.  I’m not gonna lie.  A few weeks later I asked one of them if he could babysit for Peter.  This is the text conversation:

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Safety: The Autism Parent’s Constant Concern

When considering which topic to cover next, it took about half a second to decide on SAFETY.  Yes, I deliberately typed that word in all caps.  It’s that important.  Amid the numerous concerns involved with autism, keeping your child safe is never far from your mind.  It is a constant; always there, always a source of stress and fear, and it can be crippling.  There are ways to battle this concern, though, to stay ahead of the dangers.  In this post, I will talk about the things we do in our family to keep Peter safe.

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