Sunday, July 31, 2005

I can't believe it!

Wow! Time sure does fly! My sweet Elena is going to be one year old in just a few days. I looked through pictures from the day she was born and found myself a little teary-eyed. It is so hard to believe how much she has changed from the little newborn to the toddler (well, almost!) she is now. So different!

She received her first birthday present yesterday, and it is so cute! Brenna, Sunshine's daughter, sent her an embroidered diaper, a matching dyed prefold, and a sweet card that she signed herself. ;) Elena loves it, as you will see below. This is one diaper that we will be keeping forever! Here is a pic:

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Thank you so much Brenna and Sunshine! We love it!!!

And since we are on the topic of my youngest daughter today, I have to tell about her latest little episodes. She has decided that she enjoys gagging herself after meals now to the point that the entire meal comes back up. You would think she would learn that it doesn't feel too good coming back up, and when mommy says "No" she really means it. But not my daughter! No, she thinks it is funny to gag herself. One of my fellow mommies said she sounds like a supermodel in training. LOL I keep telling her she is WAY too young to be having a complex yet. Hopefully she will get past this little stage soon. None of my other kids did this, so it should be interesting to see how long it goes on.

Anyway, today I will leave you with Elena's tips for other babies who may be celebrating a birthday soon. Enjoy!

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

It's official!

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Therapy has begun! Yay! What a relief to finally have started all of the recommended therapies. :) Since last writing, Joshua has completed his second series of 6 socialization classes. We get the official feedback on Tuesday. She has said that he has done well, but two out of the past three sessions he has been a little out of sorts when first getting there. One of those times was the parking garage incident. This week was because when we came out of the bathroom, Ms. G. was standing outside waiting for us. He fell to the floor when he saw her because we weren't expecting her to be there. (She is usually running a little behind schedule ;) ) He got over it quickly though once he went into the office and she showed him the schedule. It's amazing to me how colors can completely turn things around for him. :)

Yesterday was his first speech and OT appointments. I'll start with the speech, since that is what we did first. Ms. R is a really sweet, older lady. As I stated previously, she said he needs to work on 4-5 word sentences. He does this all of the time with no trouble, so I am still a little confused about this one. He makes sentences that are 7-10 words at times! Anyway, we go in and Josh sits at a table in front of a mirror. There was a shelf behind him, VERY visible in the mirror, and it was stacked with toys galore, all of which were new to him. Immediately he spotted a bus. It had a lot of those Little People characters in it, so she emptied it out and moved them into a pile next to her. She let him play with the bus while she rummaged for the book she chose to use with him. While doing that, she also asked me if he had started doing anything new since she saw him last. I don't know if she forgot it was just an eval that she did with him, or if she thought he actually had a therapy session, but I found it funny she would ask me that. LOL

The book she pulled out had Ernie and Bert doing different tasks such as writing, swimming, washing and drying dishes, throwing and catching a ball, etc. She would cover up one page, show him the other and ask what the character was doing on the page. About 40% of the time he wouldn't even look at the page and would say "I don't know", so she would take his hand and touch the page with it. He'd look at it and she'd ask him "What's he doing?" and he would simply reply "He is doing it". She would then say, "He is {enter the appropriate action}" and he'd say "Yes!" or he would repeat what she said. Almost every one of those actions he had to repeat were 3 word sentences. His reward for repeating or answering on his own using "He is..." was to choose which person or animal he wanted to put on the bus. He had to choose by saying "I want man". Not "I want the man", or "I want that one", or "I want the green one"..."I want man"...that's what she expected of him. To me, it seemed a bit babyish compared to what he does already.

I noticed my printout of the schedule for his ST has a different therapist listed after next week. I am going to check and see if that indeed is the case, and if so, I am going to ask Ms. K if we can possibly check into getting the therapist that the psych recommended. She said she KNOWS that woman is good, and I think if we are going to uproot him from someone he knows three sessions inot this, why not go to the one we KNOW will work wonders? :) We'll see how her schedule fits with ours.

Next was OT. Ms. Mindy was great! She let him explore the room a bit at first. He went straight to a corner where they have some wooden steps set up. She let him go up and down while she set up a fun obstacle course for him. He had to choose a puzzle piece off a table, crawl through a tunnel, go up a slide, climb up some steps, put the puzzle piece in the correct place, slide down a slide, lay on his tummy on a scooterboard and pull himself across the room using his arms and then start over. LOL He had a blast doing it!! Then when he finished the entire puzzle we went into a room to talk about what to do wiht him at home. I have to try a bunch of activities with him this week and report back what helped and then we will set up a sensory diet for him next time. :) I'm going to be trying a weighted blanket (after I figure out how to make a good one LOL), jumping on the couch cushions, beanbag chairs, pillows, lots of deep pressure activities, etc. My understanding is that anytime he seems to be getting out of control or he needs to really focus on something (like school) I'm to try some deep pressure activities and see if it makes a difference. I'm really glad we are starting this now because I am starting school next week. :) She also mentioned some sort of cushion that will help in school, and she said she'd give me more info on it next week.

Overall, I think the day went well. I am a little confused on the Speech still. I personally feel she is trying to get him to do things on a much lower level than he is at right now. Sure the eval may have shown differently, but after being in there for a half an hour,I feel she should have seen that he is beyond those activities and she should have tailored the games a bit more to his level. Of course, I'm not a speech therapist, so maybe there is some sort of underlying reason for her doing it this way. I think we'll get to talk a bit more next week and I can try to figure out what the heck is going on with that. As Ms. G. told me, I can always switch to the other therapist if I want to. ;)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Charity Auction

I haven't really had the opportunity to mention the charity auction that has been set up for onoe of the mamas on the cloth diapering board I post on. When her baby was born, she had to stay in the NICU for 28 days. The lovely insurance company would only cover the highest level of care, which was what she received for only 3 days of the stay before being downgraded. The parents are left with finding a way to cover the huge expense left after that. Many of you know the issues we have had with our own insurance company and their lack of covering services we have needed (Josh's OT is not covered unless he were in Hospice care, ST is only covered if he had a cleft lip or pallette, my gestational diabetes supplies and services were not covered, etc), so this is something that definitely hit close to home. I have always wanted to do something, anything to help with previous charity auctions that have been organized, but have never had a talent I could share over the internet (hard to pass on bell or clarinet playing that way. ;) ) However, now that I am able to sew, I have a 24 month dress I made that I donated for the auction. The auctions go through Friday, the 22nd, so if you are interested in being entered into a drawing for one of many cool prizes, all while helping out a family, be sure to check out the link: :)

Socialization class #5 and speech therapy eval. Whew!

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Joshua had a busy day yesterday...the first of many it sounds. I didn't get to go to his class and eval yesterday because our little Elena has been fighting a horrible stomach bug that almost landed her in the hospital. Yuck! I was waiting for some lab results and unfortunately, I had to choose what info to get straight from the horse's mouth and who to let my husband talk to. LOL
Anyway, Josh started with his socialization class. My husband took him and things started out pretty well. The elevators we normally use appeared to have some issues and no one seemed to know where the stairs were. So, a nice security guard took Josh and N (one of his classmates) to the staff elevator. Instead of having a meltdown from the change in routine, Josh actually thought it was pretty cool. They went to class and Mrs. G. said he did really well. We are supposed to work on reading emotions and facial expressions this week. I happened upon a neat little internet feelings game I am going to try with him tonight, found here.

After the socialization class, they went across the hall to meet the speech therapist who would be doing his evaluation. Silas described how it went, and honestly, I was expecting to hear a dreadfully awful score. She promised to call me today and let me know how it went.

Well, the results are in and not nearly as bad as I thought they may turn out. I now remember why I never send Silas to the doctor with the kids. LOL He came home and told me that it is an older woman therapist and I didn't think it is who we were originally scheduled to be with. He said that she didn't lose her temper or anything, but she did have to try redirecting a lot and also appeared to be getting a little flustered with him. That kind of worried me. I *thought* we were getting someone who was good with Autistic kids and was the therapist recommended by the psychologist. In the end, she told Silas exactly what our pshychologist's report (which they have a copy of but did not look at) said...he needs help with expressive language. I feel like we are going in circles sometimes.

Silas told me that she said his comprehension skills are fine but she has trouble getting him to respond so it makes it difficult. She claims he doesn't say 4 word sentences - if I had been there I would have made sure I let her know that is far from the case! She asked him things like "An apple is red, a banana is what?" and he answered yellow. However, he didn't answer three questions in a set so it counts as a problem. She asked him hypothetical questions like "Your hands are dirty, what do you need to do?" Silas said he looked at his hands and then said "My hands aren't dirty". LOL (BTW, notice that right there is a 4 word sentence!) There were some other things in there as well. Really, we learned nothing we didn't already know, which is plain annoying at this point. Nothing like paying $82 to hear what we already were told back in February!

So, after reading that, imagine my surprise when the therapist called and sounded very nice. LOL She said she is really looking forward to working with Joshua, he's a really neat kid, really cute, has very interesting comments, and he has a lot of positive things going for him. :)

Joshua is 4 years, 8 months old. For understanding skills she has him as scoring 81 which is in the 10th percentile for his age. She said she feels he probably knows a lot more than she could get though. Anyway, that has his understanding at an age of 3 years, 9 months, or about a year behind. She also evaluated his expressive language (which we have known he was behind in). He scored a 70 which means he is in the 2nd percentile and significantly behind. So those skills are at a 3 year, 3 month level. His overall score was a 73 and put him at 3 years, 5 months for his total speech. Not great, but a whole lot better than I was thinking it may be at given Silas' report.

I asked her if Silas had mentioned he is Autistic, and she said yes, and she reassured me that this is indeed nothing I did wrong but something that is very common with Autistic children. The she made me laugh...she said he has a lot of Autistic traits that were very noticable, but he was great with initiating conversations and made really good eye contact. This is amazing to me! He has had 11 socialization classes, and in that short amount of time, he has started to improve, even with strangers, in both those areas! You have no idea how exciting this is to me!!! True, it still isn't consistant, but goodness, it is a major improvement since just February!

Anyhow, she went over all of the goals with me that she had gone over with Silas yesterday and then she had me choose which ones I wanted her to work on first and what would be most beneficial for us in our home and in our working with him. After he meets one, they'll add another. :) She also mentioned that she wanted to see him twice a week. I told her I wished we could do that, and even though we are part of their assistance program which allows us to make a $25 co-pay each time, there is no way we can afford ST twice a week on top of the OT fully out of pocket and $25 each socialization class. She said she understood and that once a week would be fine and she would give him lots of homework. I told her she could load us with tons of homework if she wanted because I was homeschooling him and would easily be able to make it a part of his schoolwork. She seemed very happy to hear that.

So, we start next week on the same day we start OT. :) Ms. K, the receptionist for the therapy office is awesome, and she even managed to get all of our scheduled OT and ST appointments scheduled for the same days and with very little gaps of time in between, if any at all! Should be interesting to say the least! I am really looking forward to seeing the progress he will make once all of this starts!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Homeschooling Convention

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This weekend was the annual homeschool Convention in town. I had a blast yesterday! I took several informational classes and came home ready to start! I think I have finally narrowed down exactly what type of homeschooling we will do this year. With my children being so close in age, it looks like unit studies will work great for them! So, I bought one thing to get us started this year - a Space Unit Study. My boys are very interested in the space shuttle and the planets, and since I have been getting a lot of questions about it the past couple of months (since the last school year ended) I thought it might be a good idea to start with that this year. Cassidy is pretty much into whatever the boys like at the time, so I'm sure we can involve her very easily as well.

Before the convention, I was beginning to get very nervous about teaching Joshua at home. Scratch that. I haven't been nervous about the teaching - it is the end of the year evaluation that has had me concerned. Because of our laws and his age, we don't even have to worry about this until next year, so it is probably really crazy of me to be so uptight about this right now. Anyhow, because of the classes that I took yesterday, I am much more at ease now. The law states that the child must perform to the best of his ability, not that he has to be at grade level in every subject. So, if we choose to our method of evaluation to be that his portfolio is evaluated by a certified teacher, so long as I state in there that he has been diagnosed with High-functioning Autism, they will take that into consideration when looking at his work for the year. He has to show improvement and that is basically it. Thank goodness! That made me feel so much better. So, now we can progress at the speed he is comfortable and able to go at, and not what the school system feels he should be doing.

I wanted to mention some of the classes I took yesterday...

The first class was on processing disorders. The speaker is a local speech pathologist and her speech was very interesting. She believes that we have eye gates, ear gates, and motor gates and these all work together to help us with the learning. A great deal of what she explained made total sense and I was able to relate some of it to Joshua. She mentioned about the eyes and the visual processing disorder. The way she explained it, we have two types of muscles in our bodies - smooth and striped. Smooth muscles are unable to be controlled by us (involuntary) such as the stomach muscles. Striped muscles are those we can control (voluntary) such as the muscles we find in our hands. The eyes have six muscles and are the one part of our body that has BOTH types of muscles that it uses. She believes that since the eyes are formed in such a way that the shape can be changed, that children who squint and blink a lot may in fact be trying to change the shape of their eyes and get the smooth muscles working properly, and if they can't in causes visual processing disorders. It also could cause them to change focus quickly, Does Joshua have this? I have no idea. He does do an odd blinking and squinting thing with his eyes, so he could very well have it...or it could be something else or nothing at all...or it could just be the Autism. But, it does give me more to look into and research. LOL Anyway, this is the therapists site, and she probably explains it a whole lot better than I can!

Let's see...the second class was Homeschooling 101. This was a two hour long class and full of info! There was a brief intro to our state's laws, a discussion of the pros and cons of each type of homeschooling, dealing with the "S" word (socialization), and testing. It was by far the most informative class I could have taken.

I then took a class about one of the curriculums. I kind of got tricked into that one. LOL The title of the class was "Teaching without Textbooks", and it turned out to be about a curriculum that is not textbook based, but literature based. It was pretty interesting, and if I was loaded with cash I probably would have grabbed it! However, seeing as how the speaker has three kids and had to buy 2 curriculums for them at $1000, I figured that it may be neat to just listen and get some ideas. LOL I did get one really helpful bit of info! She listed her daily schedule and it would totally work for our day! And it involves 4 hours of teaching for the day - ours would be a little less seeing as my kids are all younger than hers are.

I then took a class called "Learning In Spite of Labels". This was based on the book of the same name by Joyce Herzog. The speaker went through the book and gave us the 25 teaching techniques we need to remember. The first and last were the most important and they were "Thank God and PRAY". This was one of those classes that in many ways the info given was common sense, but very good reminders as well.

I know there were more classes and I met a lot of people...these were just the main ones that stuck out. I feel totally inspired after yesterday and can hardly wait to get started with the school year. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

OT Eval

Today was Joshua's occupational therapy evaluation. It went as well as I expected I suppose. Our therapist is named Ms. Mindy. She seems nice for the most part. We arrived early and I filled out the necessary paperwork as well as gave them copies of the hearing test and psychological eval. Not long after Ms. Mindy came out to get us.

We went through the large therapy room and into a smaller room that had a view of the traffic crossing the bridge outside at high speeds. Not the best choice for a child that is easily distracted. LOL After going through the paperwork I had filled out and taking notes from what I described, she asked about whether he has been in day care or school. I told her no and that I was homeschooling him this year. She decided to tell me that sometimes for these kids it is better to have them in a social environment and that we will talk more about it at the end and to think about it. At this point, she had to go and get her eval kit in another room, and I looked at Silas and said, "Sure, I'm going to send my autistic child to school to be social where he will likely be told NOT to socialize for the majority of the day. Makes perfect sense to me!" Ms. G. has told me numerous times that because of the number and ages of my kids, we in sense have a peer group that allows us plenty of social interaction. We also are doing the socialization classes. At the very end of the therapy eval, I did let Mindy know this, and she made a note and suddenly thought that homeschooling wasn't a totally off the wall idea now.

Anyhow, I missed a good deal of the actual evaluation because I was having to fill out yet more paperwork, this time on his sensory issues. Silas was there though, so he kept watch for me. She had Joshua perform many tasks. He had to string beads onto a string, lace something up, stack blocks, arrange blocks into patterns, do a wooden puzzle, cut paper using scissors and draw pictures (neither of those went well), drop small beads into a small container and then screw the lid on the bottle (couldn't screw on the lid), and a couple of other tasks that are slipping my mind right now.

After this, Joshua was rewarded by being allowed to choose a truck to play with. Mindy brought him to the area where they are kept. They were gone very briefl, maybe 45 seconds tops going to the area to the truck area and then back again, and he took the first one he could get to. He came back smiling and had a ball playing. About 10 minutes later, he turned to Mindy and asked her if she wanted to play with the Elmo truck. I had no idea what he was talking about because his truck was green. Then he asked about 4 other various trucks. Turns out, in that extremely brief amount of time he was in the area where the trucks were, he had eyed and memorized what each one of the trucks looked like. LOL It was neat to see how he took that in so quickly.

Mindy then went through the sensory issue paperwork and told us that he appears to have issues with all of the sensory processing areas they test for. She said he will never completely get over all of these, but he will learn how to adapt and hopefully it will eventually allow him to not have so many meltdowns when there is a slight change in schedule. She is going to put him on what they call a "complete sensory diet". We will be given certain times of the day to do certain sensory activities and the object is to try and not have him have so many ups and downs with the activity and behaviors. One example of the activities she gave was after breakfast he might jump on the bed! He's gonna love that! LOL

He will go in once a week for a 30 minute session and it is set to begin week after next. Next Tuesday will be his socialization class followed immediately by his speech eval. Say some prayers that it will go smoothly!

Yay Joshua!

Today was another socialization class. Like the class two weeks ago, things did not get off to the best start. We got to the children's clinic parking garage. There are two entrances to this place and I always go through the first one. Our car and van both have no AC right now, and by going through that first entrance I am able to park in the lowest level of the garage where it is nice and shady, and therefore a little bit cooler than the above levels. Today however, that particular entrance was taken over by one of those lovely trucks that are jacked up on oversized tires which causes them to be three times higher than my minivan. The driver was actually having to peer out their window to see if they could fit the thing under the height restriction bar. ~ Note to drivers of large vehicles: If you have to question whether your vehicle can fit, don't try!

So, rather than wait for that driver to decide whether or not they wanted to chance getting stuck, I went to the alternat entrance. Sweet Josh went into a total meltdown. I parked the van and looked back and he was in tears. I couldn't understand a thing he was trying to tell me because he was crying so hard. I undid the latch on his booster seat and told him we were there to see Ms. G and he dropped down in between the two middle seats where he knew I couldn't reach him and them proceeded to tell me he wasn't going to go in to see her. LOL What a session they were going to have today - it was already starting out great.

I finally coaxed him out of the vehicle. He cried all of the way to the building entrance and then was upset that we didn't have to take an elevator in the parking garage like we usually do. This is when it finally clicked with me what had set him off - I totally screwed up the routine that I didn't even notice I had set! I won't do that again!

We finally made it inside, checked in, and went upstairs to wait for the class. josh immediately headed for the house I previously mentioned. He did not want to share it. He at some point wound up tripping and hitting his head on a little fold down table that is inside of the house, which set his crying into motion once again. Poor guy was having such a rough afternoon. :(

After about 5 minutes, Mrs. G. came out with the basket. Joshua stuck his snack and cup into the basket and then immediately threw himself to the floor crying. I explained really quickly to Mrs. G. that I apparently messed up the routine I didn't realize I had even set by entering the garage on the wrong level and then parking in the wrong spot. She is so sweet...she never even flinched. She smiled and said I could walk him in. He cried for a good 5 minutes in her office and she finally got him settled down. Whew!

In the meantime, the other two moms and I were given handouts about what they have been learning in the past 4 classes as well as a mini-evaluation of our child. Joshua got a lot of praise! I was so happy to read it! According to Mrs. G., Joshua has shown little distraction compared to the last set of classes. He is very observant and makes spontaneous comments on the activities they are participating in. He seems to enjoy the social interaction and seems motivated to participate. She stated that "his play is slowly becoming less dysfunctional". She also stated that "when he is motivated to get something, like food, he can really put everything together: making great eye contact, asking in a clear voice and using the person's name." I had to laugh at the comment about food. I am part Cajun and Part Italian, and I guess that part is really coming out in him. LOL

So, overall he is really doing great. We have his OT eval tomorrow morning. I'm a little nervous to hear what they have to say. Sya some prayers that he doesn't have to go in too often since all of this is going to be paid out of our pockets because insurance does not cover it (that's a rant for another day). The OT office is right across the hall from Ms. G's office, so I'll have to remember to take the correct parking garage entrance. ;)

Monday, July 11, 2005

New Template in progress

We'll see how it turns out when I am done. heehee

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"Our best session yet!"

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Today was socialization class # 3 in this session for Joshua. After last week, I was really wondering how it would go. We got upstairs about 15 minutes early and he went directly to the giant playhouse as he always does. Joshua seems to think the clinic put this house there for him. His ability to share "his house" pretty much seems to reflect how the class will go on that particular day.

Today was a good day. He was playing in the house when another boy came over from the therapy area. Joshua looked right at him and asked him if he wanted to play in the house with him. The little boy did not answer, but smiled and walked in. Joshua asked him if he wanted to share the house. They played together until the other child was called into his appointment. Success! At this point, P, one of Josh's classmates, came upstairs. They said hi to one another, but then sort of weent to do their own things.

Ms. G. came out with the basket for their snacks to be placed in. Joshua ran over and put his snacks in and headed to the door. This time P was the one who needed to be talked into going to class. LOL After a few minutes, they both made it into the office. Their other classmate never showed up today.

So, the other mom and I were able to talk a lot throughout the 45 minute wait. It was nice. She was telling me about the gluten-free diet she is trying P on. She said it is a pain, but she is hoping she will eventually go bananas about it like some of the other parents she has met have done. He's been on it a month...she said though that she's been told it can take 6 months to a year before she may see an improvement.

So, finally 45 minutes passed. Ms. G. came out of her office with two very happy and grinning boys. They ran up to us and gave us huge hugs. Ms. G. exclaimed that today was the best session they had ever had! They had wonderful eye contact almost the entire time. The interaction between the two boys was amazing. She said at snack time they worked on sharing. They each had to ask if they could please have a bit of the other's snack. Joshua got right up to P's face and asked "Can I have one of your cookies, P?" LOL Ms. G. said she could tell he really wanted it, and P was not paying atention. Josh had to really hold himself back, but he did wait for P to give the cookie to him. LOL Silly boy. Then P did really well asking too. :)

They also played with trucks today. Mrs. G. said Joshua and P both did really well with sharing, pretend play and interaction with one another, and sound effects (which Josh has always been a pro at doing). To top off all the success, Joshua did not spin any of the wheels for the first time! I was so proud of him. Now, once he got out of the session, he did go to a table and find something to spin just at the same time she was telling me this. She laughed and said that he did so well keeping himself from doing it in there, that he must have been on overload and now needed to get all the spinning out. LOL She was really excited with how well both boys did, and emphasized how great it was seeing the two of them in there today. :)

I am so happy that there is obvious progress that she has now noticed. I can hardly wait to see what happens at the evals that start next week. I am feeling more encouraged now than ever before.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

11 months old

Today Elena turned 11 months old. I can hardly believe how fast these past months have flown by. It is so much fun watching her grow and learn new things each day, but I find myself a little sad as well since I know she is my last. Don't get me wrong, I would NEVER want to go through pregnancy again if at all possible, but I will miss having a little baby in the house. I'll miss the bright smiles and wonderment that goes along with having an infant living with you. I know that all too soon the hugs and cuddles will be done, so I am taking as many as I can get for now. :)

Here are some pics I took of my baby girl this morning:

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