"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene: What we did while we were stuck inside.

We live in southern NH, about an hour or so from the coast so we were prepared for hurricane Irene.  We made a "hurricane kit" and a food bin filled with Organic GFCF meals and snacks in case we had to leave the house in a hurry.  We prepared for the worst case scenario, just in case.  The way I figured it, if we were prepared we wouldn't need it, if we weren't prepared then we would have needed it.....so we prepared.  As you all already know, we were blessed and the hurricane turned into a tropical storm and missed hitting us directly.  Needless to say, we were just stuck inside all day.  We were even more blessed to keep our power!!! (Not everyone in our area was so lucky).  Part of our preparation was finding things to do with Peanut and Sassy.  I ended up finding a cute hurricane craft to do with the kids.  We spent the morning in our jammies and watched movies.  In the late afternoon when the kids were crawling the walls, that's when I whipped out our hurricane project. 

I began by talking with the kids about what a hurricane is (in basic toddler terms, and as simple as possible).  The ability to look outside and "see" what the hurricane was doing made it a little easier for them to understand what I was trying to tell them.  I showed them the shape of a hurricane with the picture I had found the night before.  This is an actual space image of hurricane Irene that I found on "google images".  We individually went through the word "hurricane" and I had the kids name each letter in the word.  I then wrote the word on their paper and made a spiral shape to guide them.  I then had them draw out what they saw outside and/or in the picture I had printed.

Here is Peanut drawing his pictures.  He told me here he was drawing the trees outside and the rain

Sassy said she had drawn what she saw in the picture I showed them.

Then I gave the kids a handful of cotton balls and had them pull them all apart. (Awesome fine motor activity that encourages a pincher grasp as well as the use of both hands!) 

Then we put glue on our paper in the spiral shape of a hurricane. 

Then I had the kids stick their cotton to the glue to make their hurricane.

Here is their finished project.  The kids seemed to really enjoy this project.  I'll hold it aside for the next hurricane.  Hopefully this project won't be needed for a long time.  Maybe at that point we can get more scientific with it!!

We were blessed to have been spared, but not everyone was so lucky.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who were effected by the hurricane as well as to those families who lost loved ones as a results of the storm.

God Bless!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding hope where you least expect it.

Yesterday we took the kids to Yorks Wild Animal Kingdom .  I had gone last year with my mother and the 2 kids and things went fairly well.  This year my husband was able to come with us.  He was a tad bit nervous about having our two in a large amusement park.  For those who don't know him, he tends to "hover" around our children when he's with them.  People joke around and give him a hard time about it but knowing the safety difficulties our children have, I don't blame him.  We started the morning off slower than we had planned and left the house an hour latter.  I had re-arranged our therapies to give us the whole day off so we didn't have any stress trying to get home at any specific time.  We figured we would "go with the flow" and really go with whatever our children would tolerate.

I want to start by saying we love this park.  I found it pretty clean for a zoo and amusement park.  The pricing was fair.  All of the employees were very courteous and kind.  They always smiled and wished you a fun day when you exited a ride.  We never once encountered an attitude from anyone and they seemed happy to help you out in any way you needed.  I will recommend this park to anyone looking for a fun place for a family day.  (I'd also love to take the kids back when we do our zoo unit I have planned!)

The day went much better than expected.  The kids were so excited to get there they didn't seem to be bothered by the drastic change in schedule.  We got there in time for lunch (we had a cooler and a large bag full of food, drinks and snacks for the kids.  When you have kids on such a limited diet, you never know if you'll be able to find food they can eat!)  We went into the park and paid and then sat to eat lunch.  We decided to go to the zoo first and then we would make our way to the rides once we had a child (or two) in some type of sensory overload.  It was crowded, loud and hot, but they made it through.

Peanut lasted about  1 1/2 hours in the zoo.  I was very proud of him.  They both showed slowly worsening signs of sensory issues but held it together well. 
Peanut and Sassy with their daddy.
The zoo was pretty impressive.  We saw an elephant, monkeys, lions, a tiger, deer, bears, camel, I really could keep going and going.  The animals seemed well cared for and happy.  Sassy has an obsession with animals and bugs of all kinds and she was in absolute heaven for sure.  We stopped once for a snack and a drink and then made our way to the butterfly sanctuary.  We lasted about 5 minutes (if that) and then we were off to the rides to try to calm their sensory systems.

Sassy got to ride her first roller coaster with her daddy.  They also rode the train, boats, swings, and carousel.  Peanut was fascinated with trying to figure out all of the clips and locks on the seat belts on all the rides.  Although I like to see him trying to figure things out (nice critical thinking) but not when you can fall off a ride once you figure it out.  Needless to say, we were the annoying, seemingly overprotective parents yelling to their child to "hold on".  What people may not have realized is that the purpose of this was to distract his hands from the clips and locks.

Chooo chooo!!!

Peanut and Sassy on the boats

Sassy and Peanut on the swings

Sassy and Peanut waving to the camera!
We really had a great day and I know my husband and I will never forget it.  So where's that hope you ask?  Is it because we had a great day despite our family's difference? No.  Is it because we made it an entire day with two toddlers with Autism without one tantrum or meltdown from either child? (A miracle in itself!) No.  It was actually because of a short and quiet encounter I had with an employee at the park.

We were at a kiddie ride.  As I have mentioned, Peanut was obsessed with trying to unlatch every clip and lock he encountered.  I had noticed the man operating the ride was quieter and less bubbly than the rest of the other ride operators we had met up til then, but thought nothing of it.  As the ride started up I saw Peanut start to fidget with the clip on his seat belt.  Sassy just sat back with a stone faced look as she had on every other ride (This is her relaxed look.  As soon as any ride ended she would beg to go on it again).  My husband and I began to take turns yelling (we had to yell because of the noise in the park) to Peanut the various prompts we had found worked on the other rides, but the swing seemed to help him to keep his focus on this little clip.  Suddenly I heard the man operating the ride loudly yell for Peanut to stop playing with the clip.  Peanut looked up and actually stopped playing with the clip (for only about 10 seconds, but it was longer than we were able to get him to stop!).  I don't typically make it a habit of revealing my children's diagnosis unless I feel I really have to.  For some reason I felt this was one of those occasions.  I got closer to the man and shortly explained that my son was fascinated with the lock because he had Autism. 

The man turned his head towards me and looking at the ground and said, "So do I." 

I was shocked by the response and looked over to him, realizing he never really had made eye contact with anyone and I said, "Oh, really?" 

 "Yeah" he said. 

I stood there in silence not knowing what else to say.  I just had never expected to hear that sentence, especially at a noisy, busy amusement park.  I could tell he was feeling the same awkwardness, searching his social repertoire for what he is supposed to say next, and honestly, I was doing the same.  I've never had the opportunity to speak with an adult with Autism.  I'm sure we will have more opportunities in the future, but this was a first. 

He then turned to me and said (again, looking at the ground and I wasn't going to push the eye contact so I also didn't look right at him), "I know exactly how he feels right now." 

"Really?" I said, again shocked by what he said. 

He sighed and in a more relaxed tone stated, "Yeah, I really do." 

I looked right at him, "If I could know for just five minutes what it felt like for him, it would mean the world to me." 

He then acknowledged what I said with the quickest attempt at fleeting eye contact and a small smile, and then he turned back to the control for the ride.  Our conversation was over.  I was so tempted to ask him more about what his life was like, but I was afraid of being rude, and honestly didn't want to distract him from operating the ride my two angels were on.  All I can say is I was honored.  I was honored that he chose me to share his diagnosis with, and even more honored that he attempted to give me the eye contact that is just so difficult for people on the spectrum. 

I was caught of guard for sure, but most of all I was filled with hope.  Here was a man in his early twenties, with Autism working on his own. I now liked Yorks Wild Animal Kingdom even more for giving this man his job.  Families with children on the spectrum will understand.  This is not just a job, it is a chance at making a future for himself.  Any parent with a young child will tell you that the uncertainty of your child's future is terrifying.  Will they be able to live on their own?  Hold a job? Have friends? A marriage and children?  For some the answer is yes, and others the answer is no.  Seeing this man gave us hope.  I told my husband of my encounter.  About 30 minutes latter he said, "You know, seeing that man operate the ride makes me feel...." He paused.  "Hope?" I asked.  "Yeah....hope."

A big thanks to Yorks Wild Animal Kingdom for a fun filled family day and thank-you to the man who reminded me what hope feels like, I'll hold it with me forever.

"...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  Isaiah 40:31

God Bless.

Mommy Provost

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Taking the leap

Sometimes, walking in faith means taking a deep breath, closing your eyes and taking a giant leap off the side of a cliff.   Initially it sounds scary, crazy, or risky, but the more you pray and the more you allow God to show you what path you should take, the more comfortable you are with your decision.  Randomly jumping off the side of a cliff is obviously not a very smart thing to do, but when you take that leap with God then you can take it knowing that there is a giant cushion at the bottom of that cliff to catch you. 
We took one of those leaps last week.  We signed paperwork to refuse all of Peanuts services through the school system.  Essentially, we pulled him out of the public school system.  We chose not to utilize any therapy services through the school.  Initially I was saying, “Now we are on our own.”  But I soon realized, we are not alone because God is with us.
For the past year now I have felt the push to do this, and as time progressed the push was stronger and stronger until we could no longer ignore it anymore.  At first I was scared.  With more and more prayer I began to feel much better, and now I am excited at the prospect of having my children at home with me full time!
I want to be clear, this decision is one that was a long time coming, but was NOT because of any issue with the school system directly.  We have always planned to home school full time, it just was a question of when.  Peanut is considered “high functioning” and so there is only so much the school can justify spending.  Honestly, they were doing a good job, and were doing the best they could, but I felt Peanut still needed more.
I sat down, created a therapy plan and 36 weeks of preschool lesson plans.  It surprisingly has all come fairly easily for us, and it seems everything is just falling into place.  I’m combining multiple resources to create my plans.  Our therapy plan is extensive and covers a wide variety of therapy.
* The kids will continue their Sensory Integration therapy privately and we will utilize the therapists for OT needs as well, with carry over to home.  We have planned sensory and fine motor activities into our daily plans.
*Peanut is  continuing with Therapeutic Listening.  We plan to use this therapy as well for Sassy in the fall.
* The kids will both continue Music Therapy.
* We are going to use Playing it Right! Social Skills Activities for Parents and Teachers of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Including Asperger Syndrome and Autism for social practice/activities.  We are also planning to go to a local indoor playground to take advantage of any social opportunities with “neurotypical” children as well as get in some great gross motor activities.
* We are using Skills through CARD for our ABA therapy.  We have just started using the program but so far I think this program is amazing!
* Our home school plans are and eclectic combination of multiple websites and the Preschool curriculum we already own.
* We have the names of some private Speech Therapists but we are going to wait on that until we feel Peanut may need Speech Therapy.  Right now his biggest language issues are pragmatics.  This area of speech is also addressed in the Skills program so way may not need to utilize speech therapy right now.
* We just had our yard fenced in (to stop the kids from running into the street) and my parents decided to build the kids a new swing set!  It is incredible!  What a blessing!  We are so blessed to have such awesome and supportive friends and family!!  So now the fun part, pictures!!
Here is the whole swing set.  It's hard to see everything but there is a slide, 2 swings, a horse swing, a set of rings with a bar in the center and a tire swing that also spins.
Sassy LOVES the horse swing!

Peanut is getting in LOTS of gross motor activity on the ladder.

The ground is covered in a thick layer of untreated Cedar wood chips to cushion any falls.  Sassy like digging in them.

He's such an unhappy boy isn't he?
All in all we are feeling really great about our decision about homeschooling and we are feeling overwhelmingly blessed.  We have Peanuts 4th birthday coming up soon as well as some much needed family vacation days we are also planning for.  I'm so excited to see what the future holds!
"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ."   
Philippians 4:6-7

God Bless!

Mommy Provost

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The start of our journey with Therapeutic Listening

 We started Therapeutic Listening Therapy a few weeks ago with Peanut and I had wanted to share our experience with the therapy.  I'm a little behind because of everything else that is going on in our lives but I'm hoping to catch up soon.  (Someday right?) 

What is Therapeutic Listening?
Therapeutic Listening is a therapy families can do with their children to help with issues with sensory modulation, attention, and core strength.  The child listens to music that has been recorded with very specific tones that when listened to, will effect the vestibular and auditory systems.  High quality headphones are used so the music can be heard at a better quality.  The therapy is done at home (or on the go, or in a clinic) for 30 minutes 2 times a day. The listening session must be at least 3 hours apart.  The child is able to do activities while listening as long as it doesn't distract them from listening to the music.  In other words no TV, no computer or video games, and no activities involving music.  Each CD has specific clinical applications.  Cd's are switched every 2 weeks.  The therapy lasts on average for 6 weeks.  A trained therapist selects the Cd's according to an extensive intake evaluation completed by the child's caregiver as well as a one on one evaluation done by the therapist.  At the end of each 2 weeks, the caregiver fills out a short re-evaluation form to ensure the next CD chosen is appropriate and that changes do not need to be made in the child's plan. The only downside is that the therapy is not covered by insurance.  For more information visit the Vital Links website. 

Week One and Two:
The first CD we were given was called "Rhythm and Rhyme: Orientation, Regulation, and Sensory Modulation."  It's goal is to address sensory modulation, orientation, and core activation.  The clinical application is to promote vocalization, singing, phonological awareness, assist with sensory modulation difficulties, and facilitate core musculature activation.  We were told we may see changes in arousal levels, attention, awareness of environment and people, increased vocalizations and awareness of sensations.

We purchased a CD player that is supposed to guard against skipping.  We also purchased the HD500A Sennheiser Headphones, and tune belt CD player carrier from the Vital Sounds websiteOne week before starting the therapy, we had Peanut wear the headphones and listen to music daily to get him used to wearing the headphones.  He started off only tolerating the headphones and music for 2 minutes, and by the end of the week he made it to 20 minutes a day.  I was a little worried we would have a problem doing the therapy if he wouldn't keep the head phones on, but soon discovered that when the therapeutic listening Cd's were in, he craved the music and wanted to keep them on! 

Once we started, we noticed that he was a bit whiny after each session, and in the first week he seemed to purposely seek out activities he knew he isn't supposed to do (for example, touching the TV).  At first I found it difficult to work the listening into our schedule but we quickly discovered what did and didn't work for us.  I found the best place for Peanut to listen was in the car.  I turn off the music in the car and he listens to his music.  Our drive to Sensory Integration therapy and Music therapy are each approximately 30 minutes so it works out perfectly and we can get at least one session in.  We also have done the listening while taking a walk, playing outside, in the grocery store, in our sensory room, and sitting at the table doing a fine motor activity such as play dough (actually Soy-yer dough) , moon dough, blocks, coloring etc.

For some time now we have been struggling with issues with Peanut jumping on top of Sassy and pinning her down, or walking over to her and pushing her.  We have worked with a BCBA (behavioral therapist) to stop this behavior.  We also tried working on the issue by addressing sensory needs.  Nothing worked.  After a week of therapeutic listening, we noticed that this behavior stopped completely.  Literally overnight!  I have not seen Peanut do it again since starting the therapy.

Two weeks into the therapy, there was a day that I got to spend alot of one on one time with Peanut.  We played pretend, we played board games, we did some chores, we sang. He actually wanted my attention and I was making sure to give it to him.  My phone rang, and I turned my attention to my phone (30 seconds maximum).  Peanut hit me in the head.  I looked at him, told him "no hitting" and looked back to my phone.  That is when he kicked me.  Peanut has never purposely kicked me like that...ever.  I scolded him and we went on with our day.  Anytime he didn't have 100% of my attention he would act out in some way or get whiny.  That night I started to research online to try to figure out if the uncharacteristic behavior was because of the therapeutic listening.  After my online search came back empty, I turned  to the wonderful "Ask a Friend" site on facebook and asked them what they thought.  As I was discussing the issues, a light bulb went off in my head.  Duh!  My son has NEVER actually wanted my attention!  I was looking at this all wrong.  This behavior wasn't a bad thing, it was a good thing!!!!!  The next morning I spoke with the therapeutic listening therapist and she agreed that this was a good thing.  She explained that Peanut was acting out because the desire to have my attention was new for him and he was probably unsure as to how to react to this new feeling.  He was acting out because he just didn't know what else to do!  After this, any time he has acted out we have stopped him and prompted him to give us the appropriate response. ("Uh, oh! No hitting.  Peanut, if you want mommy's attention you say, 'mom, can I have your attention?' ")  So far it's worked pretty well.
Peanut doing his Therapeutic Listening

So that was weeks one and two in a nutshell!  So far, so good!  I would (and have) recommend anyone struggling with sensory and attention issues to definitely try it!

Mommy Provost

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

When I woke up...

Just saw this on facebook and wanted to share...

When I woke up this morning, I asked myself, "What is life about?" I found the answer in my room...the fan said, "Be cool." The roof said, "Aim high." The window said, "See the world!" The clock said, "Every minute is precious." The mirror said, "Reflect before you act." The calendar said, "Be up to date." The door said, "Push hard for your goals." The floor said, "Kneel down and pray"
-autism moms