Friday, January 17, 2014

In My Mind: The World Through the Eyes of Autism

This is not going to be a long post. I just had to share this with you all! For one of my assignments this week, I had to find a children's book on Autism, one that would help children understand what Autism is and would teach them that it is okay to be accepting of those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As most of you know by now, my daughter and son are both being screened for ASD. I am 99% sure my daughter will receive a diagnosis when she meets with her Developmental Pediatrician this summer (that's the soonest we could get in!). My son, I am not quite as sure about, although he definitely has some developmental delays, particularly with communication and he shows signs of aggression. I wanted to share my assignment with you, so I have posted it below. If you would like to read the book it is available on Kindle and Amazon, among others I'm sure.


I honestly had no books in mind for this assignment! As I am relatively new to this field, I have many books for adults and educators on the subject, but no children's books. After a quick search online, I found In My Mind by Adonya Wong. I was drawn to it because I wanted something from the ASD perspective. As both of my children are undergoing screening for ASD, I am fascinated by how their minds work and I see a lot of the details described in this book in my daughter. The character in the book is a little boy who describes what he sees in his mind, compared to what you (the adult, or educator, or parent, etc.) see him acting out. For example, he describes going on adventures in his mind, as a cowboy, or having great conversations with aliens in outerspace, while the adult simply sees him flailing his arms, or making odd noises and speaking "gibberish". In his mind, he has lots of friends, but on the outside, he appears alone. All of these examples are things I see in my daughter. I used to be confused by her behavior, but I have come to learn there are great, colorful things going on inside her mind that I only wish I could see. I love how the book ends, because it says his world is full of joy and happiness, and the adult can see that too. And, in my opinion, that is really all that matters. 
This would be a great book to use with children to help them understand autism; to show them that, even though it may sound like they are just making noise, or making random gestures, they actually may be exploring and imagining great adventures in their minds and we can join right along with them if we just use our imaginations.
Wong, A. (2008). In My Mind: The World Through the Eyes of Autism. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Just Another Bump in the Road

Okay, today I'm getting back to the "roadblock" post I promised you last week. I am sure this topic will come up A LOT on my blog, since it is part of my family's daily life, so I will try to keep this entry somewhat short.

Let me start here: my daughter, Karys, was born March 11, 2010, and a week later our house sold and we had to move. That experience would end up becoming quite the habit for the two of us. Since she was born, we have moved six times. SIX times in not even FOUR years. The move from Oklahoma to Ohio was our sixth move. As I've said before, moving to Ohio was a BIG decision for me, not because I didn't think it was a good idea, but because it would be yet another change for my kids and me. A BIG change. Good, but BIG.  It took me a year and a half to make the decision. During that year and a half, I slipped into the worst depression of my life. Maybe it was postpartum depression, maybe it was just good ol' regular depression, but whatever you want to call it, it was bad. So I knew I needed to make the move and at least give Ohio a chance. I never dreamed everything would fall into place so easily for us here. My parents are like another set of parents for my kids. They do everything from changing diapers, to shuttling to daycare, babysitting, you name it. We also have my sister and her husband and their three kids, who are entering their pre-teen and teenage years. The support we have here would make anyone ask what the HELL took me so long to decide to move? Well, like I said, I was worried about not providing stability to my kids and that that would somehow affect them negatively. Also, I wanted to give their dad a chance to be a part of their lives before I made such a huge decision that would impact his relationship with the kids (or lack thereof). And I was worried my company would not approve my request to work from home and I would have to look for a new job, which I wasn't ready to do.

Since arriving in Ohio, with me working from home and sharing household responsibilities with my parents, I have had much more free time to spend with my kids. I don't have to waste time getting dressed in the mornings or doing my hair, putting on makeup, dropping off and picking up kids from daycare, commuting to the office and back everyday, etc. With all the attention my kids were getting, certain things started to become apparent to me...particularly with my daughter's development. Of course I had noticed throughout her life that she had never said certain words or phrases other kids her age (and even younger) had already learned. And I noticed that she liked to "read" telephone books, and didn't really play with other children. But she knew her alphabet by 2 1/2 years old and her motor skills were great, so I had always brushed it off. She's just shy or stubborn, or...I ran out of excuses. By the time we moved to Ohio, she was 3 1/2, well beyond the age kids typically start communicating with their parents and peers. She could recite entire movies by heart and even act out every scene! Yet, she never said "mommy, I want  a snack" or "mommy, I'm thirsty", or "mommy, i love you".

I started to express some of my concerns with the kids' previous daycare director. She recommended I call the public schools or Head Start here in Ohio and ask them about developmental screening. So, the next day I picked up the phone. I thought it was a long shot. I thought: public schools aren't helpful! They don't really care! And especially not about a three year old that just moved here from out of state. Boy, was I wrong. The School Psychologist answered the phone, and after I expressed a couple of my concerns with Karys to her, she told me that the school offers developmental screening once a month for all children over three years old and they would be happy to meet with Karys and observe her. We set up an appointment for her and another specialist to come out to our house the next week. I didn't even have to leave the house! This was going far better than I expected, but I still wasn't sure how all of this would turn out. When they showed up to observe Karys, I was pleasantly surprised. They were so sweet and cheerful, and genuinely glad to be there. You could instantly tell this wasn't just a job to them. After the initial observation, we set up several other appointments so Karys could be observed by a Speech/Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, among others. Less than one month after my initial phone call to the school, on November 8, 2013, they had come to a conclusion: Karys showed developmental delays in the areas of communication, socialization, and adaptive skills, and may have some sensory issues as well. I scanned the entire document looking for one word, and finally, I saw it: Autism. It wasn't an official diagnosis, but their observation showed Karys was "highly likely" to have Autism. I can't say I was surprised, but I was in shock. Not because I wasn't expecting it, but because, as a parent, nothing can prepare you for that. And because I was so angry with myself for not trusting my instincts sooner and realizing that all of those "cute" things she did were signs.

The great news is that they placed Karys in one of the PreK classes that very week! I was a little upset that we didn't get to do the traditional "back to school" routine like other families and enroll her in August after her 4th birthday in March, but I did not want her to wait one more second to begin receiving the help and support she needs. She gets all the attention she needs from her teachers, a Speech/Language Pathologist, and an Occupational Therapist right there at the school. That was in November. It is now January and she LOVES school. It is honestly the best thing that could have happened for us at this point in our lives. We are still at the very beginning of this journey, but that "bump in the road" turned out to be a starting line for us. And we are giving it all we have.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hands Free Mama

Ok, I know I said I was going to expand on my last post, but...I lied. At least I'm being honest. ;) I just read a post from Rachel Macy Stafford called The Important Thing About Yelling. <--Click on the link to check it out..I promise you won't regret it. This article REALLY struck home for me...I have been known to have a temper at times. Particularly in the past two years of single mommyhood. I have to admit I lost it on several occasions with my kids. Always on one of my "bad" days that I talked about in my last post. And usually when my son woke up one of many times each and every night of his life (he is still struggling with that actually) or when my daughter was throwing a rare tantrum or refusing to potty train, etc. Being a single mom is NO excuse to be a bad parent, BUT, just to give you the back story, I spent the first year and a half of my son's life in a horrible depression, with very little family around for support, working my usual full-time job, along with another part-time job at home, while the kids went to daycare 40-50 hours a week. I also had to do all the cooking, cleaning, bath time, potty training (or lack of), chauffeuring, bill paying, grocery shopping, errand-running, teeth brushing, yada, yada, yada. If a mother's work is never done, then a single mother's work is...well, I'm sure you can imagine, impossible. I was in survival mode, but looking back, I would probably not even call it surviving. It was hell. It's still not an excuse, but by the time I took care of everything that NEEDED to be done, I had zero time and energy left for my kids...and they suffered for it. I was SO exhausted every single day, that when something went wrong, I couldn't even think of a good way to handle the situation...I just blew up. I'm sure all of the moms out there have lost it at least once on their children. But what I liked about this post was that Rachel talks about how our actions, or reactions, as parents, are being watched...very closely, by the people that are the most important to us in the world. And nothing has ever motivated me more than knowing that my kids are watching...and picturing them growing up to be like me (in those moments of anger) is just unacceptable. I have to admit that things have become IMMENSELY better in the past 5 months, since we moved to Ohio. I am not stressed, or frazzled, or exhausted (to that extent anyway) anymore and I have been able to focus SO much more time and attention on my babies and I think it has been good for all three of us. Add to that the attention they are getting from their grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins, whom they barely knew prior, and my kids are finally getting a smidgen of the life I've always felt they deserved but could never give them single-handedly. I am still not as good of a mother as I would like to be, but I'm learning. I think we finally figure out how to be good parents about the time our kids don't need us to be parents anymore. That is just how life works sometimes. But, I will keep doing my research and learning new things and hoping my kids will inherit all of my good traits and forget about all my bad ones! I am excited to read Rachel's book, Hands Free Mama, which I just pre-ordered as I'm writing this! If anyone wants to read it with me, get your copy & comment below or send me an email...I would love to chat about it!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!!!

So, I totally missed my New Year post for the first of the year. There goes my perfect 365 consecutive day streak. I didn't last long. Oh well, who really expected perfection from someone with mommy brain?? I had a rare day off yesterday so I took full advantage and plastered myself to the couch most of the day. I would like to say it's because I was recovering from a wild New Years Eve party the night before, but who am I kidding? I was home by 8pm. That does NOT mean I did not enjoy myself though. My kids had a blast at the downtown Kids NYE party (pic below). They got to dance with Wiley the Walleye (yes, we drop a Walleye here, not a ball), play games, and eat an ungodly amount of sugar...what kid doesn't love that? And I got to come home, put on my PJs, and watch NYE parties on the TV while drinking wine. Sounds like a perfect way to ring in the new year to me! I also tried out a new "green" smoothie yesterday (it was actually orange). While it was definitely not the yummiest, it feels good to try new foods and to drink my fruits & veggies. But just in case you're a glutton for punishment, like me, here's the recipe: 5 carrots, 1 apple, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 lemon, peeled, and 1 inch of ginger (I recommend 1/2 inch or less because it is STRONG!). I use my little single-serving blender because it's easy to clean & I can be sure I'm only making 1 serving (because no one else in my family will drink my smoothies!). When I'm eating healthy I have to make sure there are the LEAST amount of obstacles in my way (hence the easy-to-clean small blender). Don't ask me why I will shop for, wash, chop & blend all of those fruits & vegetables, but I'm too lazy to clean a blender or juicer. Everyone has their limits, right?

On another note, I have some exciting news! I was accepted into Bowling Green State University last week for THIS Spring!!! Anyone that knows me knows I love school, and while I am probably crazy and am probably biting off WAY more than I can chew, I'm not happy unless I'm challenging my mind. So, I will be taking 8 online classes (some of my credits from OSU transferred) over the next couple of years to receive my M.Ed. in Special Education with an emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders!! I'm super excited and can't wait to start. I should finish by 2016, but I don't really have a date in mind yet. I'm going to see how this first semester goes and go from there.


My kids and I at the NYE 2014 Walleye Drop