Single Moms Raising Autistic Sons

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hi Moms, Dads and Fellow Bloggers!

I have changed the settings so that anyone can leave a comment and not just my fellow bloggers. So, comment away people, I love hearing from you.

If you haven't tried one of the forums I highly recommend it. There are two on my blogroll : parenting_autism and let's talk about autism. I have met so many great people who have helped me out just like my fellow bloggers have and I am so very glad to be a part of so many different "families". Thanks to all of you who visit my blog and especially those of you who are kind enough to leave comments for me.

I am having writer's block tonight so that's about it for now. Have a great day!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Learning How to Talk to My Child

Thanksgiving Day Griffin and I went over to Griffin's teacher's house for dinner. It was a great day, Griffin played so nicely with the toys and watched a movie quietly while I got to actually have some adult conversation. At dinner Griffin sat between Kathleen and me and ate his little pizza that she had made for him because she knew that it was his favorite. The evening went rather smoothly with Griffin responding to Kathleen much better than he does to me which of course is no surprise because that's what kids do isn't it? They always behave much better with other people than they do for mommy. It's just too easy to push mommy's buttons because they know exactly where they are.

As we were getting ready to go I had asked Griffin if he would help me clean up the toys and Kathleen stood there watching as I was trying in vain to get Griffin to help. Kathleen asked Griffin if he would like to have Ernie, he said "yes", so then she said, " you clean up the toys and you can have Ernie." I am watching in awe of how easy she made it seem and after the toys were cleaned up she gave him Ernie. Then I asked Griffin if he wanted to go outside to which he replied "no". I tried to get Griffin to put on his coat and hat to get ready to go outside but once again failed miserably .

Kathleen finally let me know what I was doing to cause Griffin to be uncooperative. I was asking him to do things rather than telling him to do them. I immediately understood that she was right and that I had been giving him choices that he ultimately replied in the negative to instead of telling him and giving him no choice in the matter. It made me remember what my friend Sue had once told me as she recounted being a nurse, she said that when dealing with a patient the nurse doesn't ask if it's "okay" to put in a feeding tube or an iv because it is something that must be done and with Griffin it is no different. I must tell him what has to be done.

Here I am 41 yrs. old and feeling like a little first grader who was just scolded by the teacher(lol) but in a good way. I was glad that Kathleen corrected me because she was right. I have got to learn to talk to my child as if he were ............a child, one who needs direction and boundaries. It occurred to me that I just needed to be more direct and confident not only with my parenting skills but in general.

It all made sense to me and I stood there and laughed kind of because I was slightly embarrassed but also because I felt silly that I didn't know how to talk to my own child. I guess that we lean new things each day that help us to be better parents and who better to learn it from than a teacher? Aren't they just wonderful?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

How Do I Get Griffin to Sleep?

This is a question that I need help with desperately. I would like to know how you help your autistic children to get to sleep on time and on a regular basis. Griffin has great difficulty getting to sleep when mommy wants him to sleep. I have a routine that we follow, we use PECS, there's no TV time for 2 hrs before bedtime, and he won't take the melatonin (which used to help) anymore since he can taste it in all the foods I have tried to use to disguise it in. I have Clonodine to use to help him sleep and I only use 1/4 tablet when the recommended dose is 1/2 - 1 tablet but I really don't want to use drugs to sedate my child. Clonodine is a drug used to treat high blood pressure in adults. When I gave him 1/2 tablet he turned into a zombie.

Are there any of you who do use medication to help your child to sleep? If so, do you feel that it is relatively safe? Griffin is not quite 4 yrs. old so I wondering how safe can it be to give him meds on a regular basis.

The problem is that without the meds he stays awake until midnight regardless of how much exercise or mental stimulation he has had. It is like he gets a second wind right around the time I want him to go to sleep and then he is wired for sound. I have tried a pressure vest and deep pressure, I have tried calming techniques, writing the words on paper, and no sugar long before bedtime, keeping everything on a strict schedule fpr example: dinner, bath, reading a book, and trying to get him to sleep/snuggle time.

I was just hoping that maybe some of you could help me out with suggestions or sharing your experiences with me and maybe one of them might just work for my little guy. I am open to anything no matter how wild it may seem. I just feel uncomfortable giving him drugs if there is something else out there that might work

Thank you for your input, I really appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Griffin's First Written Sentence

Griffin loves to type on the computer keyboard and spell out his favorite words and last night he came up to me saying "I want write chocolate milk". So I typed out chocolate milk for him then he hit backspace and deleted the words. Griffin started typing as he told me "Mama I want chocolate milk" and this is what he typed, his first written (phonetic) sentence: mommomiwtchocolatemilk. Hurray for Griffin!!!!!!!! Guess what? Griffin got his chocolate milk!

I e-mailed the sentence to his teacher and she wrote back telling me that when he was tested for reading last week that he's reading at the end of kindergarten level and with the sentence that he wrote/typed out he is writing at kindergarten level. That's pretty awesome for a kiddo who isn't even 4 yrs. old yet.

WOW! I am not surprised because he loves words so very much and he is hyperlexic but for him to be able to type out what he desires on the computer gives me great hope of him being able to communicate much better. All I can say is that I am so very grateful for the education that he is getting and how wonderful his teacher & therapists are in being so instrumental in his success. I can't take much credit myself because all I do is encourage him to type on the keyboard and to read books.

Way to go Griffin, I am so very proud of you buddy!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thanks To You For Your Support

I can't let another day pass without sending out my great appreciation to all of you who have supported me by leaving comments and words of encouragement on my blog. Perhaps it seems like no big thing to you to do something so small but to me it is a big deal. At the risk of sounding pitiful I do sometimes feel isolated way up here in Alaska far away from my family and I get pretty lonely at times. I am guilty of being a hermit and not going out as much as we really should (I don't do well socially) but I am working on it for Griffin's sake.

But........the good news is that I have all of you incredible moms and dads who show me support and write wonderful blogs which lends me support by helping me feel less alone. You may not realize it but each time you leave a comment I get teary eyed because it touches me to know that other people really do care. I would like to add that the same goes for those of you whom I have met through the autism forum(listed on the blogroll). I love exchanging ideas, information, and stories with you. You all have helped me a lot when I was in a rough spot and had nowhere else to turn.

This blog is cathartic for me it helps me to express myself and to channel my otherwise useless energy into something constructive in hopes that my stories might help someone else to feel less alone/lonely. I have found a new family here in this community and I'm ever so grateful to have met all of you and I truly do look forward to reading your comments and your blogs. I have even met one mom who is bipolar also and has an autistic son just like me! I was sure that there was not anyone else out there like me, I mean what are the chances?

I am still working on my blogroll and adding as many of your blogs that I can to it, I wish that I knew how to do a separate blogroll just for the individual blogs, If anyone has advice on how I can do this I would really appreciate it. There are so many nice looking blogs out there and I just don't understand how it is done with all the neat little pictures and all the different lists. Oh well, it is a piece of work in progress I guess.

Thanks again to all of you, you really do make my day and put a big smile on my face!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Being a Single Stay at Home Mom

I started this blog out with the premise of just writing about Griffin and not about myself but I feel that it is time to give a little insight on what it's like to be me: a single stay at home mom. Let it be clear that I am not here to complain or to point a finger at anyone for the situation that I am in. I made choices that put me where I am today and I am grateful for all that I have which is an awesome and precious child and all the rest is just a minor inconvenience. Griffin and I live off of public assistance and his SSI check because I am not able to work full time due to Griffin not being able to go to regular daycare. Griffin goes to school 6 hours a day but his child psychiatrist recommended that he not go to daycare besides the school time stating that it would be detrimental to his progress and well being.

We do not receive child support because Griffin's father disappeared when I told him that I was pregnant so we don't know where he is presently. However, I will never speak of him in a negative way because if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have my beautiful child and besides it would be disrespectful to Griffin to demean his father. Some people may beg to differ on this subject but once again it was a choice that I made that I take full responsibility for and blame no one else. It would be nice for Griffin's father to be in his life and to help us out financially but since that's not the case I just get by the best I can and know that one day I will be in better shape financially. Besides, we aren't hurting for anything our medical is paid for and that is most important because it provides Griffin with all the therapy that he needs.

Life as a single mom is tough there's no doubt about that and especially since I have no family here in Alaska and little support otherwise. I don't have any friends who can watch Griffin for me on a regular basis so that I can have a much needed break but so what, it is just a fact of my life and something that I have just become accustomed to. It can be really hard and quite frustrating when Griffin is having his tantrums and there's no way to escape the screaming and crying so I have just learned to have a weird sense of humor about it and find ways to laugh when I really want to cry.

I have to give credit is due, I have a loving and understanding family who fully support me with their heart and soul which means the world to me. The only thing is that they all live in N.C. and S.C. but fortunately they have free long distance and we talk a lot over the phone. Griffin also has an awesome group of people teaching him at school and their hard work and dedication is made apparent by his excellent progress. This is great support for me as well since they take care of him for 6 hours each day which gives me a break to do some things that I enjoy. I do work part time while Griffin is in school but right now it is sporadic at best and I need more education before I am able to work more regularly.

I am a very proactive mom who does a great deal of research on autism and I am the number one advocate for my child. Eventually I would like to volunteer to be an advocate for early intervention and autism. One major thing that I forgot to mention is that I have Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and Auditory Processing Disorder. I am being tested in January for autism because I believe that I have Asperger's. These things do no define me but are a huge part of my life and they do interfere with my ability to process information therefore I do have difficulty with verbal communication and with completing tasks. I am presently on excellent medications for my bipolar disorder and they help to keep my moods stable thus I handle situations much easier.

All and all I have a good life regardless of the minor inconveniences. I have the most incredible child that I ever could have imagined and that is all I need to make me smile and just let the rest of life take it course. I am eternally grateful for all life's treasures , I welcome the challenges that I face with each passing day and have learned to love living in the world of autism.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Diaper Dilemma

Just the other day Griffin woke with a poopy diaper and when I tried to change it he pitched a tantrum. He tried and tried to keep that diaper on crying and screaming with all that he could muster up but I finally got it off. Then he proceeded to cry even harder pleading with me to put poopy diaper back on and I couldn't figure it out for the life of me. Why oh why would he want this diaper back on? Was it a sensory issue or was it that he wanted to have his way no matter what and he just felt like exerting his independence like a typical child of his age?

My little guy was crying as if he had some emotional attachment to this dirty diaper. I finally got him cleaned up and put the soiled diaper outside. Then he wouldn't allow me to put a clean diaper on him while still throwing a tantrum. After about an hour and a half he was standing in the kitchen a urinated in the floor. "That's just great!" I exclaimed, still wondering what the heck I was going to do to get that diaper on him.

I got online to the autism forum asking for help desperately, I made phone calls to my family asking for their suggestions and yet no one really had an answer. After two hours of this tantruming and me trying everything undet the sun to get a clean diaper on him...........Griffin began to show some interest in listening to his Teletubbies cd. So, I told him that if he wanted to listen to it then he had to put on a clean diaper and sure enough he allowed the diaper to be put on without any struggle or defiance. Whoopie! I was so thrilled and exhausted that I had to call up and write to everyone to celebrate Griffin wearing a clean diaper.

Isn't it funny how such simple things can become so complicated? Don't we all take for granted the fact that our children usually allow us to change them so easily and that they typically don't want their poopy diaper back on?

Please feel free to comment on this situation and let me know what your thoughts are about what it could have been that caused him to do this.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

There's Nothing Like the Power of Positive Reinforcement and Praise

I recently attended a conference about how to work with children and adults with special needs through positive reinforcement and praise. I left there with a renewed sense of confidence that I could raise my son with love without having to raise my hand in anger. It has been my experience since working with this method that my son responds more readily and that my level of frustration has decreased tremendously. Now when Griffin has a tantrum I merely do what is referred to as "planned" ignoring; having a plan behind the act of ignoring as opposed to "plain" ignoring. I make sure that he is safe and that when the tantrum is through that I find a way to praise him for his desired behavior. Plain ignoring is when one does nothing at all and has no plan of action during or after the "undesired" behavior has stopped.

Positive reinforcement and praise not only builds self esteem but it creates loving, nurturing, and trusting relationships within the family structure. Caring relationships is the key to building confidence in a child and with a child of special needs it is absolutely essential that he/she knows that the parent/caregiver can be trusted and that he/she does not have to live in fear of being hit. It can be argued whether a child with autism understands what a spanking means but why take the chance? Why hurt a child when there are much more effective means of getting the desired behavior by being positive and caring?

Yes, caring takes time, it takes patience, caring means helping and caring is fragile but isn't your child worth it? Isn't that what parenting, good parenting is all about? Caring is part of a chain of events: we care, they trust us, they learn to trust themselves, their confidence thus their behavior improves significantly, and last but not least of all, they learn to care for others.

Sometimes all it takes is just a few moments to back off and away from a frustrating situation that is about to become inflammitory. Taking a few deep breaths and reassesing the problem at hand can be the key to ultimate success. Reinforcement is not "unfair" nor does it spoil a child who needs it. The beauty of it is that reinforcers get back what they give. Imagine how much love and affection that can be created just by sharing a positive attitude.

The more that positive reinforcement and praise is applied the more that the "problem time" is reduced because naturally we all love to be loved and respond accordingly. Give it a try and you might just see that the challenges that you face are simply and yes, sometimes easily solved. Provide for your child choices that are fun and exciting, try engaging activities, start small, take baby steps if need be, but ultimately you will find that there is no better feeling than a sense of accomplishment and pride in being a loving parent.