Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Around the House

There are several things that we have done around our house in order to help Ethan. I have mentioned several already, but here are a few more things you will see at our home. Let's go on a tour.....

I created these Daily Schedule cards so Ethan would know what to expect for his day. These hang in our kitchen. Each card has several activities on them....not too many to overwhelm, but enough to keep him prepared for what's next.

I found these pictures at TipJunkie, laminated everything, & attached the images with Velcro. This way, I can easily change the activities. Ethan loved it at first, but now he rarely looks at it. The other kids I babysit still LOVE it!

So, here is Ethan's bathroom. We have been trying to toilet train Ethan since July, but he still is having difficulty understanding the multi-steps involved. There is a step stool to help him independently climb on & off, an Elmo potty hat that he picked out himself, a step-by-step tab strip, and a custom-made potty social story (made by a friend at SEAPCO). We also have the usual....rewards, potty books, stickers, etc, but this is stuff in addition to the usual. Recently, we have started having him "aim" at some colorful fruit loops, and he is really enjoying this new game.

A closer look at the visual aids that we read EVERY time we go to the potty. I hope one day he will get it. I'm also considering contacting Easter Seals & setting up ABA Therapy.

Now we move into Ethan's bedroom. You will notice his new rotating cars lamp that helps soothe him, but behind this is Ethan's sound machine. He listens to this all night long, and it helps to block out all other noises so he can sleep easier. We started using a white noise-type of sound machine when Ethan was an infant. He has NEVER been a "good sleeper."

Taking a closer look at it, you can see that there are different sounds, volumes, and even a light that projects onto the ceiling. We have experimented with all of these features, and found that he enjoys the rain setting the best...although he will often ask for a different setting so he can postpone sleeping....sneaky, sneaky! (I'm not sure what the black dots are all husband's doing....I'm sure there is a reason, but I don't know what it is.)

Now, the kitchen! This caterpillar was a stuffed animal found at Deals. I removed some of the stuffing, and added several pantyhose filled with rice in order for this guy to become a weighted lap pad. Ethan has had this thing shopping, watching TV, riding in the car, sleeping, but it has finally landed at the kitchen table. Placing this on his lap & wrapping it around his waist helps him to sit longer....which helps us work on eating, social, and table skills.

This is Ethan's spot at the kitchen table. The caterpillar is always on his chair, and the white stool is for him as well. Having this stool under his feet, allowing him to "touch the floor", is another aid that helps Ethan stay seated longer. Recently, though, Ethan has been moving this stool in order to reach his iPad that is on a high shelf....more sneaky!

Here are the aids at work. If, for some reason, his step stool &/or caterpillar are not at the table, Ethan will go & find them before he will sit at the table. They work for him, and I think he notices the difference without them. What a great kid!

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Angel on a Mower

Mondays are rough.....on all of us. And for Ethan, it is no exception. And today was a really rough Monday morning.  The weather today is dreary & gloomy.....a day that makes all of us want to stay in bed under our warm covers. And I have to admit, I was secretly hoping that Ethan was running a fever this morning because he was exceptionally moody today...but no such luck. Every thing I asked of him (nothing out of our normal morning routine) was met with a defiant scream....his way of telling me that he doesn't want to do what I am asking. Then, he was in time-out twice in one hour for pushing my niece down...a new behavior issue that we are dealing with. By the time I got all 3 kiddos in the van to do our morning school drop-off routine, Ethan was in full on crocodile tears with an extremely runny nose. None of my tricks were working today......not jumping on the trampoline, not singing silly songs, not doing joint compressions....nothing. Ugh! So, as I go to buckle Ethan in his car seat, we all decided to do some deep breathing....."Let's all calm down," I tell all the kids. I know how Ethan's behavior can make my stress levels soar, so I'm assuming that the other kiddos can feel all of that stress & tension not only from Ethan but from me as well. So...."Let's all calm down." Everyone gets really quiet as we take several deep breaths together. And then I realize something. Noise. A cable company is installing underground cables on our street...and they are right outside our house....digging in our yard with loud equipment, drilling into the street, etc. I didn't even notice it, but I'm assuming by Ethan behavior this morning that he could hear it. And this probably was the reason for his sensory overload.

So, I wipe Ethan's face with a random sock that I found in my purse (clean ones) since I couldn't find a tissue, and I talk to all of the kids calmly & quietly. We talk about what is coming next, what music we want to listen to, what drinks they all have, etc. By the time we head out of the drive way, the van is very silent & we are listening to the requested Go Fish Guys. It really has been an abnormally rough Monday morning.

We take the oldest to school first, and the drop off goes very well. AWESOME! Then we head out to Ethan's school, and as I pull up to the school......I see it. OH NO! There is a man mowing the school's grass....the grass that we walk through to get to the drop-off door. I take a deep breath because I know that this noise of the mower is going to set Ethan off all over again, and I need to muster all of my remaining strength & patience to endure this oncoming meltdown. He is already at the top of the Sensory Overload graph (see previous post), and I know he hasn't had enough time to come all the way back down & reset his senses. It's gonna be a big one.

So, we park, and I open the side door of my van. As soon as I do, Ethan hears the mower & immediately folds his earlobes down to cover his ears. I lean over close to his ear & tell him in a very calm voice, "I hear a mower. That man is mowing the grass like Daddy mowed our grass." He just watched his dad do this same thing 2 days ago, and Ethan & I had a very detailed discussion about mowing & what that means. (Ethan was very interested on that particular day even though it was not the first time he saw Corey mow our lawn.) So, I am trying to refer his mind back to watching Daddy mow our grass, and that it is safe & okay. However, Ethan does not remove his hands from his ears...not that I really expected him to do so. BUT, he isn't frozen with fear either. He is still moving his body as I help him get out of the van. Normally, I take his hand while I hold my niece on the opposite hip, and we walk to school together. But, there was NO WAY he was going to give me his I took hold of his sleeve.

As we are walking towards the school door, Ethan still has his eyes fixated on the man mowing & his fingers in his ears. Then, I notice that the sound of the mower has softened. When I look over at the man.........(tears).......he has stopped mowing which made the motor sound drastically soften. He is looking at Ethan. I immediately start to cry. I wanted to go give that man a BIG HUG because he saw that Ethan was disturbed by the sound of the mower & decided to help him. HE SAW ETHAN & HELPED HIM. He doesn't know that Ethan has autism including sensory processing disorder. He doesn't know that we have had one of the worst school day mornings ever. He saw a little boy covering his ears & decided to turn down the volume of the mower. So simple, but such a huge difference that it made for Ethan....and the rest of us.

Awhile ago, we watched the Temple Grandin Movie. Temple Grandin is a woman who is living with autism, and she is amazing. In fact, my mom, my husband and I are all going to her conference this Friday, and I'm sooooo excited! But HBO produced a movie based on her live, and it was such an eye opening experience as Ethan's mom. There is one scene in the movie that touches my heart every time. In the movie, Temple has trouble with automatic opening doors....the kind where you step on the mat & it opens for you. She visually relates this image to a guillotine. She overcomes her fear & is able to make it into the grocery store with this type of entrance, but freezes when she has to exit the store using this same door. A stranger in the grocery store approaches her & compliments Temple's shirt. The stranger realizes that Temple is upset & asks her why. Temple tells her that she has autism & is having a difficult time walking through these doors. The stranger then walks WITH Temple through the door. When they come out on the other side, Temple is so excited because she did it! The stranger is confused but happy as well. When Temple tells her why she is so happy about walking through the door, the stranger says....."yeah, and I helped." This scene gets to me every time. A random person seeing someone in need & helping.

I often thing people are afraid of doing the wrong thing or not know what to say, but simple gestures make a world of difference. This random woman helped Temple walk through a door. The school's grounds keeper helped Ethan get into school calmly. People helping touches my heart every time. And who knows....the grounds keeper could have stopped for other reasons....but I like to think he saw a little boy who was afraid of the loud mower. 'Course I quickly started to think of an excuse in case anyone asked me why I was crying. "The grounds keeper stopped mowing for Ethan!" Could you imagine???!!!!

PS......Here is my other favorite scene in the movie. Her mother is the woman sitting next to her. Temple's mom will also be speaking at the conference on Friday. I'm so excited!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Therapy Toys continued.....

Previously, I have mentioned that a few family members donated some money to Ethan & his needs, thus allowing us to purchase several of our items on Ethan's Therapy Aids Wish List. Here are the last items that we were able to provide to Ethan.....

This book is actually for Corey. He & some other computer programmers are currently working on developing "social stories" for the iPad2. Many of the apps that would be extremely helpful to children with autism are extremely pricey. So, Corey's goal is to make these apps available for free. So this is part of his development research.
I think the title is pretty self-explanatory as to why we purchased this book. I'm really hoping it helps us with this issue.
This was the most expensive item, but the one we wanted the most. As part of Ethan's Sensory Diet, we know that jumping on this trampoline followed by some heavy work or weighted items helps to keep him calm & his attention span extended for a couple of hours. This is now part of our morning routine before we go to school, we use it before church, and, honestly, he uses it when he knows he needs it....and he doesn't need an adult to help him like he would with brushing, joint compressions, kid sandwich, etc.  And the other kids I babysit love it too!
This picture is a little blurry because it was IMPOSSIBLE to have him just stand on it! After all, you are supposed to jump on the trampoline! I love it, and more importantly, so does Ethan.
If you think you are looking at a rubber chicken, then you would be correct. The girls in my family met my aunt & cousins for a day of shopping in St. Louis, and one of my cousins bought this for Ethan. It has now become one of his favorite portable tactile toys. It is made of a flexible yet soft rubber, and the body of the chicken has a rice-like filling that he can push, pull, massage, etc....similar to playing with play-dough. In fact, the other day, instead of using his fingers to manipulate the iPad2, he was using the chicken's beak...I don't know if it actually worked, but it was super cute to watch. He loves it!
We actually saw this at Ethan's school. It is awesome! This is a felt bag filled with the soft, rounded, plastic, weighted pellets that I put in his weighed blanket as well as tiny little toy-type items. It's an "Eye Spy" bag. So, we try to find all of the animals, all of the green items, all of the things that start with "Z" (only 1 thing does by the way). This is kind of heavy to be a portable item, but it works great for us in the car. He has something weighted, and we can play this while I'm driving...I just say, "Can you find the flower?", and he does. It's awesome. I think I may even try to make some of these on my own. They have all kinds of "themed" bags, but this one is their Language Development bag. Wonder why we chose this one?

 So, again, HUGE thank you to everyone for helping us raise money for the 2 boys to have their iPad2s, protective casings, and stylus. And thanks to those family members who donated money specifically to Ethan. You know, I realize that you weren't just donating are wanting to help Ethan. And that is what touches my heart. It's difficult to help anyone from a distance...whether that be geographically or relationally or lack of time or whatever.

I have several friends who recently have had babies. My intentions were to make them a home made meal & take it to their house. What I ended up doing was writing & mailing them a congratulations card along with a gift card for a restaurant. I want them to know that I love them & want to help them, but as we all know, time & schedule & LIFE just doesn't always allow for these things. So please hear me when I say that we are SO blessed & humbled & thankful for your extreme matter what the gift....charitable donations, encouraging emails, prayers for Ethan, support system, reader!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My 3 year old can read???

Ethan has ALWAYS been fascinated with letters, numbers, puzzles, shapes....anything academic, really. So, it was no surprise to me when he could count to 100 by 10s, spell his name, and recognize words all before his 3rd birthday. However, there are moments when he really shocks me with what he knows....and this story is one of these times.

On Ethan's first day of preschool, my husband wrote Ethan a note since he would already be at work when Ethan woke up for the day. Here is the note.....
So, during our morning of getting ready for school, I called Ethan over to see the note that Daddy had written to him. I asked Ethan, "What is that?"......pointing to his name. All I really wanted him to read was his name. And he did.....and then he continued to read the rest of the note!!!!!! OH MY WORD!!!!!!!!!

He often reads books to himself, but they are always books that we have already read to him. But this was a BRAND NEW piece of literature!!! The only words that he misread were "first" (he said feet) and "Buddy" (he said bunny)....but I think that is AMAZING!

The other day my sister was spelling random numbers in order to see if Ethan could read them. I knew that he could read the words of numbers 1-10, but I wasn't sure if he could read the words of numbers 11-20.....he could. Then she busted out numbers like, "seventy-three" and "twenty-four".....and he totally read them, too!!! Who knows how much he actually knows! I NEVER dreamed he would be able to read this note from Corey, but he totally surprised us!

So, now, we have a new game....let's see what Ethan can read! We were suit shopping last weekend, and I was asking Ethan was different signs the "Big&Tall" sign....and he totally read it.."Big, Tall!" Awesome! (On a side note, he was counting a bunch of gold buttons on the suit jackets....he called them "Gold Doubloons" from the Jake & The Neverland Pirates cartoon that he loves. "Four! Four gold doubloons!"...super funny.)

We were watching a new movie the other night, and the production company was called "Blue Sky." When I asked Ethan what it read, he was able to read that as well.....I am just amazed.

I really thought that teaching my child to read would be a challenge that I would face as a parent. However, this doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, my challenge as a parent has been teaching him social skills, grooming skills, anxiety calming techniques, etc. Most kids will pick up the understanding of the game of tag pretty quickly, but Ethan has to be reminded of the concept over & over again. But reading the word, "seventy-three" biggie. Amazing. He truly is my favorite puzzle, and I love discovering the pieces!

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Therapy Toys! Thank you!!!!

A while back, my husband started a project. It all started because our cell phone contract had been up for over a year, and our phones were beginning to work like they were 3 year old phones (bummer). So, we were looking at which phones to purchase....the Droid or the iPhone. During our research, I became aware of "apps"....please don't judge my ignorance. We realized that there were many kinds of apps that would greatly benefit stories, handwriting skills, functional speech, etc. So, we decided to get the iPhones and start saving for an iPad. A couple of days later, my husband came home & told me that he had set up an online fundraiser. He wanted to purchase an iPad along with a surrounding cover case & a mock pencil for Ethan and another family that also has a child with autism. He & his computer programming buddies had decided that they wanted to start writing apps of their own. These would be available for free once they were developed, and both boys would be able to test these apps before sending it to publication. Sounded great to me.

I was so overwhelmed with gratefulness when it took LESS THAN A WEEK to raise this money! So, the boys both now have their iPads, and are really enjoying them. Right now, Ethan has puzzles, books (even a couple with his picture as the main character), handwriting games, social stories, spelling games and 1 special just for fun Cars game. However, a couple of my own family members sent money directly to us...and they both told me to use it for Ethan & his special needs. You just can't understand how grateful I am for these amazing gifts for my child. We have had a wish list of special therapy items that were just too expensive for us to instantly buy, but we had been putting money away a little at a time in order to get these needed tools. And, now, not only does my child have an iPad (which takes the place of about 10 games on the wish list), but we have some extra money to make a HUGE dent in our list. are a few things of what we were able to purchase for......
Sound proofing headphones. Prior to having these, we were just using his disposable ear plugs that we use at bath time. These are easier for others to put on Ethan as well as a one time purchase....and he can take them on & off as he chooses.

During OT sessions, Ethan would often play with the Lite Brite. Placing the small bulbs into specific spots is GREAT for helping develop his fine motor skills...and Ethan loved making shapes, letters & numbers. Also, we place the bulbs into silly putty, and Ethan has to manipulate the putty in order to dig out the bulbs. This strengthens those weak muscles, and Ethan LOVES to play this game. It's very calming for him as well.

A friend of mine found this revolving light & thought it might help Ethan during nap time. He loves it! He watches the cars go around & around while he zones out. And even though he still isn't napping, it does help him rest & relax.

Here is Ethan LOVING his iPad.

His shirt was a gift from a friend of ours...she made it herself. It says, "A is for autistic & awesome!" It is so soft, too! If you want to see more of her designs, check out her Esty store at

He is laughing at the real animal sounds! This face brought to you via amazing friends & family! Thank you!!!

We have more, but these are all the pictures that I have right now. I will post more as I take pictures. All of these things have made Ethan & our life so much easier, and he is already showing signs of improvement in so many areas! It really does take a village to raise a child, and I'm so blessed that Ethan doesn't have a small village.....but a large metropolis!!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What did you do at school today?

This is a question that I ask Ethan every day when I pick him up from school. It has become so routine that Ethan has now started saying it as we walk out the doors of his school. :0)

Let me back up a little bit. This August, Ethan began going to school everyday for 2.5 hours. Earlier this year, he was "tested" by a group of educators to see which class Ethan would be a part of....the class of 10 children all with IEPs (Individualized Education Program) or a class of 15 kids of which only 5 children had an IEP. (This was a strange experience for me because I have been in these meetings, but always as the I'm the parent.) They chose to place Ethan in the larger class based on the fact that he currently does not need school for academia but to develop social skills. We were thrilled with this decision, and it seems to be going well so far. There are currently only 10 kiddos, 1 teacher, and 1 teacher's aide in his class, so that is even better.

So, last week, I picked Ethan up from school, and I ask him the routine question...."What did you do at school today?" And I get the usual....."Did you play with the animals? Yes! Did you play with the barn? Yes! Did you play with the cows? Yes!".........and now he is done. That is what I names of other children EVER come up, no names of teachers EVER come up, no long drawn out stories or details......just three toys that he played with....that's it. And, honestly, this is HUGE!!!!!!!!!! Last year, he participated in a Developmental Playgroup twice a week as a part of his Early Intervention Program. When I would ask him what he did that day, he would ALWAYS say "cars".....that was it. So I'm so excited that he is telling me more things.

But as we were walking to the van, there is a mom & daughter behind me. And this little girl is hanging onto her mom's arm while skipping with her pink backpack bobbing up and down as she is excitedly telling her mom about her day....full of details & excitement & eye contact & back-and-forth was so cute!!!! And I momentarily got sad because Ethan doesn't communicate with me in that way....and I long for that with him. And it does make my heart break with I see his peers passing him in his social skills...playing with each other, laughing at a game they have invented, etc. This isn't a pity party because my son is amazing, and I love him more than anything. This is just a fact...something that we deal with due to living with a 3 year old with autism. This is a part of his autism is very hard for me to live with...but I'm learning & his speech is getting better and better.

So, yesterday, we are coming out of school, and I notice that Ethan has 2 scraped knees & a bump on his head. He is telling me about playing with a palm tree, flowers, and elephants.....I'm guessing it was a jungle thing. Then, I ask him about his knees, and he says a child's name.........did you see that????!!!!! HE SAID A CHILD'S NAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let's take a moment to celebrate, people!!!!!

He said the other kid's name, and then he says "fast" I ask him if he & the other kiddo were running & bumped into each other & he says yes. Then, later that day, we were looking at some pictures that his teacher photocopied & sent home to show us what they are doing at school. I ask Ethan who he sees, and he tells me several of the other kids names!!!!!!! This is AMAZING!!!!!!

I also think they are reading Dr. Suess books because when we read our Dr. Suess books with him at night, he is reading it with different he is mimicking someone else's the teacher's. And he was also randomly repeating the Green Eggs & Ham story the other day....and we don't have that book. So this is how I find out what he did at school. It comes out in his imaginative play at home or in his clothes (blue play-dough) or in his scraped up knees.

Yes, the teacher does send home a newsletter, and I could email her if I really needed to know something, but this is not my point. My point is that due to the autism, communicating with Ethan is very challenging....not impossible, but challenging. We are very fortunate because Ethan DOES speak although it is not very "functional". But...we will just continue with his speech therapy, continue working with him at home, continue creating a very verbal environment, continue with our prayers for him, and continue to learn as much as we can in order to help him pot of coffee at a time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Anniversary Ethan!!!

It was a year ago that Ethan began his journey into the world of Early Intervention. If you read "Our Story", there is a small portion telling about Ethan having difficulty watching our town's annual festival's parade. Well, this weekend marks the one year since that incident.....and one year since we were told about Early Intervention. I was very emotional as we were getting ready to go over to my in-laws house to watch the parade. I just kept remembering how awful last year was for Ethan, and I didn't want that to be his experience again. But I also wanted him to be able to participate in the fun as well. What was going to happen this year?

Corey & I talked about it beforehand, and came up with a little plan that may help Ethan's anxiety be less....and ours too.

1. We won't "hover" over Ethan. Corey & I would stay on opposite sides of the lawn, and we would both be in charge of our side of the yard. If Ethan was on my side, I would be responsible for keeping an eye on Ethan...making sure he doesn't go in the street, he plays well with the other kiddos, he doesn't run off, etc. We would give him his independence, but still be able to have some freedom ourselves.

2. We will bring his Sensory Survival Kit. This kit contained his usual things...suckers, bubbles, cars, chew things, etc, but this time we had a new item to add....sound-softening headphones. We usually bring his ear plugs that we use in the bath, but we really wanted him to start using this new headphones. They are easier for other people to help him with, they are a one-time purchase, and they are something that Ethan can control as well.

3. We will allow time to teach Ethan about the headphones. IF Ethan is showing signs of needing the headphones, we were going to try multiple times before we "gave up". This was the perfect "teachable moment", and we were going to take advantage of this loud experience.

Well....I'm happy to report that Ethan did AMAZING!!!!!!! Before the parade even started, he was playing with the other kids! HE HIMSELF walked over to a group of kids, and I saw him waving at them! Then he proceeded to play with them. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!! I don't know what he was saying to them, if anything, because I was on the edge of the yard, but it was so amazing to see him initiating playtime with other kids! This is very rare for Ethan, and if he is getting the hang of socializing at his young age of three!!!???? He is well ahead of the game. AWESOME!

Then, the parade starts...first came the color guard with the flags....that is good....a nice quiet thing. He kept saying, "America Flag, America Flag!" So far so good. Then the police cars...this was good as well because he loves cars & knows to expect their sirens. However, I can already see that he is becoming more anxious....his is rising up the sensory overload scale. Next comes the High School Marching Band. This is where he lost it last year so I'm getting nervous & watching him closely. Luckily, he is with my mom. She is holding him & telling him what is coming. I can hear her telling him, "Look at the band! They are going to play loud music. Just like when you have music time with mommy at home. See the drums? Look at the trumpets!" And Ethan is doing WELL!!!!!! He does have his fingers in his ears, and he is on the porch instead of the street getting candy with the other kids......but he isn't crying, he isn't scared, he isn't panicking!!!!! YEAH!!!

So, now I think is the perfect time to try the headphones. We have already been playing with them & putting them on at home all week, so this isn't the first time he has be introduced to them....very important. So when I show them to him & ask if he wants them, he already knows what to do with them. He does resist by telling me no, but I put them on his head anyway. He feels them with his hands for a bit, but he NEVER takes them off. AND.....HE WATCHED THE WHOLE PARADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A couple of different times, he even made his way down to the street!!!!!!!! HALLELUIA!!!!!!!! It was so amazing....I think I cried all day! He sat with my mom, Corey's mom, my sister, some other kids, sat by some adults that he didn't know (I knew them), and was able to have some independence. It was a GREAT DAY!!!!! Below are some pictures.

The parade is starting! Ethan & my mom.

The noise is starting, too. We have taught him to cover his ears instead of screaming with things get too loud. I'm glad to see him using this trick. Now...let's try the headphones....

First time using our new sound-proof headphones in a loud environment.

Watching the parade with Corey's mom....doing good!!!!!
Me & my boy....enjoying the parade. What a blessing!

If it had not been for our dear friend expressing her concerns about Ethan, this moment would not have been possible. If it had not been for following through with the Early Intervention's recommendations, we would be watching the parade from inside. A LOT of work has happened since last year's parade, but it is moments like this that make it ALL worth it. And when I asked Ethan was his favorite part of the parade was....he told me the fire engine! What a great day! What a great kid!!!!!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ethan's Sensory Diet - Oral Sensory

So far, I have talked about how we were discovering Ethan's Sensory Diet by trying out his different senses. We have explored his proprioceptive system, his vestibular system, and his tactile senses. Next, we started looking at his Oral Sensory Input. This includes tastes & smells. "Oral receptors respond & measure touch and taste stimuli to the mouth. We use our mouths to organize, calm or alert ourselves. Oral input has a range of characteristics including: The Action (what you do...chew, lick, swallow, etc.), The Quality (how it feels or tastes...spicy, bitter, hot, cold, slimy, crunchy), and The Medium (with, bubbles, straw, hands, etc.) When you think about it, what kinds of "mouth" things do we do to help us focus or stay awake when we have been in a long meeting....chew gum, drink coffee, smoke breaks, bite nails, crunch ice, have a snack, chew on our pens, etc. Same thing here!

I was very excited to start in this area because this could help with his feeding. Not only were his fine motor skills under-developed which made feeding himself with silverware a challenge, but he is an EXTREMELY picky eater! He definitely did NOT get that from me! So...I was SUPER excited to learn more about this section.

During our OT session, his therapist did a variety of games with Ethan in order to see his response. She had Ethan blow bubbles, blow craft pompons & styrofoam balls across the table by blowing through a straw, blowing tissues & feathers, and blowing into a plastic tube that was coming out of soapy water...thus making more bubbles with his air. When we did all this, she noticed that Ethan was having difficulty blowing because he lacked the ability to make an "O" with his mouth. She told me to continue with these activities to help develop those particular muscles because it would help with his speech development as well! CRAZY!!!!

After those activities, she pulled out a bunch of food. She laid them all out on the table & wanted to see what he would do or eat. He chose to eat the animal crackers & Twizzlers. She told me that this could indicate that he needs something to "wake up" his senses in his mouth. We talked before about how Ethan's body craves deep pressure in order to be calm. This eating test told us that Ethan's mouth needs to be stimulated. This would also be another avenue to keep Ethan calm when he starts to have a meltdown....chew toys. As a baby, Ethan was a biter, and he will still occasionally chew on some toys. So, this totally made sense to me! This is why he hates to eat oatmeal, mashed potatoes, bananas, mac-n-cheese, lunch meat, cheese, etc.....they are all soft/runny foods. They don't wake up his senses in his mouth. But he LOVES popcorn, chips, cereal, goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, bacon, or anything crunchy/chewy. And these are things that would "wake up" his mouth.

So, now, when I make dinner or snack for Ethan, I am always sure to include a food that is "alerting"....bacon with breakfast, chips at lunch, fruit snacks at dinner, etc. If Ethan has one of these foods, he will eat his other foods....CRAZY! Another trick that would work is to have Ethan brush his teeth BEFORE we eat..because the brushing would wake up his mouth. She also gave us a Nuk brush (therapy aid) that he can chew on before meals or when he is anxious. We use this a lot as well, and he LOVES it! We also have a TON of chewing items that we use in order to keep Ethan calm. Suckers & Twizzlers are a big one, but if he is with other children, they want the candy too so we can't use these all the time. Our therapist gave us an amazing trick. The chewing aids that are available tend to be very expensive when you need several or your child chews through them a lot. So she told us to us aquarium tubing! I know that sounds strange, but Ethan LOVES it! And I have been able to use it to make a variety of things with it. The pictures below are Ethan's Sensory Survival Kit. We keep the tote at home & fill the zipper pouch to take with us when we go somewhere. These are just the oral therapy toys, but you can see some of the things I have been able to make out of the aquarium tubing. Now...don't judge me, but I also bought some pet chew toys, took the squeakers out & washed them. He loves to chew on those too! ANYTHING that I can find that will work for him, I will use!

Ethan's Sensory Survival Kit

All of his portable calming sensory toys

The Oral Toys: Ring Pop, Twizzlers, 2 pet chew toys, vibrating tooth brush, bubbles, sucker, chew necklace & toy.

I used aquarium tubing & beads from a baby teether to make these toys. His favorite are the knots in the tubing.

 So, after doing 19 at home experimental therapy activities which included buying a ton of food from a Oral Motor Grocery List, here is what we learned that Ethan's senses crave in this area.....

1. Chewing & sucking on rubber tubing/pacifier/licorice
2. Sucking on sports bottles/pacifier/sucker
3. Eating certain food - crunchy, sweet, salty or spicy

Isn't this stuff AMAZING! I still think that EVERY child could benefit from discovering their sensory diet with an occupational therapist!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lots of Updates!

WOW! What a couple of weeks it has been!

Ethan recently started going everyday to preschool, and I have started providing daycare for two other kiddos. Also, my husband started a project during this time as well. He and a couple of his friends are currently developing some iPad applications that will be a help anyone who has any type of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Because of this as well as how beneficial the iPad would be to Ethan, he set up a donation account through a website. He was looking for donations in order to buy Ethan and another little boy who has autism two iPad and some of the accessories. are the updates.......

Preschool - Ethan goes everyday for 2.5 hours. So far, he really seems to love it. YEA! We visited his school during an Open House the week before school started, and it's easy to see why he would love it. Bright bulletin boards with his favorite books displayed, lots of things to look at & read, new toys in all the classrooms, and lots of fun activities planned each day. The reason I love his school is because EVERY room in the school has sensory items available, these people know what they are doing, they are very diligent about parent involvement, and lots of opportunities to work on social skills. The only issue we are currently having with school is drop-off & pick-up. Because riding the bus was not an option (Ethan won't go near one without panicking because it's so loud), I take him to school. Their system is to wait in the corridor of the hallway while someone calls each class up to get checked in (or checked out after school), then wait in line for a teacher to come & walk them down to their class. Ethan HATES this because he HATES to wait. But we are working on this & it's getting better. Anything new is difficult for him...and this is new & loud so it's a double whammy. But it's getting better each day.

New Job - I started providing daycare services for my sister this year. She has a child that is slightly older than Ethan and one that is slightly younger. So, my day now consists of taking Ethan to school, then taking the oldest to his all day preschool, and then back home to provide early education to the youngest. After a bit, we go get Ethan from school, come back home, eat lunch, and they both lay down for naps. After nap time, we all load up again & go pick up the oldest from his school. We are definitely in & out of the car a lot (thus the reason for getting the new minivan), but things are going so well! The main reason my sister & I decided to do this arrangement is for Ethan's benefit. During the course of a normal day, I am Ethan's only playmate. I try to behave like one of his peers.....not sharing my crayons, playing silly games, etc......but it's definitely not the same interaction as it is with other kids. And my husband & I have decided not to have anymore children of our own. Not only was my pregnancy horrible, but a couple who has a child with autism has a 20% higher risk of having another child with autism. And while I love my child more than anything, I'm just not a big gambler. So, this arrangement seemed to be a great idea.....and it has been WONDERFUL! Ethan is talking more....still not very functional, but I'll take it! He is interacting with the other kids more & more each day He is learning to share. He is learning to use his words with the other children & not his hands or screaming. He is now in a slightly louder environment, so he is learning to use some coping strategies on his own when things get to be too much. It's been so good for Ethan to have these other kids here, and I love having them! I don't want to offend anyone, but this has been so good for my own psyche. Having verbal children in my home has helped me to not feel so isolated. Having children in my home who are able to be easily engaged in activities, like music time or a simple 3-step craft, has been a breath of fresh air. A lot of times, I personalize Ethan's struggles as if it were something I was or wasn't doing. But having these other two kids under my care keeps reminding me that it truly is due to Ethan's autism that he has certain issues....and not because I am a terrible parent. So this has been a blessing to not only Ethan but to me as well.

iPad - OK....this is DEFINITELY NOT my field of expertise, so you will have to bear with me. As I said before, Corey put together a donation fund in order for Ethan & another child with autism to EACH receive an iPad, the pen thing that goes with it, and a durable sleeve-protector thing. I am AMAZED! He was able to receive the funding for this project in less than two weeks! AMAZING! So, both boys currently have their iPads & the families are learning how to use them. We are already looking at the applications that are already out there on a variety of concepts.....handwriting, social stories, cause & effect, timelines, etc. This thing is's like a ton of therapy toys in one handy place. I will talk more specifically about this in the future. We also had some family members send us money directly. When I told them that we already received enough funding, they told us to put it in the Ethan fund. What a blessing!!!! So, I was able to buy some other therapy items that have been on our wish list while we have been saving up money to buy them. There will be more on this in the future as well. I am just so humbled at the generosity of our family & friends. I gotta say, I was NOT a fan of Corey's iPad donation idea, but the ball was already in motion when I was told about it. And I gotta say, I'm so thankful Corey took on this project. We have been blessed & humbled beyond measure. Thanks sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much to anyone to donated to this project. Because of this, other families will be able to receive quality iPad applications to help their children. That is very exciting!

So....that's the major things that have been going on in our house. A lot of change, but it's been wonderful change. I just can't wait to see how much Ethan is going to learn this year with being at this wonderful preschool, having daily playmates in his home, and the use of the iPad's technology. He has got a lot of great resources & wonderful people in his life (and so do we), and I just know that he is going to be developing by leaps and bound this year. So, stay tuned!