Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Gifts

Oh wow......what a difference a year makes.....a year of therapy, a year of hard work, a year of filling my head with all I can about autism, a year of praying harder than I have ever prayed in my life, a year of extreme highs & lows........a year since one of the hardest Christmas seasons I have experienced. Not being able to see Santa, not being able to participate in Christmas parties, not being able to put up all my Christmas decorations, not being able to enjoy watching Ethan in his Christmas program.....all because it was too hard on Ethan....which broke my heart. One of the greatest times of the year, and we couldn't participate in most of the activities......and I wondered if we ever would be able to............


This Christmas season has been the BEST! I knew that this time was going to be different when we brought out our first decoration.....Ethan's little Christmas tree. He was SOOOOO excited! He LOVED the lights on it....he kept turning off the lights in the living room, and saying, "Oooooo! Look at the beautiful lights!" Then, he would turn the lights back on and energetically inform us that it was now sunny! LOL! I then pulled out a bunch of plastic candy canes, and I showed him how to hang them on his tree. He thought that was so much fun....and he hung the rest of the candy canes all by himself....and then the rest of our ornaments. That night, my hope was restored.....maybe we could do a little more this Christmas than we did last year? So, because of last year's difficult Christmas season, we have gone a little over-the-top this year...and we are ALL enjoying every minute of it!!!! These are some of my favorite things that we have been able to do this Christmas season....Ethan's Christmas gifts to me.....

Building with Daddy

1. Being able to participate in group Christmas activities - I have already talked about Breakfast at the Manger as well as Ethan's church Christmas program. However, his AMAZING school held 2 different events that the parents were able to attend with their child....and I was privileged to attend both of them! One Friday, the entire school participated in a Winter-Themed Activity Day. It was AWESOME, and so well planned out...which of course I love. We started out in the gym & participated in different stations at our leisure. Ethan first started by wanting to play with the big building blocks. This was my first GIFT from Ethan. When we went to Easter Seals, one of the questions they asked us....and we had been asked many times before by other professionals....was "How many blocks can he stack?" A developmental which my response was.......I don't know. He would NEVER want to stack/play blocks with me. So, when he said, "Mommy to play blocks with you"......I really had to fight back tears. It was the perfect gift.

Ethan & I doing a cake walk...standing right next to the music!
Ethan getting the hang of the parachute game
After awhile, though, I wanted to see what else Ethan would enjoy, so we moved on to the other stations. GUESS WHAT!!!???? He participated in a cake walk! We did a cake walk at my niece's birthday party in October of this year, and that caused him great anxiety....which led to us needing to leave the party early. However, he did the cake walk at school like it was no big deal! LESS THAN 2 MONTHS LATER!!!!! I was over the moon! Soooo happy for him!!!!!!!!! Another GIFT! We did several other stations, but the best for Ethan was the parachute station. The brightly colored parachute made Ethan a little nervous....he liked it laying on the floor but when the kids picked it up & made it go up&down....his anxiety started to rise, and he backed away. So I went over to help him & show him how to play with the parachute with the other kids.......and he loved it! He kept wanting to go play with it!

2. Visiting Santa - Next, we left the gym & moved into the classrooms.....where we did a craft, had a snack, and saw Santa Claus. Did you catch that?! We saw SANTA!!!!!! And Ethan was sooo excited....he kept giggling. In fact, he didn't wait for Santa to call him up to see him....Ethan just went right on up! Santa's belt buckle said "SANTA", so of course Ethan loved that....since he can READ!....amazing. He also like the big basket of candy canes that Santa had.....he even tried to sneak an extra one! LOVE!!!!! Another GIFT!!!!!!!

Ethan eating a gingerbread cookie
3. Typical behavior - This past Tuesday, Ethan & I were able to sneak away from our toilet training zone in order to attend his preschool's class Christmas party. It was a gingerbread theme.....and the cutest thing I have ever seen!!! As a teacher, I was soaking up all the things in the classroom & thanking God that Ethan was blessed to be in this particular room....a general education room with amazing teachers who are so creative, talented, and loving. But as Ethan's mom, I was overwhelmed with joy as I looked around the room at the other students, teachers, and parents. As I watched Ethan listen to the story & participate in the party activities, I realized that he doesn't stand out in ways that he used to....spinning, screaming, meltdowns, etc. He was sitting VERY well on the carpet....without any support aids. He needed help with directions, but so did the other kiddos....and so did the kids that I taught & they were older! In fact, I want to say that if you didn't know that Ethan had autism, you wouldn't have known it during this Christmas party. Such a huge difference from last year's Christmas party. This was a BIG GIFT to his mommy!!!!!

4. Crafts - As part of our 25 Days of Christmas, we made our gift bags this year. I love crafting, and one of my favorite things to do with Ethan is make a craft using his little hand. I have done several hand print gifts over the last couple of years, but this year we painted his hand green & place it upside down on the natural colored gift bag. When it dried, we added a star on top (I glued & Ethan placed the star), and we colored a brown base....making it into a Christmas tree. What was this gift? Every time I do a hand print craft with Ethan, he has a difficult time. He didn't like the "messiness" of it....and he gets that from me. He would also keep his hands closed, so we could only do a few at a time....a little bit each day. THIS TIME!? I did hand-over-hand with him on the first one, then he pulled his hand away from me & said, "Ethan do it?".....WHAT!? I was sooooooooooo excited! And he did a GREAT job! All I did was put the gift bag in front of him, but he did the rest! YEA!!!!!!!! GIFT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brown Sugar Vanilla Body Scrub
 5. Cooking - Awhile back, I talked about how Ethan will not cook with me after a loud blender episode. However, since that post, my husband has taken this almost as a personal get Ethan to help in the kitchen. My husband & I share the cooking responsibility but he is DEFINITELY the cook in the family. I do not enjoy it in the slightest....unless it's somehow creative or cutting shapes out of cookie dough or something. So, I'm happy to announce, that Ethan & Corey have been cooking in the kitchen together! The secret???? Have Ethan read the recipe card! It still amazes me that he can read as well as he can, but we will use this super-power to help him with his other sensitivities. However, Ethan still won't cook with me.....LOL! So, when it came time to making our teacher's their Christmas gifts (a homemade body scrub), I wasn't sure how much Ethan would want to help....because it involved using the Kitchen Aid mixer.....a "loud" appliance. He was happy to measure & dump ingredients into the bowl....and I was overjoyed with just that! My boy was helping me in the kitchen! YEA!!!! Then, similar to the vacuum & hair dryer, I warned him that the noise was coming. He left the kitchen, covered his ears, and counted to three.....all on his own.....great coping skills, Ethan!!!! So, I turned it on, but on the lowest setting. Long story short, by the end of the day, he was staying in the kitchen AND turning the mixer on/off....even up to the #4 setting! YEA!!!! Yet another AMAZING Christmas GIFT!!!!!!

Ethan's room & his Christmas decorations
6. General - Overall, this Christmas season is so different from last year in a great way. I was able to put out ALL of my Christmas decorations, and it hasn't overwhelmed him. We were able to do all of the 25 Days of Christmas, and he has really enjoyed doing all of the activities. He wrote his name on the gift tags, LOVED putting them on the presents, has enjoyed shopping for gifts for others (as long as he goes  home with a little toy too), is singing Christmas songs, reads the incoming Christmas cards, and really has loved giving gifts to others.

Over the last couple of months, I have really noticed big changes in Ethan. He is present. And he is present this Christmas. He is becoming aware of others, and not only himself. He is learning about Christmas & our beliefs/traditions, and not just playing with toys all alone. He is looking outside the window at the Christmas lights, singing Christmas songs, and participating in activities. And my heart is so full of joy. Ethan is doing so well, and that is the best gift for this proud mama.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Officially Toilet Training!!!!!

Well, today is Day 2 of re-trying to toilet train our 3 1/2 year old Ethan. We tried off & on this past summer, stopping when it became too frustrating for Ethan & trying again after some time had passed. Then, when Ethan started daily preschool this year, we put him in a pull-up for school since he wasn't yet toilet trained. For awhile, I would change him into underwear when he came home from school, but with him occasionally napping....and needing a pull-up for that as well, I think it was just too confusing for him.

So, now that he is showing REAL interest in toilet training, I was concerned about putting him back in pull-ups & causing this confusion all over again. Plus, he WANTS to wear underwear....and hates putting the pull-ups back on for bedtime. I am SOOOO thankful for this "change of heart" that he has had about using the toilet. Yesterday, I contacted Ethan's preschool teacher, and we both agreed that it would be best for Ethan to stay at home & focus on toilet training. There are only 5 days of school until Christmas vacation, and we are still hoping to go for his class Christmas party next he will only be missing 4 days. We both felt like we should take advantage of this timing as well as his interest. Have I mentioned that I LOVE Ethan's school????!!!!!

Ethan has been awake for 3 hours now, and we haven't had any accidents. I talked with my sister this morning when she dropped off her kids at my house, and asked her about her experience toilet training her son. I was concerned because Ethan doesn't EVER say he has to go to the bathroom or use the bathroom on his own. She told me that her son did the same thing. She assured me that he will get the hang of it over time.....I just need to be consistent and positive. Awhile ago she bought Ethan a potty watch for him, and we started using it today. I take him to the bathroom every 45 minutes, and we haven't had an accident yet today! YEA!

I am doing a couple of things differently....besides using the potty watch. The first thing I am doing differently is not asking him if he has to go potty.....I am just telling & taking him....every 45 minutes. Eventually, I am hoping to extend this to an hour & maybe longer. The second thing I am doing differently is letting Ethan take the lead. He is REALLY into his picture sequence strip that my friend Jenny made for us. I had to tailor it a little adding the words "in the toilet" after the words "go potty".....that was a messy lesson! HA! He is really relying on this support aid, and I am letting him. I have to learn to let him do it on his own. I have to learn to take out my voice/support as he becomes more independent. I have to learn to let him struggle with pulling up his underwear & not step in to help......even though it is very hard for me. But each time, he gets better & better....faster & faster....looks at the picture less & less. In fact, the last time I took him to the bathroom, I literally did nothing except get down the jar of jelly beans for his reward. I said nothing....I just was there in case he needed help, got stuck on the steps or got frustrated with it......and he did great!!!!

I am so glad he is showing initiative! It's so similar to when we taught him to drink out of a straw. We tried & tried to get him to do our eyes....simple thing. Grandma Holly even tried her trick that helped Ethan's cousins "get" it.....but nothing was working. Not that that is a crucial thing for him to learn, but I felt like he was old enough to be out of the sippy cups & into older kid cups....a lot which contain a straw. And then, one day, after weeks of us not trying....we were at a restaurant....and he reached over for his drink & drank it out of the straw! As if it was something he had been doing all along!

I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited about this! I am really hoping he gets it this time. I know accidents will happen, but the fact that he is interested in learning & doing it is a HUGE benefit!

Last night, I was telling Ethan that IF he laid in the bed to sleep, THEN he needed to wear a pull-up, and it is okay to do that....he is still a big boy. After he reluctantly let me put it on him, he walked over to his dresser & pulled out a pair of underwear. Corey & I were so excited that we couldn't help but laugh. Corey explained that after he woke up in the morning, then he could wear his big boy underwear. They laid them in a special place in Ethan's room, and Ethan climbed into bed.....repeating what Corey had told him. When I went into Ethan's room to get him up for the day, the first thing he said was, "Go potty & put on underwear"....and that's exactly what he did! He grabbed his laid out underwear & RAN to the bathroom. By the time I caught up with him with his clothes for the day, he was already well into the sequence of pottying. YEA!!!!!! THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(PS.....I would put him in underwear at night time IF he was dry in the morning.....but he NEVER is......his pull-up is very we will work on that later......)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Update to my update....toilet training

You will never believe this......

So, if you remember yesterday, I decided to NOT toilet train Ethan during Christmas vacation, and, instead, work on his independent skills.......brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc. My mind was made up, and I was already starting to plan my next steps......

And then came last night......

After his bath last night, he seemed to be feeling more like himself. He hasn't been feeling well this week. I think he has a stomach bug or something.....not really been himself this week....LOTS of whining & crying. But after his bath, I thought he seemed to be in the clear because he was is such a great mood. As I was starting to get him dressed, he said, "Big boy underwear?".......

Are you kidding me.

So after I asked him several times, in different ways, I was assured that he did indeed want to wear big boy underwear. I explained over & over....IF you wear big boy underwear, THEN you go pee in the toilet. IF you wear a diaper, THEN you pee in your diaper. What do you want to do?.......Big boy underwear.

And here it accidents & he is wearing big boy underwear that he asked for again this morning. I have pulled out all the of the potty training aids, and he is actually enjoying them....his picture strip that helps him learn the sequence, the potty books, etc. He is running a fever again, so he will be at home with me today....which I guess is good, so I can continue to monitor his pottying.....but this is crazy! I JUST decided yesterday that we would put it off a little longer!

OK......I am deciding that I don't want to be a millionaire. :0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

List Update!

Last week, I made Ethan a 25 Days of Christmas Chain, and he was wanting to open all of them at once. So, in order to help him understand "tomorrow", we made a quick "order of events" list that helped him know when it was time to open another chain link. This was about a week ago.....and he already is independent from this list!

I have noticed that the last couple of days, he hasn't looked at the list in the morning. However, when I pick him up from school, he says, "Step one complete! Step two....come home." This has shown me that in less than a week, he no longer is relying on reading his list. He has already learned the steps....what comes next.....and that is the ultimate goal for any of these step-by-step learn/understand the sequence & no longer need the visual/audible support. I'm so excited to see that Ethan is already independent of this list.

So....this is giving me an idea. During Christmas vacation, I was considering trying the potty training thing again. But he is still being very adamant about not using the toilet.....I think I tried it too early & he has bad feelings about it or something. A couple of weeks ago, I quit everything related to potty training because he was holding it in....and we had to intervene medically....yikes. So, listening to my instincts & others' advice, we have backed off completely.

But....there are some other things that we could really focus on during Christmas vacation. And since my husband home for a week as well, this would be a perfect time to work on some things. So....I am planning on working on some of Ethan's independent skills.....getting dressed, brushing his teeth, eating, and so on. I have been doing all of these by giving Ethan the step-by-step instructions verbally. I tried the picture sequencing thing but that didn't do the trick, so I have continued to do it verbally. BUT....he responded so well to the list that I want to try it with these other skills as well. So.....stay tuned......more lists will be coming soon!!!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

If you've ever read the book or watched the movie of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, this may be a familiar to you.....

...All the Who girls and boys
Would wake bright and early. They'd rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!.......

Well, I can relate to Mr. Grinch's point on some level. Although my Ethan is not much on talking, he does not lack for making noise! In the last couple of weeks, I have realized just how much noise he makes!!!!

Most of my understanding of Ethan & his character/personality comes through observations. He can't communicate very well with his speech. Most of his vocabulary is canned phrases that we have practiced with him over & over again until he understands them. Then, he is usually able to do what they call "generalize" these phrases. For example, we worked very hard on "I want a drink, please." Before this, he would just bring us his sippy cup & shove it in our hands. Once he understood that if he needed something, he needed to use his words & ask us, he was able to carry this phrase into other parts of his life as well.....generalizing. Almost a year later, and he still uses this coined phrase......"I want help, please. I want to go to Steak-n-Shake, please. I want to stay home with Daddy, please." He has built onto it, but the same format is still used.

So, if I ask Ethan a question that we haven't worked on, he won't know the answer & he doesn't respond at all. Like today, I asked him, "Who gave you the Santa stamp on your hand?" He answered me with a teacher's name. Then, I said, "What did you do to earn a stamp?" And there was silence. This isn't a question that we have done before.....we have really been focusing on "who?" questions lately. This is why I must use my observation for most of my Ethan information. (And I think a lot of us use observation to learn about each other....autism or not.)

Anyway, back to the noise.....even though Ethan doesn't talk a lot.....that doesn't mean he is a quiet child. My house has noise going constantly! Any toy that makes any kind of noise at all, Ethan loves. And he will play it over & over & over again until the batteries wear out. BUT!!! It's never just one's usually THREE toys! And, he kind of acts like a DJ with turn tables....when one of the toys stops making the sound, he will immediately go to it & "fix" it so the noise starts again. Last week, his top three toys to play with AT THE SAME TIME were his Shake-n-Go cars, Playhouse Disney's new holiday online games, and a Musical Winnie the Pooh electronic-type game. Now, you may ask, why don't you turn one of them off or take one of them away. Well....that is something that I have tried! But, guess what happens! He will find ANOTHER toy that makes noise. And if he can't find a toy, he will make his own noise.

This past weekend, I was watching him play cars. This means he lines up his Hot Wheel cars one at a time on our big window sill. I was impressed because the only noise that was going on in the house was coming from the TV that Corey & I were watching. However, as I continued to watch Ethan, I noticed that he WAS making noise.....he was making cars sounds. But....these car sounds, I noticed, had a certain pattern or rhythm to them. Then, it finally dawned on me....instead of humming the song, he was making car sounds to the tune of the Menard's jingle. So funny! And right now, as I am typing this entry, Ethan is playing with a gears toy that makes music & turns gears, a musical, dancing Christmas chicken dressed as a reindeer, and a musical penguin that makes noise when you push him over & he pops back up. Nothing else is TV or music. But this is one of the two times during the day that we "allow" Ethan his down time (after school & lunch), and so I just sit here listening to the Ethan symphony.

So, maybe I shouldn't be too hard on the Grinch.....I kinda get it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

25 Days of Christmas Chain

I am a list-maker. I have them all over the house. I have a running Grocery List, a Weekly Dinner Plan List, a "To-Do" List, and a Weekly Expenses Accrued List. And now that it's the Christmas season, I have Christmas lists.....those for whom I wish to buy things for, things Ethan would like to have/need, things I would like to have/need, Christmas card list and so on. So.....what's a few more lists........

Recently, my girl friends and I have been thinking of doing Random Acts Of Christmas Kindness with our children. Now that our kids are getting older & more aware of Christmas, we want to teach them, not only the real meaning of Christmas, but also about giving to others...not getting for ourselves.

So, what did I do? I MADE A LIST!!!!! LOL!!!!! I made a list of 25 days of Random Acts of Kindness. Then, when I talked it over with my husband, we realized that it was going to be a bit too expensive for us to do something everyday for 25 I MADE ANOTHER LIST! We listed everything that we already had on our calendar, then things we wanted to do with Ethan during the Christmas season, added our favorite Random Acts of Christmas Kindness ideas, and then filled in the gaps with little fun things for Ethan. When we finally had a good balance of each thing, I made a simple construction paper chain....and Ethan gets to rip off one chain a day.....and we do that activity.

Here is our 25 days of Christmas paper chain. As of today, we are on day 8.
As you can see.....there is also a list beside the paper chain. This list is actually NOT for me. It is for Ethan. While learning about autism, we have discovered that having a visual schedule could help Ethan. We have had several of them, but they have all included pictures AND words.  But this visual list, does NOT have any pictures on it?! And here begins my learning experience this week........

When I introduced our 25 Days of Christmas Chain to Ethan, he LOVED it....and wanted to do more than one link a day. We would rip a paper link off, do that activity, and then Ethan would say, "NOW we can do another color." I kept telling him we would do another one tomorrow.....but he kept asking. This went on for a couple of days, and it would always lead to a very frustrated Ethan. But how do you explain a concept like "tomorrow" to a 3 year-old.....I was thinking about ditching the whole thing.

But then something happened. This past Monday morning, as most Mondays go, it was chaos when trying to get me & the 3 kids out the door for school. I forgot at least 3 things....arg. So, Tuesday morning, I grabbed my Crayola Window Markers (which also work on mirrors), and I made a quick list on my entryway mirror.

Yet another list in my house, but the kids are the ones who are enjoying it the most! And, yes, my coffee is that important! LOL!
After I made a quick list, with the help of my 5 year-old nephew, a magical thing happened. I was no longer having to frantically get us out the door without Ethan having a meltdown due the loudness of me getting 3 kids ready! Instead, the kids suddenly had the power! They would put on their shoes, their coat & get their book bag without me having to tell them what is next.....Ethan could just read it on the list! They were shutting off lights before I even had my coat on! This morning, my nephew brought me my coffee tumbler from the kitchen as I was putting on my shoes! This thing is MAGICAL!!!!!!

Well, as I said before, we have also been doing our 25 Days of Christmas Chain. One of the things I was really looking forward to doing with Ethan was writing a letter to Santa. My step-mom got Ethan this really cute stationary set a couple of Christmases ago, and I couldn't wait to use it! So, this past Monday, we wrote a letter to Santa.....and Ethan LOVED IT!!!!!

As you can see, I would write a little bit, and then we would hand-over-hand write the words he would tell me. After a few sentences, he really got the hang of it. He was dictating to me at the speed I was writing. So his speech was very slow......this is hard to describe, but it was very similar to this you tube video except Ethan would draw out his words. It was so much fun! He was excited....and so was I!!!!

So....all of these "lists" made me think of a way to help Ethan understand "tomorrow". So....we made one more list....and Ethan dictated the whole thing. He was asking for "another color" as soon as he would get out of bed. So, we made our daily steps leading up to the 25 Days of Christmas Chain.

Step 1 - Go To School
Step 2 - Come Home
Step 3 - Eat Lunch
Step 4 - Put Niece Down For A Nap
Step 5 - Pick Another Color on the 25 Days of Christmas Chain

I didn't think these lists would work because there were NO pictures. But, duh, Ethan can read! So, it is working GREAT! When he wakes up in the morning, he goes to the piece of yellow construction paper, reads it, and then is ready to start his day! No more meltdowns over this thing that was supposed to be fun! YEAH!

Want to know our 25 Days of Christmas Paper-Chain Activities? Here's the list!
1. Help a friend decorate for Christmas
2. Send Christmas cards (Ethan put the stamps on the's like playing with stickers!)
3. Breakfast At The Manger
4. Ethan's Church Christmas Program & Riders In The Sky Concert
5. Write a letter to Santa
6. Make gift name tags (Ethan picked out the name tags for each person & is writing his name on them....a couple a day....we have a lot of people in our family!)
7. Color a Christmas picture
8. Watch a Christmas cartoon
9. Drive around looking at Christmas lights & give an award to the best decorated house
10. Make cookies for church's cookie social
11. Go visit Santa & take him a gift....he has been working hard too, you know!
12. Play with a new Christmas toy (Drug stores have the best little holiday toys, and Ethan loves them!)
13. Donate food to the food pantry
14. Make gift bags
15. Give the mail carrier/trash collectors their Christmas gifts
16. Make our teachers' gifts
17. Christmas with out-of-town relatives
18. Take Christmas gifts to church
19. Letter from Santa arrives!
20. School Class party
21. School Pajama Day
22. Christmas craft
23. Christmas movie at the theater
24. Take a gift to the gas station attendant who is working on Christmas Eve
25. Happy Birthday Jesus! Sing Happy Birthday & eat some breakfast cake!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our First Christmas Weekend

What a weekend! Like most of you, we were busy, busy, busy! It started on Saturday morning with our church's Breakfast At The Manger. It is specifically for our preschoolers & kindergarteners and their adult guests. So Ethan took Corey & I to his first Breakfast at the Manger. We walked into a our church's gymnasium that had been transformed into an eating area....lots of round tables, beautiful centerpieces, and the smell of pancakes. As we walked in, we were warmly greeted by our Children's Pastor, given name tags, and Ethan received a fuzzy coloring page of the nativity scene to color....and the markers were on the tables. She gave him 3 directions.....put your name on the back, color the picture, and hang it on your refrigerator (she had added a magnet to the back). He listened intently....and did exactly as she said without any reminders from mom & dad.
This is the back of the picture...and the start of Ethan's name.
This is the front of the picture. If you look closely, you can see that Ethan continued to spell his name in green across the front. LOL! Then, he & I took turned coloring the little stars. He did pretty good!!!!

After we colored, we all prayed & started our breakfast....pancakes, eggs, fruit, toast....simple, but sooooo good! When we were all done eating, our Children's Pastor gathered the little ones together to tell the Christmas story. Each child was given something to hold as part of telling the story....animals, the Wise Men's gifts, the angel....and baby Jesus. Ethan was given the honor of holding baby Jesus. Yes, he whacked the doll's head on the manger, but it was so sweet! And Ethan sat with the other kids, listened to the story, and played his part very well. I was very impressed. Thank you Preschool!

Here is Ethan "holding" baby Jesus. He kept his legs so straight so the doll could lay on his legs.
At one point, the kids cheered as the shepherds would have when they learned about Jesus being born, and Ethan did cry. However, it was the shortest cry he has ever done when people cheer! I was fully expecting to have to remove him from the gym after that, but he quickly recovered & was able to participate in the whole program! YEAH!!!!! It was wonderful!

Then, that evening, I had a wonderful Girls' Night Out. We all got together and watched Christmas movies, ate dinner, and wrapped our family's was so much fun! I definitely need time for myself every now & then! And when I'm's Guys' Night In at my house. Corey & Ethan usually do something pretty fun together. This time the boys were low-key & just played cars & games together....although they did make pizza and chocolate chip cookies!

The next morning was Sunday morning....and the day of Ethan's Christmas Program at church. I didn't sleep very well the night before because I was so nervous about how Ethan would handle everything.....the newness, the loudness, the lack of typical routine. However, his 2 teachers are 2 of my best friends & people that he knows/is comfortable with, so that was reassuring. I was only on standby in case they needed me to help out with him.....and I fully expected to be needed. There are 25 kids in his Preschool class at church, and it is hard to give Ethan extra care with a class so big. I totally get that from being a teacher back in the day. However, I was soooooooo wrong.....

Ethan did wonderful!!!!! He plugged his ears when it was loud, but never cried or screamed. He even had a line in the program!!! And I had no idea!!!!! We have 2 church services on a Sunday morning, and Ethan said his line both times!!!! At the end of the 2nd time they did their program, Ethan was definitely ready to be done. I could see that tears were beginning to form the longer he stood on stage. At one point, he made a bee line for my mom who was taking pictures in the front row. As they walked out of the sanctuary, Ethan came into our pew, so one of the male teachers carried him out. But, he did so well! He could not have been able to do this 5-6 months ago! I was so proud of him! Below is a video of Ethan saying his line in the first service. I was running the camcorder so it is a little shaky....because I was bawling! What a gift we were given yesterday!

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, we went to see Rider's In The Sky Christmas Show. My husband works for Caterpillar, and every year they offer their employees a chance to buy tickets to a CAT holiday show. This was our first time going, and we invited my sister & her family. Her son LOOOOOOVES cowboys, so we knew that we HAD to take him. And he LOVED it! It was worth the price of tickets just to watch him enjoying the concert. AND Ethan was able to enjoy it as well! We did take his sound-proofing headphones....which he asked for.....but he was still able to hear the music. When they started singing Jingle Bells, he looked at me with a face that said....."How do THEY know Jingle Bells?!" He was so excited. Then, he said, "Mommy to sing Jingle Bells?" I sang right along with the Riders In The Sky cowboys. At one point, he crawled onto the floor and kept laughing....because he shoes glow in the dark & he thought that was funny. But for such a busy & LOUD weekend, he was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

I will never forget last Christmas season. If you read in "Our Story", you will see that there was a significant event during last Christmas season. At Ethan's Early Intervention Christmas Party, Ethan had a terrible meltdown/episode (which turned out to be a blessing because it led us to Occupational Therapy). But as I lay awake in bed the night before his Church Christmas Program, I kept thinking about last year.....and how he just couldn't handle it. I will never forget how I held my screaming child alone in the bathroom while I cried & cried. It was yet another meltdown, and I was at such a loss at how to help him......I felt all alone. And sometimes this road of learning to live with autism is very overwhelming & very lonely. BUT, the more I open up about our journey, the more people surround us with support & love.

And what a difference a year has made! I have cried all weekend because I am so HAPPY for Ethan. I thought we were Ethan's only cheerleaders in the audience this past Sunday, but we were not.....far from it!
All around me people were commenting on how well Ethan was doing, how they were rooting for him, how they too felt the joy that we were experiencing as Ethan stood on that I walked out of the sanctuary (after the end of the kid's program but before the 2nd service really began), my eyes met one of my friend's eyes, and we both did a little cheer together! Even still today, I am receiving emails & texts from others who are just as excited for Ethan as we are! I'm so happy that we have so many people rooting for Ethan! What a blessing that is to his mommy!

Never in a million years would I have ever dreamed that he would have done as well as he did this weekend! It is moments like these that reaffirm all of our efforts in working with Ethan, and encourage me to continue....AND further proof that we are on the right path. YEE-HAW!!!!!

Friday, December 2, 2011


This past Thanksgiving, we went over to my sister's house with about 20 of our relatives. It was so much fun. But, as always, I was worried how Ethan would handle all the extra noise & commotion. And, once again, he blew me away with how well he did! He didn't sit for the meal nor did he eat the Thanksgiving food (not a big surprise), but he stayed in the room with all of noise & people....even requested puzzles & games from my sister. He did puzzles with my cousin, he did alphabet flashcards with Corey's mom, and probably did a whole bunch of other things that I am unaware of......he was great! After lunch, we got out Wii Dance 3, and had the music pretty loud. He commented several times about it being "really loud" & covered his ears, but after Corey's mom started playing with him towards the back of the room, he seemed to be just fine. He even played the Wii game with me for a short was awesome!!!!

However, at the end of the day, we were getting ready to leave.....and he didn't want to go home. He loves going to my sister's house. So....recipe for a meltdown: no nap, lots of new/commotion during the day, didn't eat much, and doing something he doesn't want to was just a matter of time. And then it started up.....

I was putting his coat & shoes on to go home, and he started hitting himself & saying, "You DO NOT want to go home with me"......his typical start to a meltdown. Honestly, I didn't do much to help him because he had done so well all day, and I figured that he needed this "release". So, all I said was, "It's okay Ethan". Then he started again, but this time he did something different.....instead of hitting himself......he clapped his hands.

HE CLAPPED HIS HANDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the replacement behavior or alternative that I have been trying to get him to do instead of hitting himself. He can still have a meltdown, and be upset, but without hurting himself. And he did it! And without me demonstrating it!!!!!

I was so excited that I immediately started showering him with praise....even though he was beginning to have a meltdown & I usually don't give any praise during those episodes. This must have confused him because he escaped his world for a second & locked eyes with if to say, "What did I do, Mom?" So, again I told him what he did & how wonderful it was that he clapped his hands during a meltdown....and then he repeated the I poured out more praise. It was so exciting that I started crying right front of the family that was remaining. My eyes were so blurry that my husband had to finish helping Ethan get his coat & shoes was an amazing moment. I got through to him. This was one of my favorite things about teaching, but to have that moment with my own child was beyond exciting. I got through to him....and I saw it realized in his eyes.

So, it has been over a week since that happened, and I haven't seen Ethan hit himself one time. Now, he will clap his hands, and say, "Soooooo, do not do that"......a Grover statement from his iPad book A Monster At The End Of This Book.

The meltdowns are going to happen, and I can't prevent them. BUT maybe now he won't be hurting himself! YEAH!!!!!!

Ethan putting together a 24 piece puzzle with my cousin.

Ethan & Grandma playing with ABC cards.

Ethan & Grandma dancing while.....
me & my cousins play Wii Dance 3...and yes...I'm singing too!

Me, my 2 cousins & my sister....we are really like sisters though. All of these girls & their families have been so interested, supportive, and encouraging as we are learning to live with autism. I love these girls!