Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Overhead Projector

Although our playroom is still in construction mode, that hasn't stopped us from trying new kinds of sensory play. We have been doing a lot of "in the dark" activities because Ethan has been turning all the lights off in the house. We think that he is becoming more & more sensitive to light. Thanks to one of the schools that I worked for, they have loaned me an overhead projector. Based on some ideas from PlayAtHomeMom3.blogspot.com, we are trying out some new sensory-based activities.

A couple of nights ago, Ethan once again asked if he could turn the lights out. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to get out the overhead projector. While Ethan turned out the lights, I set up the projector & my husband put a white flat sheet over our curtains. I started to get out my transparent objects to show how color shows up on the white sheet as well as make pictures out of objects, but Ethan found my bag of transparent numbers...0-100. "Numbers, numbers, numbers....." So, he played with numbers.....for about 2 hours! Daddy tried to play with him, and Ethan obliged for awhile. Then, he said, "All done sharing numbers with Daddy." It was hilarious because we are always trying to get him to "use his words"....and he definitely conveyed his wants with his words that time!!! We are still working on sharing...

The pictures are hard to see, but he was pulling out a transparent number tile one at a time, saying the number & then putting it on the overhead. When all the tiles were on the projector, he would look at us and ask, "We do it again?" After receiving an okay from us, he would push all the tiles off the overhead onto the floor & do it all again. After awhile, he did include us by asking us if we knew the number he was holding up. If we knew it, he would say, "Daddy got one!", and if we didn't know it, he would say, "Mommy missed it, and that's okay." He loved this game so much that he asked to play it as soon as he got out of bed the next morning. Out of pure selfishness of not wanting to add to the craziness of our mornings, I told him that he had to be dark outside for the game to work. He was satisfied with that answer.....otherwise I believe he would play it all day.


Here is Ethan looking at one of the transparent number tiles next to the overhead projector. There are several tiles already on the projector, but it is hard to see it in this picture.


Again, it is difficult to see, but you can tell that there are more tiles on the projector by looking at the "screen".
More tiles...and Ethan knew every single number. Amazing!

Here is a short video of Ethan playing with the overhead projector.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Handwriting

A couple of weeks ago, I was telling Ethan's Occupational Therapist that I couldn't get Ethan to write for me. I can barely get him to write his name anymore. She gave me some things to try....writing in shaving cream and so on.....and I have been doing it with Ethan. Then, a couple of days ago, Ethan brought me his iPad with a chalkboard app pulled up on the screen. You are able to take your finger & mimic writing on a chalkboard. He was asking me to write $11.99.....his new favorite game/commercial (Pizza Hut). I told him that I thought he could write it....and he took off!!!!! Granted he was using his finger & not a writing utensil, but I was able to see just how well he CAN write! I was amazed. And, as the game goes, we start with $11.99 then go to 12.99, 13.99, 14.99 and so on until 24.99...then we start back at 11.99. Here are some pictures that I took of Ethan proudly showing his work! YEAH!!!!

16.99...Look how proud he is!!!!

What a great smile!

18.99...I was so impressed that he could do an "8"...that's hard!!!

*****UPDATE! This morning after breakfast, Ethan & his cousins were drawing....and Ethan wrote with a crayon these same numbers!!!! Sooooo....he CAN use a writing instrument for me! I was so excited to witness his progress first hand! GO ETHAN!!!!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Goodbye Winter?

Several of my friends have had a difficult winter dealing with sickness....and we have too. Someone in our family has been sick since October 2011. It just hasn't gotten cold enough this winter to get rid of the germs, I guess. Severe sinus infections, flu, pink eye, bad coughing and strep throat have set up camp in our house this winter, and I'm so ready to kick them out of the house. In fact, as I'm typing this, I am dealing with sinus stuff & really bad nausea. So no coffee today...just Pepto. :0(

I was able to manage taking Ethan to school today....who is on medicine for sinus junk too.....and when I came home, I saw a beautiful sight.......signs of Spring!!!! I am praying that the end of our sickness season is coming to a close. I am tired of missing opportunities for Ethan to socialize, to learn, to play, and to be a kid! We have missed several birthday parties, many church events, and lots of our typical weekly activities.....like visiting the library & playgroup. So, as I sit here & listen to the birds outside, I am filled with hope! Maybe our days of being ill are going to be gone soon!

Last week, I talked about how having Ethan socialize is difficult for me to watch. BUT...NOT being able to socialize is even HARDER!!!!!! I see all of these missed opportunities, and it makes me sad because maybe something would have helped Ethan during that birthday party or maybe something would have clicked for Ethan during that day at school. UGH! So....seeing signs of spring is really lifting my spirits!!!! COME ON SPRING!!!!! LET'S KICK THE SICKNESS OUT OF MY HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm tired of missing opportunities!


COME ON SPRING!!!!!!

Meet Math Prodigy, Jake

This video is about 20 minutes, but it is amazing. Does it remind you of anyone???

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Light It Up Blue - April 2nd, 2012

This week, Ethan & I will be decorating my home with lots of green for the next holiday, St. Patrick's Day. But, soon after that, our house will be participating in Light It Up Blue! Check out the video below, and find out how you can help spread autism awareness by Lighting It Up Blue. And if you are a member of my family...be looking for your "blue" basket in the next couple of weeks....complete with a blue light bulb.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Playroom Project...Step Two Complete!

Here is what we accomplished this week on the basement...soon to be sensory playroom....

Here is how it looked at the beginning of the week. Last week, we removed the drop ceiling.


I had a day off this week, so I began tearing down paneling. I was pleasantly surprised to find Styrofoam insulation behind the walls. This was something we were going to buy & install, but now we don't need to! YEAH!

My mom came over one night, and Corey & I both worked on removing the paneling. This picture is a bit blurry, but my husband is pretending that he is about to break this board with his knee. Yea, I married a ninja.

And here is what it looks like now. The drop ceiling AND the paneling are now removed. I'm not really sure what the next step is going to be, but I'm thinking it will either be running new gas lines (for our donated fireplace....thanks Grandpa Wolfe!) or addressing some water damaged spots that we discovered. These are both projects that will involve my husband, so it may take some time to get to it. But we have done a TON in two weeks!!!! I'm so excited!!!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reading

I have talked before about how Ethan is already reading at a 1st grade level....and how he taught himself. This is one of his "super powers." I can remember when I started working with Ethan on his letters. I pulled out my uppercase magnet letters, and Ethan immediately began to say the names of several of the letters. I was amazed. I couldn't believe how much he had learned from us reading books together as well as watching kids' shows like Super Why, Sesame Street & Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. In a couple of days, he knew all of the letters. Here is a quick video of Ethan doing his letters...days after I got these magnets out for play. This was taken in September 2010, so Ethan is 2 years & 3 months old. This is just before he was placed in the Early Intervention program, and his speech is still very "vowel" pronounced. We could understand his language, and he knew all of his letters & numbers 0-9....and he was barely talking before his 2nd birthday.


 A few weeks after this video, we were at my sister's house. I told her that Ethan knew all of his letters, so she got out a board game to play with Ethan. It was kind of like CandyLand, but with letters. When I saw the game, I realized that it was all lowercase. I told her that Ethan wouldn't know them because we had only been using uppercase letters. She decided to play it with him anyway. Pretty soon, she turned to me, and said, "Jessica, he knows all of the lowercase letters." Unbelievable! Months ago, he was barely speaking & now he knows all of his letters?! 

Then we started working on sounds. We borrowed the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set toy from my sister, and Ethan was hooked. He played with it over & over again. Pretty soon, he knew all of the letters' sounds, too. He couldn't get enough. Soon, he was counting to 100 by ones and tens. Then, in May 2011, we were heading to St. Louis for my cousin's wedding. We were driving through McDonalds, when we heard Ethan in the backseat saying, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." over & over again. It finally dawned on me that he was reading the exit sign that indeed read, "Thank you!"  On the way home from that same trip, we stopped at a gas station. My mom, who was riding with us, had gotten one of those Big Gulp fountain drinks. Ethan began to read the words on her cup. It was during that trip that we realized that Ethan could read. To this day, I am still amazed at the amount of words he can read. This past Christmas we were at his classroom's Christmas party. They had done a gingerbread theme. One of the centers was smelling all of the spices that go into the gingerbread recipe, and deciding which one was your favorite. Ethan blew our table away when he read every word on his paper...unreal. Here is the picture of Ethan's paper....


 This past weekend, we spent most of our time hanging out with my Dad & Stepmom at my sister's home. My 5 year old nephew has been getting into reading recently, and he has many short story books. Ethan picked up a pack of Easy Reader Clifford books...12 books in the whole box set. Ethan wanted to read them with me...and he read every single one of them. My husband quickly got out his camera phone to record some of our reading session. Ethan did need some help, as you will see, but this is the first time of seeing these books...and he can read them. Unbelievable.
 
 

These "super power" moments are what I try to stay focused on instead of what he is currently (or maybe never) unable to do. He has such a thirst for knowledge, and that is such a blessing. Someone once told me that Einstein couldn't tie his own shoes. Whether that is true or not, I don't know.....but I could see that. Ethan is so drawn to learning academic things, but has no interest or desire in learning how to put on his own shoes. And every time I try to teach him or ask him to try, it's a meltdown. Maybe I should tie some little books to his shoes?!?! Hum..........

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Special Mother

A couple of days ago, I was looking online for sensory ideas for our playroom project. I came across the cutest therapy room done by Rachel Brewer for her daughter, who has been diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome. I then began to read through her blog postings and found this poem. I was moved to tears. This is exactly the encouragement that I needed, and I wanted to pass it on to others.....



The Special Mother
by Erma Bombeck

 Did you ever wonder how mothers of disabled children were chosen?

Somehow I visualize God hovering over the earth selecting his instruments of propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

"This one gets a daughter. The Patron saint will be Cecelia."
"This one gets twins. The Patron saint will be Matthew."
"This one gets a son. The Patron saint.....give her Gerard. She's used to profanity."
Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles. "Give her a disabled child."

The angel is curious. "Why this one God? She's so happy."
"Exactly," smiles God. "Could I give a disabled child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel!"
"But has she patience?" asks the angel.
"I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of sorrow and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she'll handle it. 
I watched her today, she has that feeling of self and independence that is so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has his own world. She has to make him live in her world and that's not going to be easy."

"But Lord, I don't think she even believes in you"
God smiles, "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect - she has just enough selfishness."
The angel gasps - "Selfishness? is that a virtue?"
God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally she won't survive. 

Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a 'spoken word'. She will never consider any 'step' ordinary. When her child says "Momma" for the first time she will be present at a miracle and will know it. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see...ignorance, cruelty and prejudice...and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as if she is here by my side."

"And what about her Patron saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid air.
God smiles "A mirror will suffice."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Socializing....It's Not Just Difficult On Ethan

This past weekend, we had a WONDERFUL surprise....my dad & step-mom came here for a visit! One of my nieces was having her 2nd birthday party, and we were so fortunate to spend the entire weekend with them. They live about 6 hours away from us, so whenever they come for a visit, we try to spend as much time with them as possible. It was a great weekend!!!

But, during this weekend, I realized something about myself. I have always known that Ethan would prefer not to be in social situations but instead play on his own. However, this weekend, I realized that watching Ethan among other kiddos is difficult on ME.

In our own home, Ethan seems like a pretty typical 3 year old. He is comfortable with his environment as well as Corey & me. We speak his language, his environment is tailored for his sensory issues, and his social skills seem adequate.....at home. As much as I would love for him to be in this protective bubble of home, I know that this won't help him in the long run. So, we stretch him & put him in social situations as much as he can handle. It is good for him to learn social skills, language development, and other things from his peers.

But, I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard for this mama to watch. In our home, sometimes I forget that he even has autism. But when we leave the comfort of our home, and venture out into the world....I am reminded of how unique Ethan really is......and that pain of a dream lost comes to me all over again. Yes, I try to look on the bright side, and remember Ethan's super powers.....and that usually helps. But when I see Ethan playing by himself among a group of interacting children.....it stings. When I am trying to explain why pushing isn't nice during a time-out session, and he is only repeating my words....it hurts. When the entire family sits down to dinner, and Ethan is crying because he has to sit at the table with the rest of us....it is painful. It's like I'm being reminded over & over again that Ethan has autism.....and that is difficult for this mama to endure.

Someone once said to me that in order to teach a typical neurological developing child a skill, you may have to teach them 100 times. In order for the child with autism to learn the same skill, you may have to teach them 1,000 times. And I completely believe that. But, it can't be my excuse to give up on him. Ethan may have difficulty learning social rules or sitting at the table for long periods or using his words, but that doesn't mean I don't teach him otherwise. We work on it. Over & over & over again. I believe that he will one day get it. He is already doing better today than he was yesterday. Today, he is sleeping through the night, he is using a fork & spoon, he is potty trained, his use of functional speech is getting better, he is understanding more & more social rules, and so much more! He is getting it a little bit at a time.

So, I will have my little cry sessions in the shower, pray to God to be with my little guy, write all my feelings out, and then I will take my big girl pill, pour a cup (or two) of coffee & face another day learning to live with autism. And even though it is hard for me to see Ethan in social situations, we will keep doing it....because it is beneficial for Ethan & his future. And that is the prize I keep my eye on....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hockey Game

I have talked before about how 2011 was focused mostly on LEARNING to Live with Autism. But through intense therapy, Ethan has been doing amazing & has overcome so many of his challenges. Not that we have stopped learning or that we are without new challenges, but I am hoping that 2012 is focused more on LIVING with autism.

I will never forget Dr. Temple Grandin saying, "You gotta stretch 'em." Just because Ethan has difficulty in social situations doesn't give us an excuse for keeping him home 24/7. In order for social settings to be easier for Ethan, he needs to be exposed to new situations over & over again. Even if that means, we walk in & walk out of a new place.....it's a place to start.

Well, a couple of weekends ago, I attended my 2 nephews' hockey game. They are preschool age, and seeing these little ones playing ice hockey is just ADORABLE! I decided that I would go by myself the first time....to see what the environment was like & what Ethan may need to endure this very loud activity.

Then, this past weekend, we ALL went.....Corey (my husband), Ethan & myself all dressed in warm clothes & headed to the hockey game. I am happy to report that Ethan made it through the entire 45 minutes!!!! He had a great time....climbing & walking around the bleachers, putting his face up to the protective plexiglass, and even cheering for his cousins! Then, the crowd cheered.....and even though Ethan was wearing his sound-proofing headphones, he immediately looked at me as his eyes began to fill with tears. Uh-Oh.........

So, I said to him, "That is called cheering. Is cheering loud or quiet?"

"Loud!" Ethan said....still panicking.

I then said to him, "Yes, cheering is loud, & that's okay!"

Then, he repeated that back to me, and I reaffirmed his statement. I could feel & see his nerves calming....and then he resumed playing. Every time the crowd cheered after that, he would look at me & say, "Cheering is loud, and that's okay." And I would reinforce his statement & compliment his calm behavior....and he would move on to the next thing.

At about 30 minutes, he began to ask to "go for a walk", but I was trying to "stretch him"....so I began to pull out my tools...a slow-color changing snowman ornament that Ethan received for Christmas, a sucker, and eventually, my smart phone where he looked at my pictures. That last one was unintentional, but it worked...so I just went with it. Here is a video of Ethan at the game....
  

He is cheering, "Go Hunter Go! Go Owen Go!"
At the end, he says, "Now you can have the phone"....
and that's how he ended up playing with my smart phone.


After the hockey game, some of our family went to Culver's to get some dinner. Ethan was so excited because he loves to "go in" to restaurants (instead of driving thru...) He ordered his standard meal...chicken nuggets & french fries...and sat at the table with the rest of family. Eventually, though, he took his color-changing snowman, and retreated to under the table. Under the table is quieter & dimmer lighting, so this told me that he was about done. And sure enough, I asked him if he wanted to go play at his cousin's house....and he just kept saying, "No. Home? Home? Home? Home?....." So, we took him home.

But I think he did amazing!!! He didn't sleep at nap time (no surprise), and both of these events were very out of the ordinary & LOUD! So, I am one proud mama right now!!!!! Great job, Ethan!!!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Glowing Balloons

In order to keep things new & fun for Ethan, I have been trying to think of ways to use our glow sticks & our color changing glow cubes. A couple of nights ago, I put the glow cubes inside of some white balloons...and then blew up the balloons only slightly. It didn't work very well with color balloons...just white.

We used it as part of our bath, but they could easily be used with our black light activities. Ethan just kept holding the balloons & waiting for the next color....he really liked them. However, we have used our glow cubes for a couple of weeks now, and water has gotten inside them. I'm going to try to dry them out by putting them in rice, but we may have to get some new ones. Here is Ethan with one of the balloons....


Saturday, February 18, 2012

You Got Flowers For Me?!

The other day, I came home from a meeting, and my husband had bought me flowers....so sweet. But I think Ethan was the most excited! You see, Daddy AND ETHAN went to the store to get me flowers. So, when I walked in the front door, Ethan comes running up to me, and says, "Mommy got flowers for Ethan!" He was so excited, but I couldn't figure out what he was talking about....because I didn't come home with anything that looked like a flower?

Once I walked into the house, THEN I realized that Ethan got flowers for Mommy. I jumped on this chance to work on our THANK YOU - YOU'RE WELCOME turn taking that we have been trying to get him to understand. He seems to be getting the turn taking, but he will occasionally still say, "SAY You're Welcome"...instead of just, "You're Welcome"....but we are getting there. He was so excited.....so then I was excited.....and we played this "game" for the rest of the night. We did take a few breaks, but then he would ask to play the "flower game" again....and we would. I love this kid!!! Here's a video of us playing.....

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Do I Love OT? Because It WORKS!!!

This week, I had the privilege of being asked to speak to a group of Occupational Therapists. Myself and another mom of a child with autism were invited to talk about our stories & how OT has helped in our child's development. Well, I'm a HUGE fan of OT, so I was SO excited for this honor. OT has really helped Ethan deal with and overcome a lot of his challenges.

Here is a simple example... The other day, I was trying to video Ethan reciting one of his Bible verses that he had memorized. Here is the first take....without any therapy aids....


I decided not to use this video, but instead try again another day. The next day, he was doing the same thing. Then, duh, I decided to give him a fidget toy in order to help him sit still & focus. To be specific, it is a football stress ball that he has in his hands. Nothing else has changed. Check out the difference in posture, eye contact, and clarity of speech...


Isn't that AMAZING!!!!!!! We are so fortunate to live in a day where we know what occupational therapy can do, and how it can help people overcome their challenges. Ethan has responded so well to OT, and that is why I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate it into our everyday life....and keep it new & fun for Ethan. So, thanks so much to all of you Occupational Therapists! Our life has been forever changed because of your work!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thank You PBS.....and Uncle Chris!

This video came to me via my brother-in-law, Corey's brother, Ethan's Uncle Chris. During their kids' ice hockey practice last night, Chris was telling my sister that the PBS show Arthur did an episode explaining about Asperger Syndrome. He also told her that his 3 eldest kids were glued to the TV during this episode because they knew that it was similar to what Ethan has.....and I LOVE THAT!!!!!

So this morning, I found the episode on PBS's website, and I watched it. The show did a WONDERFUL job of explaining as well as showing the positives & the challenges of having Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you are wanting to start a conversation with some youngsters about ASD, this would be a great way to introduce the subject.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Demolition Begins!

Well, our basement has officially become a construction zone! After selling some household items, we have enough money to begin funding our Sensory Playroom Project. Last week, we focused on selling our stuff as well as doing a typical "clean out the basement" sort. This week, we have focused on the first step in renovating this space....the ceiling. Originally, we were simply going to take down the drop ceiling, put a fresh coat of paint on it, and hang it back up. However, tonight as we took down the ceiling, we realized how much having NO ceiling opened up the space. PLUS, I think having the rafters show would also be beneficial when we install a swing. Now we are thinking of just painting the ceiling & leaving it bare. And I'm already thinking of how I could use this exposed ceiling to increase our sensory play....I'm thinking in the Christmas lights genre.....

This is how our basement looked before we started...

And this is how is looks as of tonight. We sold our big TV & other things, got rid of some random furniture, and removed the drop ceiling. It already is feeling more spacious. It doesn't look like much, but this project is moving right along. Next step....take down the paneling. And do you see that big beam going across the length of the room....I am already talking to my vinyl guy (Corey) about doing some cool lettering there! I can't wait for this room!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Bath Stickers

I love holidays....all of them. As part of celebrating each holiday, I decorate our home with all things that fit that holiday's theme. At Christmas, I had some leftover window clings, so I gave them to Ethan to use in his bath. Now it has become another spot for us to incorporate our holidays. So, this past month, Ethan has been using his fine motor skills to peel & stick these window clings in his bath. The best part??? We can use them over & over again!!! It's also really great because we can talk about the meaning of the particular holiday. Because of the calming effect of the water play, he is more apt to "soak up" new knowledge during this time. These stickers are also great to incorporate storytelling. During January, we used ice skaters, snowmen & snowflakes to make up stories about playing in the snow. Love these stickers!!!

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
 
 


And, of course, his new favorite bath toy....glow sticks!

We found these water resistant glowing cubes at Walmart.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Default Emotions

I LOVE Ethan's Preschool teachers & therapists.....they are amazing. These women are so knowledgeable & helpful. One morning last week when I was dropping Ethan off at school, Ethan's speech therapist approached me about an article that she had read about "Default Emotions" by Speech Pathologist Linda Hodgdon. She emailed me the newsletter containing the article, and it seems tailored for Ethan.

Linda writes about how when the child has experienced one traumatic incident (from their point of view), it can cause a "default emotion". This means that now EVERY TIME that experience occurs, the emotion occurs because the child is remembering the first occurrence. Here's an example of this manifesting itself in our Ethan.

Books. He LOVES books. And he loves to read. One of his favorite books USED to be The Monster at the End of this Book with Grover. So, when we were in Walmart, and he saw the book Another Monster at the End of this Book with Grover AND Elmo, he could focus on nothing else but getting that new book.
























So, we bought it, took it home, and read it. I'm not sure which one of us read it with Ethan for the first time, but it was the first & last time. Now, when I begin to take it off the shelf to read it with him, he panics. "No, no, no, no..." over & over again until I put it back on the shelf. Well, one night, I decided to read it with him anyway in order to see why he hates this book so much....especially after wanting it so badly in the store. We read the book just fine, but he did have his hands over his ears. But, honestly, he does that sometimes when I read books with him. But we started getting to the end of the book, and before I turned one certain page, he started panicking & saying "All Done, all done..." Here is the page he didn't want to read...


I could see why this page would bother him. In the story, Elmo is scaring Grover....and Ethan is very sensitive to those things. Ok....I get that. But NOW.....anytime we read a book with this "Batman" type of words (BAM, POP, YOWZA, etc...), he has a "default emotion" & responds with sadness & crying.

This past weekend, I got out some new books. One of them is Old MacDonald had a Woodshop by Lisa Shulman. He thought this book was funny because that isn't the normal Old MacDonald. And in this book, Old MacDonald is a girl....he thought this was too funny. We were really laughing while reading this book.


This book is the type that Ethan really enjoys reading because there is a pattern to it, and we keep adding on to the pattern. Here is a typical page out of the book.


However, on ONE of the pages, one of the animals hurts themselves while working with their tool, and the word "OUCH!" appears....but very small. The first time we read it, Ethan did fine. But NOW when we read it or he reads it on his own, he puts his sound-proof headphones on.....for that page only!?!?





So, this is what Linda was talking about is a "default" emotion. Every time Ethan sees....I think it's an all uppercase word followed by an exclamation point....he has a very strong reaction. So, Linda suggests the following strategies to help with this type of reaction. Linda also points out that this type of default emotion is common is all kiddos, but it's the frequency & intensity that makes the difference in children with autism. And I personally think that's true for most of Ethan's challenges.

Anyway, here are Linda's suggestions. We are going to try these, and see if they help Ethan work through his emotions regarding what I call "Batman" words.

"It’s easier to teach a NEW ROUTINE . . .  than it is to change an OLD BEHAVIOR™ Default responses are hard to change. In comparison, new routines are easier to teach.

How do you teach a new routine?Visual strategies work really well. Think about how you teach any new routine. Here is a short list of possibilities.
• Create a mini-schedule for a specific time frame
• Write a social story about how to handle an event
• Make a video to demonstrate appropriate behavior for a situation
• Present a rule for a location or activity
• Provide some visual choices that will require appropriate behavior or appropriate responses
• Use a visual tool to assist communication in a difficult situation"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bible Memory

Lately, I have been wanting to "challenge" (for lack of a better word) Ethan's brain. I have discovered that the more new things I am teaching him, the more calm & socially engaging he has been. Almost like if I exercise his brain, his mind is worn out. This seems to be causing him to behave better & have less meltdowns....and even occasionally napping! Corey & I were talking last night about how much Ethan has been talking & interacting with us this past week.....and I think me trying to "stump his brain" has really played a big part in it.

So, a couple of days ago, I thought I would start teaching him some scriptures from the Bible. It started at lunch one day, and I asked Ethan if he wanted to do a new prayer instead of our standard, "God is great, God is good, Let us thank Him for our food. Amen." His eyes got really wide & he jumped up, "YES!" So, I told him John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that 
whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life!

He was so excited. "Again, again?" he kept saying to me. We did this over & over again during our meal, and he began repeating it with me. But the next morning, he was saying it all on his own.....and asking for another new prayer. He has now memorized 3 Bible verses! I wrote them out & hung them by our dining table, so he could pick which one to do for our prayer.........and he picks all of them......in order, of course.  :0)

Ethan's Bible Verses



Deuteronomy 6:5
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your might.

 John 3:16 
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that 
whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life!
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Art Without Boundaries

All kids amaze me....I guess that's the teacher in me. But kids with special needs astound me. I am constantly hearing stories of these "underdogs" overcoming their challenges & triumphing in victorious ways. Living with Ethan, I am privileged to see him overcoming these odds on a daily basis. And occasionally, my husband will come home from work with "a Mason story".....

Now to be COMPLETELY honest, when my husband talks about work, I have a very difficult time being a good listener. He is an engineer, and I often find myself being lost in the details of his stories. BUT, when he says that he has a story about his friend's son, Mason, he has my full attention. I LOVE Mason stories. You see, Mason has autism as well. He is elementary school age, so we are often going to this family for support & information. And, although I have never met Mason, I have come to hold him dear to my heart. He is such a sweet & fun kiddo. In fact, several months ago, my husband set up a fundraiser in order to buy Ethan AND Mason each an iPad2....and both boys LOVE their iPads.

Well, Mason was recently featured in his local newspaper for his amazing art skills! He participates in a program called Art Without Boundaries. This program "uses everyday pleasures such as singing, movement, painting and story telling in a unique combination to stimulate dramatic changes in the brain. Although our goal is to provide a rewarding experience, documented testimonies show significant improvement in some clients in verbal skills, mobility, combativeness, spatial acuity and understanding instructions."

And, recently, one of Mason's paintings was wanted by someone from Colorado!!! To read the entire story & to learn more about Art Without Boundaries, please visit the local paper's article. What a great program.....what a great painting.......and what a GREAT KID! WAY TO GO MASON!!!!!!

Mason & his first "sold" painting. (Money given for the paintings is donated to the program.)
This was emailed to me yesterday. It's Mason's latest work of art. What a talented kiddo!!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Thirst for Knowledge

So......I'm kind of wigging out right now......

Last week, I bought addition and subtraction flash cards in order to start teaching these to Ethan. Yes, I realize that Ethan is only 3 years old, but he is already counting to 100.....even doing it by fives and tens. He is flying through any of the preschool math workbook that we have, and lately he has been wanting to do more & more math. So....I bought these flash cards.

Ethan adding manipulatives....and loving it!
Well, the teacher in me gets out all of my teaching stuff......the specific addition flash cards (the easiest ones....the plus ones) and my manipulatives (tangible items for Ethan to count....I used my tangram shape pieces.) I was so excited! And so is Ethan. As I'm getting stuff out & ready, he is grabbing for things & moving things....he was ready to play!

Then we begin. I show him the first flash card.....1+1=__. I say the words, "One plus one equals".....

I haven't even begun to do anything else....to show him the concept of adding, to use my shape pieces to demonstrate adding, NOTHING......and this child says, "TWO". ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!? After I was able to recover from shock, I moved on to the next card....1+2=__......he knew that one too. He knew all of them, and they went up to 1+12=__. WHERE DID HE LEARN THEM?????

I immediately emailed his preschool teacher. She still hasn't gotten back to me, so I'm anxious to hear from her. He may have learned these math facts at preschool. But this is EXACTLY what happened when I decided to start working with him on his letters.....he already knew most of them! I can remember being at my sister's house, and she pulls out a board game to play with Ethan. He was about 22 months old....just shy of being 2 years. She thought he would like to play it because it was all about letters, and we knew how much he loved letters. I told her, though, that we had only been working with uppercase letters, and the board game was lowercase letters....so he wouldn't know them. UM......HE KNEW ALL OF THEM!?!? How this child soaks up academia is UNBELIEVABLE! I had no idea that he knew his lowercase letters, but he got all of them right when my sister asked him what the letters were......unreal.

So, now I'm wondering where he learned his addition facts?! Probably school, I'm guessing, but I'm still blown away! Well, curiosity set in, so I moved on to the plus twos....to see if he knew those. He didn't...so I was able to use my math manipulatives & demonstrate adding....and he was totally getting it....and squealing with joy over this "game"......he LOVED it. He kept asking for more & more.....we probably played for about 30 minutes. Then, for lack of more flashcards, I got out another math workbook, and he was absorbed. He didn't want to write the answers, so that was my job, but he often read the directions & was so giddy doing math worksheets. Then, once we finished the math section, I scrambled again to find something...so we played one of his favorite board games BINGO BEARS. Everyone has a bingo-type card, and you spin a spinner. This spinner will tell you either a color, number or size bear to pick from the pile. We play the first one to fill their card is the winner. After he played this game with every bingo card, he was finally ready to play cars....without me. This session was 1.5 hours.

I am amazed at how my child's brain is super thirsty for knowledge. My husband and I are reminded of that movie SHORT CIRCUIT where the robot says, "Input, more input".......that's similar to Ethan. He loves to learn!

I tried to take a few videos, but it was difficult with my limitation of only having 2 hands.....so....here is what little I was able to get.....


 

*****UPDATE!!***** I spoke with Ethan's teachers today, and they told me that they haven't done addition facts with the 3 year olds. They HAVE been working on greatest vs. least, and other math concepts, but not addition facts. I am truly amazed at what Ethan absorbs....what a kid!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Coloring & Sorting Pasta

Thanks to Play At Home Mom blog, I have been SUPER inspired lately. I LOVE their sensory play ideas, and Ethan & I are putting them to good use! Last week we decided to expand on our rice box & color our rice/pasta. We bought pasta with different shapes, sizes, and textures....this will stimulate his sense of touch. Then, we bought lots of kool-aid packets to dye our pasta....stimulating his sense of sight.

Believe your eyes! Ethan is "cooking" with me in the kitchen! No blender this time. Ethan picked the pasta & then what color he wanted it to be. He opened, poured, stirred, and cleaned up...a lot of fun!



Here is all of our pasta laying out to dry. I think next time we will use food coloring because the smell of all of the different types of kool-aid were a bit strong for Ethan's sensitive nose....and me too!
After a day of drying, we were ready to play! Sorting.....a favorite activity of Ethan's....it helps to calm him & organize his system. He really enjoyed this! And the total cost of what we used was $2.80!!!!! (The blue didn't turn out, but I'm gonna try it again.)



Here is all of our colored pasta in bags....ready to be used again!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

pLaY aT hOmE mOm!!!!

I am always on the look out for ways to incorporate sensory play into our typical play activities. Part of Ethan's autism diagnosis included Sensory Processing Disorder. Simply put, his ability to take in & process anything related to the 5 senses is underdeveloped. His body can't take it. So, when he hears loud noises, it LITERALLY is painful.

However, through sensory play (activities that tap into the 5 senses), Ethan will be able to strengthen his system, and be able to process sounds, smells, sights, touches, and tastes better. Through occupational therapy, we have been able to figure out what Ethan really responds well to, and ultimately what will help him.

But sensory related items can get quite expensive. So, I often make trips to the dollar stores or drug stores, scanning for items that can be used in unique ways to create sensory play. We have a rice box, bubbles, lite brite, and many squishy toys...similar to stress balls. And then, my sister sent me a link to something called "Busy Boxes" from a blog. She thought it seemed similar to what we were already doing with Ethan's rice box (like a sand box), but maybe could expand upon it. The minute that I visited PLAY AT HOME MOM, I was hooked.

This entire blog is dedicated to creating sensory play out of everyday items.....and inexpensively. So....with all that being said......I am proud to announce my next project......and it's a big one.

Currently, all of our play stuff is upstairs in our living room.....and it is starting to become more & more difficult to maintain it all. So, my husband & I have decided to turn most of our basement into a SENSORY-BASED PLAYROOM!!!!! I'm so excited!!!! We have a bathroom & a kitchenette downstairs as well, so it will be easy for us to spend most of our day in this new area. I'm so excited!!!!! (A big shout out to my wonderful husband who literally said to me, "Do whatever you need to do for Ethan." I LOVE YOU!!!!)

It's going to be slow in the making, but I will be sure to keep you updated every step of the way! WOO-HOO!!!!!

But, in the meantime, I will continue to strive to be a Sensory based Play at Home Mom. Here are a few activities that we have done from the PLAY AT HOME MOM blog.



Decorating our Sticky Window. My nephew really liked this too! Can you see how Ethan has put a dot (googly eye) above the popsicle sticks? He is mimicking what my nephew did. My nephew called that an "eye-sicle"! HAHA!

Sticky Window materials...and Ethan's drink.

Balloon Bath

Glow Stick Bath

He never wants to stop playing to go take a bath, but now he RUNS down the hall to take a Glow Stick bath!