Tuesday, October 30, 2012

5 Little Pumpkins Magnetic Board

Last year, Ethan's Preschool introduced him to the 5 Little Pumpkins. He LOVED IT!

Well, a couple of weeks ago, Ethan & I were at our weekly nursing home visit to see my Grandpa.
We have been so lucky to have this time with him, and Ethan loves to go see him. However, after about 20 minutes, Ethan is ready to go....but I'm not! So, to keep him interested, I was trying to think of songs to sing & scripture to recite for Ethan to perform for my Grandpa. Since it was October, I busted out the 5 Little Pumpkins poem....and shockingly enough, I actually remembered it!

Ethan was SOOO excited to remember this poem! Which meant we had to do it over & over & over again. Using that to my advantage, I would request one song & then the Pumpkin Poem. Then another scripture &
then the Pumpkin Poem. We did this for the rest of our time at the nursing home, and my Grandpa loved it. Ethan was a great performer! LOL!

Well, if you know my Ethan by now, you know that this didn't stop once we left my Grandpa's....it has continued to be a game we play to this day....weeks later! So, I knew I had to incorporate it into a tangible
play item. So, here is our magnetic board for the month of October!

5 foam shaped pumpkins with a green vinyl fence (Thanks Hubby for the vinyl work!)

Here is our book....printed, colored, stapled & hanging by a magnetic clip. Ethan enjoyed coloring this book so much that he didn't mind the much when I kept correcting his crayon grip! (He usually gets so upset with me!)

I simply hot glued strips of magnets to the backs of these foam pumpkins & drew faces with a Sharpie marker.

It was fun for me to draw these faces, and Ethan loves to play out the story! This sits in our entry way so all of our guests are greeted by these cute little guys!

A lot our Play at Home games & ideas have originated from the best website ever....PlayAtHomeMom3.blogspot.com. I love this website so much! If you want ideas for stuff to do around your home that will help the development of your children as well as be super thrifty, you MUST check them out! They have done their own pumpkin magnetic board, and I think we will do this during Halloween week! Ethan is really loving working with different faces & expressions....which will lead him to understand emotions of others......so this will be great to incorporate this idea along with Halloween!

Here is the link to our 5 Little Pumpkin book, and click here for the link to the poem itself!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Who Is Following Ethan's Autism?

During our Month of Doctors, one of the doctors asked me this question. "Who is following Ethan's autism?" I can only imagine what the look on my face conveyed as I stared at him wondering what he meant. And then I asked him, "What do you mean?" This doctor said he wanted to know who was "in charge" of following Ethan's progress in the area of autism. I told him of the different organizations that we were a part of....but I still don't know if that answered his question as he looked at me equally confused. Finally, I laughed and said, "I guess I am!"

Just like anything medical, I believe that we must take charge of our own path. Doctors, therapists, teachers, and others should be a BIG part of any kind of diagnosis. They have knowledge that we don't, and we need to seek their advice & direction. However, in the long run, where does the responsibility ultimately fall??? To ourselves. WE are in charge of seeking help, finding resources, keeping doctor appointments, participating in therapies, and so on. NO ONE will MAKE us to this....we must take this on ourselves. It is our responsibility.....not anyone else's.

And since Ethan is only 4 years old, his care falls to his us, his parents. No one else is responsible for it. And, honestly, there isn't anyone that I trust to do this job other than me! Thankfully, we have been very blessed for it to be able for me to be a Play At Home Mom since the day Ethan was born. Not that I don't have other responsibilites or interests, but taking care of him is my number one priority. And I would jokingly say, "Sorry Husband," but Corey & I have decided that.....for us......this is how we both want it to be for this moment in our lives.

So, when Ethan was diagnosised with autism at 35 months old, I knew that the majority of this would fall under my care. Not only was (am) I Ethan's primary caretaker, but I have a background in education & could pull from this resource. (And I do so often!) For the first year of living with autism, this responsibility was an overwhelming & all consuming task. But here it is....17 months later....and it's not all I think about nor is it as overwhelming. (Thank You, Lord!!!)

And today, because of our seeking & learning & persistence & prayer, Ethan is doing so well! In this last Month of Doctors, Ethan has met so many new people. When I inform them that he has autism (doctors & nurses), almost all of them have said, "I would have never known that if you hadn't told me."


So, who is following Ethan? Well, I guess I'm in charge....I'm the leader/co-ordinator. But really....there are so many people who are working with him, praying for him, and cheering for him. And I think that we are all very excited to see what God has in store for this little guy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

X-Rays! Stat!

Corey & I have decided to call this month....THE MONTH OF DOCTORS! LOL!!!

Last Monday, Ethan tripped & fell right on his elbow. Ethan was holding his arm close to his body & not moving it much at all. So, after seeing our pediatrician, we were sent to the hospital for X-Rays. Oh boy.

Anything new causes Ethan's anxiety to increase....which then increases his "autism" characteristics, and he is difficult to work with in the new situation. So, thanks to the wonderful advice of a friend who works with children with autism, I had already bookmarked a X-Ray video on our iPad.....and it was ready for just this moment.


After we left the pedicatrician's office, we decided to try & make this event a bit more fun! While Ethan began to watch the X-Ray video on his iPad in the van, we drove to a gas station & got snacks! Ethan loves these specific drinks that the gas station sells, and we also bought special "X-Ray" Skittles.

Belly Washers
Wild Berry Skittles

Ethan watched the X-Ray video over & over again.....asking me questions & memorizing several phrases from the video.....even in the short time between the doctor's office & the hospital.....maybe 20 minutes. We decided 3 things....

1. X-Rays do NOT hurt
2. X-Rays are quick
3. Mommy & Daddy will be there with you

These 3 things he kept saying.....to self calm. Mommy & Daddy were saying it too.....to self calm. :0)

We were all very nervous. Ethan for the unknown & his parents for how Ethan would handle the X-Ray.

Ethan watching the video on my phone in the hospital's waiting room.

Ethan, still holding on to my phone playing the x-ray video, hides in the play area for additional calming.

Well, Ethan did fine at the beginning. We looked in the X-Ray room while the technicians got things ready. We located the "big camera", talked about where we would lay down, and how he would get special X-Ray Skittles when it was all done.

Ethan & I looking into the X-Ray room

Once the 2 techs were ready, he nervously walked into the room. On the video, the boy is sitting in a chair during the x-ray, but Ethan needed to lay down. This change threw him into panic, and started things into a downward spiral. We were able to lay him down on the table, Daddy at his head, one technician & myself on each side. The tech then showed Ethan how the big camera moves & the sounds it makes. Ethan's anxiety began to creep up even more...becoming more & more overtaken with fear. But these 2 things were just the precurser for what happened next.....the technician moved the bed Ethan was laying on.....yikes.

Poor lady thought that Ethan would enjoy it, and maybe most kids do! It would be like a ride! But the issue was there was no warning before the bed moved. As she was saying, "Look, the bed moves too!"....she was moving the bed. Ethan began to SCREAM. Here we go!

Having taken my big girl pill earlier that day, and having our friends & family praying for us, Corey & I were able to get to work. Corey plugged Ethan's ears for him (since he couldn't do it himself), and I tried to get his mind off of what was happening but asking him state capitals....he gave me two answers before he screamed, "Mommy, I'm so scared!"


I love that Ethan is now able to voice his emotions, but in this case there was literally nothing to be done. I just told him, "I know you are scared, Buddy, but remember what we know about x-rays? It's not hurting you & it's fast.....we will be done soon! And then you will get special Skittles." I was trying to be as positive & encouraging as I could muster....regardless of how I was really feeling inside. Then, Ethan says, "I want Daddy to carry me!"


As Corey & my eyes met each other, we knew how we were each feeling. Corey wanted to pick him up & carry him....and remove him from this crippling fear.....and I wanted to start crying. But even Mommy and Daddy had to remember.....He's not being hurt & it's a short amount of time.

The whole picture taking process probably took 1 minute, but it felt like an eternity. We ALL had to muster all of our courage & strength to get through it, and when it was finally done.....so were we. It was about 8:30pm by this time, and we were all ready to just go home & crash.

The wonderful technicians let Ethan see his X-Rays which I thought was neat because in almost every ABC book, what does X stand for? X-RAY! So, I really thought Ethan would think this was pretty cool. But as we were looking at his x-rays, the computer next to his x-rays had a advertisement for a hospital movie night on it....and Ethan says, "Look! Popcorn!" Well, so much for the x-rays being cool.

After it was over, we waited in a waiting room for the radiologist to read the results at home & our pediatrician to call us with the results & what to do next. By 9:00pm we were told that there was no break or fracture & to give Ethan pain meds around the clock for the next week....and to keep him as immobile as possible for the next couple of days. My thought was...a 4 year old? Immobile? Yeah right! But we did our best.

He stayed home from school for the next couple of days, and then we got a phone call saying that something called a "fat pad" had appeared on the x-ray. We were being sent to a bone specialist for further x-rays & possible cast.

I'm sure you can imagine how we were feeling at this news. Awesome. (note the sarcasm)

Well, after 2 more days of keeping Ethan "immobile" and home from school, we were able to see the bone specialist. She decided that no more x-rays were needed because he passed all of her arm-moving tests with perfection! YEAH!!!

So, x-rays are over. No cast or sling is needed. Thank you, Lord!

However, we are supposed to keep an eye on it over the next year because where they are seeing a concern is the actual place he hit on his elbow. If a tiny fracture is indeed there, but is not yet showing up...it could effect the way that bone grows. So we need to keep an eye on it & watch for him favoring it....and then go back to the bone specialist for more x-rays at that point.

But for now, I am sooooo happy that Ethan's arm appears to be fine, and no more x-rays are in our immediate future. Now, we are getting ready for our appointment this Friday with a Gastro Increnologist for Ethan's potty issues. I'm praying that this too will all turn out to be nothing major.


Seems like this is our life lately.....sitting in waiting rooms & trying to keep my child occupied while waiting for the doctors! Here, Ethan & I are reading a book.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Breaking Bad Sleep Routine

I'm so TIRED!!! I wish I could say it was just today, buy it's been a couple of months now. I don't know WHEN it started but I know WHY it started. Ethan has been coming into our bedroom in the middle of the night EVERY NIGHT for months now. At first, it was just easier to pull him into our bed with us, but now he is doing it ALL THE TIME....and the only one getting a good night sleep is Ethan!

So, today as I wait in the town 30 minutes from home while Ethan is here for his Easter Seals Preschool program....I decided to borrow my mom's laptop & write at Barnes & Noble....where they serve Starbucks!!! And the Starbucks gal must have seen how tired I was when she "recommended" an extra shot of expresso in my latte......Thank you Starbucks Angel!

Well, this past weekend, we decided to try & break this habit. We have tried different things to see if he actually prefers our bed to his.....but it seems he just wants to be with us....regardless of the actual bed. At midnight last night, Ethan came to our door & asked, "Daddy, will you snuggle me in your chair?" LOL....ok....it's not his bed.

So, we told him that if he stayed in his bed & his room all night long, he would get 5 SKITTLES in the morning. We even laid them out the night before....he was so excited. Skittles are our currency in our house. If Ethan uses his words instead of throwing a fit, we reward him with ONE Skittle. If he does something without complaining, he gets a Skittle. We haven't had to use Skittles in awhile, but recently we have started this system again due to some undesirable behavior on his part....but that's for another day.

As we were putting Ethan to bed, he became to "recite" the new rule out loud...."If I stay in my bed all night long, I get 5 Skittles when it is day." My husband then brought in an alarm clock......BRILLIANT!!! He told Ethan that when the alarm goes off, it would be day & he could get out of bed. LOVE IT!!!!

Everything worked pretty well. Ethan got up a few times before Corey & I actually went to be ourselves, so putting him back in his bed wasn't too bad. Most of the time, Ethan would ask us to lay with him but then fall immediately back to sleep.  In fact, I think he only woke up that one time to ask Daddy to snuggle. I think that is pretty good for our first night of trying.

However, Ethan was sooooo excited for those 5 Skittles that he woke up at 5:30am....and asking for them. I reminded him that his alarm hadn't gone off yet, but it didn't matter.....he was awake for the day.....and so was I.

Ironically, I was watching the show Up All Night on Hulu before I went to bed last night, and the couple on the show was having the same issue! Something they tried on there was putting something in the kiddo's bed that had Mommy & Daddy's scent on them. And since Ethan is very sensory driven, I figured that this would be a good idea! So tonight, Ethan's stuffed Cookie Monster & Elmo will be sporting a shirt from Corey & a shirt from me....just have to decide who each of us should be! HA!

So, we will see how this goes. I really want Ethan to have a good night of sleep, but Mommy & Daddy need sleep too! I will keep you all posted on how this goes....Skittles, alarm clock, scent covered stuffed animals & all. But you tell me.....Do I really look that tired???? Wait.....don't answer that. :0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


"Strength isn't something you have. It's something you find." ~Emma Smith

Recently, I was watching a film based on the life of Emma Smith. It was a very good movie, but something she said during the film stuck with me....so much so that I could hardly concentrate on the rest of the movie. Her daughter was commenting to her that she wished she was as strong as her (Emma Smith). Then, Emma said, "Strength isn't something you have. It's something you find."

As I reflected on this scene, I related so much to Emma. I am constantly being asked how I have so much patience with my child who has autism, how can you be so calm when he throws a tantrum, how can you be so happy all of the time, and so on. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I am asked questions like this almost daily by people in my life. In fact, last weekend my husband & I were fortunate enough to have a date including a meal alone! Our waitress commented to my husband that our home must be full of laughter because I was such a cheerful person. OH...you should have seen the look my husband gave her! It was priceless!!!

But I have to say....I am NOT cheerful all the time or have endless amounts of patience with my child or 24 hours of energy to play flash cards with my kiddo, but I have noticed that since we have discovered Ethan has autism.....I have found an inner strength that I never knew was inside me. I have just called it Courage....but some have called it Determination, Drive, and even Dedication. And I would NEVER have used these words to describe me....EVER! But now that so many people have commented to me about this, I have taken stock in who I am. Maybe it's because I'm now in my 30s and becoming more "self-aware" so to speak, but I guess I AM stronger than I thought I was. But Emma Smith was right. I found it.

And I think every parent, especially those with children who have special needs, comes to a "fight or flight" point in their parenting. For me, it was definitely once I realized that Ethan was developmentally delayed....which was well before his actual ASD diagnosis. I mentioned once before that I felt like my child was trapped inside a burning building, and it was my responsibility to go in & get him out. And that was where I found my strength. In that moment, I summoned all I had and prayed to God to help me with what I knew I was lacking......and every day I do this again & again. Each day God reminds me that I was chosen to be this child's mother for a reason, and I feel responsible to my Lord for my parenting decisions & my daily choices. And He helps me every inch of the way. 

So, yeah, having a child with autism is not the easiest road. But our entire family has grown in our faith & character so much...not just me. I count this as yet another blessing of being Ethan's mama. He has taught me so much about love & perseverance. I look at him, and I can't help but advocate for him! To be his biggest cheerleader & help him in anyway I can! If that means calling up total strangers, knocking down doors, risking not be liked, filling out TONS of paperwork, going to conferences, and paying a bunch of money for things that will help Ethan....YOU BETTER BELIEVE THAT I'M GONNA DO IT! And people, you should see the difference in Ethan. There are no words to describe it. The last several years of ups & downs, of joy & frustration, of lost & found.....it is ALL BEEN WORTH IT TO SEE HOW IT HAS HELPED ETHAN!!!! He is such a different child than he was even MONTHS ago! His struggles & frustrations seem to be shrinking every day! IT IS A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!!! 

So, I can see what Emma Smith was talking about when she said that strength is something you find because I found mine when I needed to help my child. But, I think some people ARE born with an inner strength because I have seen it in Ethan from the moment he was born. He is truly amazing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

More GI Investigation.....

Well, it's no surprise, really. After having Ethan be referred to a GI specialist and being told that we may want to try a gluten free diet with Ethan, I was very overwhelmed & not quite sure what to do next. But because I feel such urgency to help Ethan get his (now 6 weeks) diarrhea under control, I have been to my favorite grocery stores & bought almost every single item that was gluten free.

The pluses have been that there really are a LOT of things out there that are gluten free. My favorite so far was found at Walmart....gluten free cereal bars. Ethan LOVES cereal bars so this was an immediate YES for us!

We have been making subtle changes, but we haven't made it to completely off gluten just yet. But I keep hearing that this takes time & trial/error.....so I'm giving us a break & just doing what we know we can do at the moment. Ethan seems to really like the waffle/pancake mix as well as some gluten free frozen french toast sticks. We learned that Rice Krispie cereal and Trix are gluten free, and Ethan is really liking rice krispie treats! Tonight we are going to try spaghetti with gluten free spaghetti noodles. So....we are trying, but we are still learning. Our biggest hurdles will be.....chicken nuggets, PopTarts, Chef Boyardee products, and pizza. But I've gotten a few hints & tips on these as well....just all in good time. We are so lucky that bacon,  popcorn and fruit snacks are gluten free!!!! Those are DAILY foods for our Ethan!

Although we have a long road ahead of us in the gluten free genre, I still want to continue in case our GI doctor tells us to do so at our appointment in a couple of weeks. This way, we will be ahead of the game, so to speak. However, we tried something......

Recently, I discovered that I have seasonal allergies.....to the point of taking a daily medicine for it. But this is not my long story...this is about Ethan. Through my own discovery of this, we realized that Ethan has similar issues with allergies. So, recently we put him on a generic version of Zyrtec. We tried once before to take Ethan off of this medicine to see if it helped his bathroom issues, but it did not work. So, we scratched that off as the cause. However, we do remember the pediatrician mentioning that a bug was going around during the same time that we took Ethan off of his allergy medicine. So.....we decided to try it again. However, instead of taking Ethan off allergy medicine completely, we would just switch to a different brand. We decided to try Clariten. Well.....Ethan's bowels got better! Not completely but enough of an improvement for us to further investigate this avenue. He wasn't on the Clariten very long because it wasn't helping his allergy issues AT ALL, so we went back to his former medicine.....just at a lower dosage.

So, what we have now is a slight stuffy nose & slightly running number two.....ugh. But, Ethan not suffering with allergies issues during the night, and he is making it to the bathroom, so we are hoping this helps until we can get some further information. Well, last week, I mentioned this to some of the moms at Easter Seals, and one of them told me that they experienced similar issues with their kiddo. Their child is now on a prescription form of allergy medicine, and he no longer has issues in the other area! YEAH!

Well....this momma just got off the phone with the pediatrician's office with this new news......so we will see what happens next. We have been dealing with this pretty much since the beginning of the school year, and I would really like to have this settled & be done with it. We have still kept our appointment at the end of the month with the GI, but I'm really hoping that it is a side effect of his medicine, and not something else. I would really like for SOMETHING to be a simple fix!!!! Fingers crossed & prayers lifted!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Condensed Weekly Schedule

I talk & post a lot about visual aids. They help our family in so many ways. However, I remember hearing at one of our conferences (sorry I can't remember which one) that visual aids are a supreme resource for kiddos on the Autism Spectrum, but our goal is to eventually have them be able to cope without it. Now, I know of some people, myself included, who would be LOST without certain visual aids. My watch, my calendar, my weather app on my phone, and my many lists. Without these few visual aids, my days would be more frazzled than they already are!!!! So, Ethan needing visual aids to reduce his anxiety.....I totally get that.

But since I post about his visual aids often, I also wanted to point out that we don't still use many of them. Once Ethan has understood the concept or schedule or whatever we are trying to teach him, we notice that he will do a couple of things. First, he will use the visual aid more as a "that's what I'm supposed to do" or "I'm having fun with this game" instead of using it to actually learn. We can tell he is doing this because he isn't really looking at the visual aid but instead is "going through the motions" without even really looking at the tool. Second, he will begin to use the aid in this same way but more randomly. Some days he will look at it, other days he won't. Eventually, we realize it has been weeks since he has needed the resource to calm his anxiety.

For instance, at the beginning of the school year, we had these visual aids to help Ethan understand what his school schedule was to be like...for more on these visual aids, you can find the original post here.

However, now these things have disappeared. I have been able to condense it all to one page.

He has also started looking at my write on/ wipe off calendar that I keep on our refrigerator. And just before bed each night, Ethan will ask me what we are doing tomorrow. I try to keep it less than 5 words....for instance, on Wednesday will will do "Easter Seals, School, Home, Church." I could easily add images onto our visual organizer if I need to but because Ethan is so word/text driven, pictures seem to be unnecessary for him.

Here are a few other links to visual aids that we have used in the past....that we no longer use.

However, the challenge is that, even though Ethan has outgrown many of his past visual aids, the need for new ones will soon come again. And that is always the challenge with parenting all children....staying one step ahead of them!