"Asperger's is merely Angel speak for "blessing".
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
If you have a child with sensitivity issues, I think you may find this review, posted on one of my other blogs, to be helpful.
Tallen is such a beautifully confusing puzzle. As he tends to keep to himself and doesn't even understand the concept of bragging, we have barely tapped into all the wonderful knowledge that is inside his mind.
Just last week, he walked by me, quietly singing a song that I have never heard. When I stopped him and asked him to sing louder, I realized that it was a song composed of the names of countries. I have no idea whether he made up this song himself, or if he heard it somewhere. It wouldn't be unusual for him to hear it only once and be able to memorize it instantly.
The other day, he was playing a computer game that required him to fill in the missing letters from words. Each word had a picture of the item above it on the screen. We weren't surprised that he was getting all of them right. Then came the word "satchel". We were certain that he probably wouldn't get that one as, even though he has probably seen bags that were like satchels, he has never heard them called that. Imagine our surprise when he filled in the missing letter and said, "satchel". His sister asked him, "Tallen, how do you know what a satchel is." He shrugged and smiled, "That's easy! It's just something you carry stuff in." Typical of his disorder, he did not understand that she actually wanted to know where he had learned the word and not what the bag was used for. lol
For a couple of months now, he has spent a lot of time on YouTube, watching videos of guys showing how to transform different Transformers toys into robots. We found this especially perplexing, since he does not and never has owned a Transformer. He has become a fixture, sitting in front of the computer, listening to these guys mumble instructions in barely audible voices, as they work their magic. He was thrilled when, on Thanksgiving Day, a relative gave him a Transformer. He positively beamed! "This is mine? You got me a Transformers airplane?" Once he was certain that it was for sure his, he asked for the instructions and set to work. It was so funny! He mumbled as he worked, telling step by step what he was doing, just like those guys on YouTube. Then I heard him say, "Soon, I will have my video ready to upload to YouTube!" We had to laugh at that one...
Monday, November 9, 2009
I just feel so inadequate sometimes. Never really sure if I am handling Tallen the right way. The way that will mold him into a person that will have a good life as an adult.
I have always been a firm believer that I should never, ever, feel or act ashamed of Tallen. His little quirks are what make him so unique. His siblings are the same way when it comes to him. If he burst into song in the middle of the grocery store, we do as well. If he feels compelled to read the nutritional information on seven different brands of pickles, we wait until he is satisfied with what he has read and is ready to move on. This isn't always the most convenient way to handle his impulses, but I have always thought that it was best, as these truly seem to be things that he simply cannot control.
But then I wonder about where I should draw the line. I mean, what can he really control? When I explain to him a zillion times that if he removes the ball from his Track Ball mouse and loses it, he will just have to suffer and go without using his computer till he locates it, it never sinks in. He endures hours with no computer in complete misery, until we finally locate the ball and replace it. Yet, sure as the sun rises, a couple of day or so later, he'll take out that ball and lose it again. He does it so often that I have to wonder if maybe he just does not have the capacity to understand consequences. Which leads me to ponder that if he has no concept of consequences, what purpose would punishing him for things ever serve? I would never want to send him to his room and give him time out for something that he truly has no control over. But then, I don't want him to be twenty years old, thinking it is OK to remove all the keys from a laptop because one of them "looked crooked". Things like that could lead to huge problems in a work environment. The sad fact is that someday, he may be alone in this world, without the rest of us around to fix things for him and to explain his actions to others.
I also consider that a lot of this may just be due to the fact that he is still very young. Sometimes, my brain tricks me into forgetting just how young he really is. That isn't so hard to do with a boy that is able to have detailed discussions with you about the ingredients of rocket fuel and can tell you anything you ever wanted to know about Space and Africa and a zillion other things. It's easy to forget that he's just a little kid. Maybe some of the mischief he gets into would be typical of any 6 year old boy. My only other son is now 20, so I have a hard time recalling how he acted when he was this age.
I only know that I am just a regular mom that is using trial and error to help her child. I pray for as few errors as possible. I am sure of the fact that many of the things I have done, just by using my intuition, has helped Tallen immensely. But some days I hit a wall and am not sure of which direction to turn. I guess I just need to have a little faith in myself...
Friday, October 30, 2009
Aren't these cards adorable?! Gateway-Longview's Christmas card campaign "Gateway Greetings" is in full swing and the cards above are available for purchase with all the proceeds to benefit the at-risk children in their programs.
Gateway-Longview, in Buffalo, NY, is one of the largest not-for-profit, child and family service agencies in Western New York that provides care, counseling and support to over 850 at-risk children, youth and their families in our community. The agency was founded in 1890 and provides community support through programs such as foster care, adoption, therapeutic education services, residential programs and therapeutic visitation.
Won't you consider buying one or more packs to help them out? Why spend the money at the big stores when you can buy these cards knowing the money will help kids in need? You can place an order by following THIS LINK.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
1. For months, whenever someone mentioned that Tallen would would be turning six soon, he would either go into an hour long crying session or turn really pale and look almost frightened and then walk away without a word. I held out hope that, once the big day actually arrived, he would get so engrossed in the festivities that he would forget his fears about turning six.
2.For the past week, he has been telling me that Tuesday would just be a normal day, no birthday. So I had scaled back any plans for a large party. I had reduced the guest list to just my husband and me, his sisters, and his favorite aunt. I still had plans to make him a cake that looked like a hamburger, as he Googles pictures of them all the time. I called and reminded everyone that that shouldn't make any references to him about a birthday or turning six. I also reminded them not to sing happy birthday at the "No Birthday" party, so they wouldn't set him off. He hates that song at anyone's birthday party and covers his ears and cries.
3. On Monday, I had Renni sneak over the Play-Doh Burger Factory that I had bought for Tallen. He had talked and talked about this thing for days. I decided to give it to him a day early and make no mention of it being a present. Hubs hid it under his jacket and called Tallen into the room. He gave him the bag and, when Tallen peeked inside, he was speechless. He took it straight to his room, read the instructions, and assembled it quickly. I had to giggle about the fact that he can actually read instructions.
He was so precious! When I walked into his room, he said, "Welcome to my burger restaurant!" Then he pointed to the empty box, that had been tossed to the floor in his haste, and asked, "Who got this for me?" I said, " Daddy and I did." He said, "But it not a birthday present, right? It's just an everyday present." I nodded and said, "Exactly."
He played and played and played with the burger factory. Each of us pretending to be his customers. He had to order Ross out of his restaurant, as she insisted on trying to eat the burgers! LOL I have to tell you, it was 3 A.M. before he actually stopped playing with it. I thought I would die, when I walked into his room. It looked like Walt Disney had barfed in there! Little colorful pieces of Play-Doh were scattered about. He sat staring at the mess, exhausted. I nearly peed my pants laughing, when he turned his tired little face to me and said, " Mama, I was just kidding about wanting the Play-Doh burger factory. I really wanted the Play-Doh Spaghetti Factory! You need to box this back up and give it back to Wal-mart."
4. Yesterday morning, Tallen awoke and made his way into the kitchen, where I was busy making last minute preparations. Like removing crayon marks from the picture window, fingerprints from the microwave, and mopping the floor. "Would you like some sausage, eggs, and gravy?" I asked. I had made his favorite breakfast earlier and had it waiting for him. "Yes!", he said, eyes sparkling. As he sat there eating, looking so happy, my hopes were lifted. I took a deep breath, "Happy Birthday! You're six years old today!"
His face went pale and he dropped his fork to his plate. "No!" He jumped up, placed his hands over his ears, and started running back and forth across the kitchen. He acted like I had played some evil trick on him. "Why are you cleaning the floor?!" Because it is filthy, Tallen." He realized that all this hurried cleaning probably meant a party. "I like the floor dirty!" He knocked his plate to the floor. Percy was thrilled by this and happily ran over to eat Tallen's breakfast.
"I want everything back like it was! This day is over! I am not six years old! I am five years old!" He was sobbing real tears. it was heartbreaking to see him so upset and almost frightened. "Tallen, why don't you want to turn six. Lot's of kids are perfectly happy being six years old. Now you are old enough to ride a bigger bike and go hunting with Daddy." I had bent down on one knee, so I could look him in the eyes. I had my hand on his arm, trying to soothe him. "They are not happy! Now, no more questions!" He pulled away from me and stomped out of the room.
5. The "new" plan was that I would just make a simple sheet cake with no writing or candles. Renni would bring over pizzas and ice cream. She would give him the bike that she had bought him. Later, Tallen would go "hunting" with his dad. Hubs had arranged to have a friend go with him, to help wrangle Tallen. They would take the dogs in the woods and let Tallen see a coon up in a tree.
6. Tallen had calmed down a bit, when Cina and Selly came in from school. Before I could warn her, Cina shouted out, "Happy Birthday, Tallen! I brought you a present!" She held up a honey bun that she had gotten from the snack machine at school. Even though he loves these, he ran away, crying that he did not want it and telling her to eat it herself. She followed him and convinced him that she had been mistaken, that it wasn't a birthday honey bun, but just the regular kind. He gladly ate it then.
7. His dad came home and called him over to him. "Tonight's the big night! You are finally big enough to go hunting with Daddy!" A look of horror washed over his face, "No I'm not! Take Ross with you!" I could see that Hub's feelings were hurt, as Tallen had begged to go with him for so long and this was not the expected reaction.
8. Renni arrived with the pizzas and we laid out the table with all the food. Everyone sat down, except for Tallen. Ross, in her booster seat, started cramming in pizza, oblivious to the tension in the air. She happily chowed down, without saying another word, for the next hour. We were amazed at how much pizza that tiny girl could hold. She finally stopped and ate an ice cream cone. then went right back to eating pizza! Tallen refused to sit down, but did take some pizza and bread sticks to his room.The whole time we were eating, Tallen kept slowly pacing by the dining room door. He stopped a few times to say, "I hate you. I hate you all." He didn't shout this, he said it in a very monotone voice.
9. Renni took Tallen outside to present him with his new bike. The minute he saw it in the back of the blazer, he started walking back toward the house. " Oh No! Take that right back where you got it!" She took it out of the Blazer anyway and I saw a little smile come over his lips for a brief second. I thought maybe we had finally won him over. But just a quickly, he remembered that he was getting the bike because he was turning six and said he did not want it. I told him that he was being very rude and demanded that he walk back over to us. He let Renni put him on the bike and push him around the driveway a few times. As soon as our tenant pulled in and Renni was busy talking to him, Tallen hurried back into the house.
10. I am so confused at this point. I am just absolutely at a loss as to why he is reacting this way. He is completely willing to pass up gifts that he would normally adore, in order to avoid turning six. It creeps me out to a point that I have to ask myself if maybe he knows something that we don't. Maybe there is some merit behind his impending sense of doom. Then I snap back to reality and just chalk it up to the unpredictability of Asperger's I am praying that when he gets out of bed today, he will be back to normal and want to play with his new bike and go hunting with his daddy.
Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I prayed to God,
“Can you please spare
A little boy with golden hair?
One that looks a lot like me?
That’s just right for our family?
With his big sister’s gift of song,
A smile that just won’t quit,
And his big brother’s love of art,
He’ll be a perfect fit!
Make him wise beyond his years,
Adored by those he knows.
And so he’ll stand above the crowd,
Please put him on his toes!”
God listened to this mother’s prayer
And made my dreams come true.
Six years ago, on this very day,
He blessed me with you!
© 2009 SRF-TGR
I love you, my precious boy. Thank you for taking my once average life and making it an amazing adventure!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
At the end of this month, Tallen will turn six years old. Average kids tend to get excited about birthdays. Tallen has never been like that. His first couple of birthdays, there was really no reaction to the party, cake, or gifts, whatsoever. By his third birthday, he went into a screaming fit, hands clamped over his ears, when everyone began singing Happy Birthday. He would do this at other peoples' birthday parties as well. Of course, so many people singing the song at once was an assault on his sensitive ears. So, we stopped singing it on his birthday and quietly "whisper sing" it, behind Tallen's back, to other family members on their birthdays.
On his fourth birthday, I had Tallen dressed up so handsomely in a new outfit. Ten minutes into the party, he had already stripped down to his underwear LOL He absolutely hated wearing clothes back then. All the guests were aware of Tallen's Asperger's and just laughed off their initial shock and the party went wonderfully. Later that night however, I awoke to Tallen screaming, "Fire, Mama! Fire!". I stumbled through the house, absolutely terrified! When I found Tallen, he was sitting in the floor, playing with a new truck he had received for his birthday, pointing to the flame decals on the side and screaming , "Fire!" LOL I must have nine lives, as he has given me many scares like this.
His fifth birthday went off without a hitch. We had a shrimp dinner (his favorite) and cake and ice cream, and nobody sang "the song".
This year, I can feel trouble brewing. A couple of months ago, Tallen's older sister reminded him that he would soon be six years old and would then be a big boy. He ran from the room crying and was out of sorts for many hours after. He finally said, " I don't want to be six years old! Then I'll be a big boy forever!" He is very sensitive about being called anything but a boy. He doesn't want to be a big boy. He even refuses to wear the Super Man PJs that his aunt gave him. When I asked him why, he said, "Because I am NOT a man. LOL Whenever I ask what sort of cake he might want for his party or similar questions, he falls silent and walks out of the room. I feel so sad for him, that he is so troubled. I am even wondering if, to spare him the trauma, maybe we should just not even make a big deal out of his birthday. Then I have visions of his calling me out on Dr. Phil, twenty years from now, because I didn't celebrate his sixth birthday. LOL
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Hubs is out of town. So yesterday evening, I parked myself in his usual spot on the sofa, propped up my feet, and was enjoying having control of the TV remote. I had just made a cup of coffee and it was sitting on the end table, by the sofa. After setting the TV to a channel I would enjoy, I turned to pick up my coffee. Tallen was standing by the end table, smiling at me. This alone, made me a tad paranoid. I noticed the contents of my cup sloshing back and forth a little, like maybe the cup had just been sat down.
"Tallen?", I asked. " Did you pour something into my coffee?"
"No.", He replied calmly, still smiling. "Your coffee tastes fine, I didn't pour anything in there."
Thinking that perhaps he had merely bumped into the table, causing the ripples I had seen, I picked up my cup and proceeded to take a few sips. That's when Tallen whips his hands from behind his back. One contains a towel, the other contains his little wind-up Thomas the Tank Engine. The same Thomas the Tank Engine that I have found in the floor many times, that I am positive I have seen in the dogs mouth, that Tallen loves "driving" through the dirt, that, as I recall, I even had to rescue from the toilet once. That one!
I was still trying to decode the reasons for the items in his hands, when he proudly announced,
"I didn't pour anything into your coffee, Mama. But I did wash my train and now he is all sparkly clean! I just need to finish drying him off."
"Washed? Tallen, did you put that toy into my coffee?"
"Yes, Mama. He needed a hot bath."
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I have hesitated to ever mention this to anyone but friends and family. I'm not sure why. Maybe afraid that others would think I was crazy or seeing something that just isn't there. But the fact is, it is there. I see it quite frequently and now I feel compelled to ask others if they have noticed it as well.
The "it" I speak of is the very defined, beautiful, almost as if they were drawn on, eyebrows of children with Asperger's. I have also noticed this feature in children that are said to have High Functioning Autism. It is also apparant in adults with Asperger's but sometimes, I guess because of age or grooming, it isn't there. This may be something, this may be nothing. But it is definitely there. Have any of you noticed this feature? At this point, I dare say that I could almost pick a child with Asperger's from a lineup, just by looking at his brows.
At first I thought that this was just a coincidence, but I see it more and more. A child with Down's Syndrome has very distinct features i.e. almond shaped eyes. What if children with Asperger's also have a telling feature? Maybe this could lead to earlier diagnosis... I dunno. Just a thought.
I was awakened this morning by what sounded like a herd of wildebeests stomping through my home. Mind you, this was at 4:00 A.M. The sound is coming from the kitchen STOMP STOMP STOMP. I swear, the window glasses were rattling! I find Tallen, with much glee, jumping and stomping as hard as he could go. "Tallen!" I said, "You have to stop that, everyone else is trying to sleep.!" Without stopping, he breathlessly replied, "I can't help it Mom. I hear Irish Music. Lots and lots of Irish music!" There was no music playing. But anyway, how precious is that? That got him the very stern punishment of a hug and a kiss on the forehead....
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I am really struggling with something, as of late...
I would love to begin attending a real church with my family. I know that when even 2 people come together and discuss the Lord, that should be considered gathering in worship. But, I would love for the kids to attend Sunday school. I would love to sing in the choir. I would just love the feeling of having a church "family". But, because of Tallen, I am afraid to go.
I have the normal worries of him maybe disrupting the service, especially when there is singing etc..., as that is an assualt on his ears. But that isn't even my biggest worry, I stopped giving much regard to what people think ages ago. My worry is that it will scare Tallen. He takes everything so literally. I remember being about four years old and a guest preacher at our church put on a real "Hell fire and brim stone" sermon, screaming to the congregation that Jesus was coming to take us all home. I had nightmares for weeks because the last thing I wanted was for anyone to come take me away from my home.
I know that Tallen will internalize everything that he hears at church and will probably be scared silly. Like when someone told him he sure was growing up and he stressed for weeks, thinking he was growing too big for the house etc... I just don't know what to do...
Sunday, July 5, 2009
You can read this book on the web. There is also information as to where you can purchase the hard copy.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Head over to SITS to enter an awesome contest! Lots of great prizes, including a bounce house! One of the entry requirements is to go to www.fishfulthinking.com and create your own storybook. By doing this, you will also be in the running for a 10,000.00 Scholarship for your child!
HERE is the link to my storybook. I had no idea what I would write about, when going there, a few minutes ago. But, somehow, the words just seemed to flow. I don't think it is exactly what they had in mind. But, oh well, Tallen has to use some form of "Fishful Thinking" everyday. Please let me know what you think of my storybook and if you want, make your own.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
We are used to this quirk and just take care in how we say things around him but someone, probably a person that he saw when he was out with his dad the other day, told him that he sure was growing up fast. Now, he is convinced and worried that he is growing taller, fast. As in, soon he will be too tall for the house. He spends countless minutes during the day, discussing this with me. Where will he go when he busts out of this house? Does he need to build a new house, so we will have somewhere to go? Can I take him shopping for building supplies? On and on and on... The normal explanation of how he will only grow so much and then stop when he is an adult, does not register with him.
Out of frustration the other day, the girls and I gathered in a circle with him, held hands, and chanted, "You are shrinking! You are shrinking! You are shrinking!". This did the trick for a few hours. Now, every few hours, he turns up by my side and asks me to please shrink him again, as he feels like he is growing. I perform my magic chant and he breathes a sigh of relief. If one takes a moment and thinks of how many things we say without a second thought each day and imagines them in a literal sense, it is easy to see how scary this world must be for Tallen and others like him.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I say "obsession" for lack of a better term. Obsession, preoccupation, fixation, what ever the term, Tallen has went through different cycles of this since he was born. He will fixate on one or two things and that is all he wants to talk about or look at and it all he wants to hear about.
Before a year old, it was letter, numbers, shapes, and colors. He didn't necessarily show a reaction when seeing or hearing these things, other than the fact that they calmed him and he would stop whatever he was doing and focus his attention. Next, it was stars and planets. Then memorizing web addresses and phone numbers from T.V.. Later it was cars, then clay, then the alphabet in different languages, then cooking. Now it is dominoes.
I heard many suggestions from people who were supposed to know more than me, that I shouldn't encourage his obsessions but rather, I should try to move his focus onto something else. I asked myself. "Why?". I tried to put myself in his position. I thought back to the times that I couldn't sleep because I had a poem in my head, or a song, or a beadwork design, and how I couldn't sleep until I got out of bed and put it down on paper. Remembering that with Asperger's and similar disorders, things are magnified, I reasoned that it would just take him longer to to get something "out of his head" than it would the average person. I could fight it ot I could feed it. I have always chosen the latter. Even early on , when I knew something was wrong but had no idea what it was.
As a baby, I surrounded him with all the letters and numbers and shapes and colors that his little heart desired. He never tired of looking at them. I bought him the entire alphabet and number set, with extra animal shapes, in those foam floor tiles.He knew where each and every one of the pieces were and knew instantly if one was missing, frantically searching till he found it. Of course, he never left them on the floor where they belonged, he carried them around like teddy bears. So what if people gave us funny looks because out toddler was toting a giant, green, foam letter "Q" (his favorite) everywhere! So what if they stared because he would squeal and laugh and clap when I rolled him past the check out lines at Wal-mart, over and over, letting him count, because it absolutely thrilled him to see the numbers at each register. Guess what? Eventually, he left the letters behind and moved on to something else. I assume the letter thing was part of learning to read.Once he could read ( taught himself), he calmed down a lot with the letter obsession.
With each new obsession, I have put out the word to family and friends and they are happy to keep their eye out for items to help me"feed" it. I can't explain why but I am sure that, for whatever reason, his brain needs these things. And only after he quenches his thirst for this or that, is he able to carry on with other things. I will soon be passing down his letters to his sister. In a few days, I will be packing away over 200 ( probably closer to 300) Matchbox cars. I didn't buy all of those LOL A friend who had heard about his car obsession dug out an huge bin full of them from storage and gave them to Tallen. Those, plus others that were given to him one at a time, made for a huge collection.
If I can't afford to buy what he is craving, I look it up online and let him read and see lots of pictures of whatever it is. Or, I do my best to make it at home. Cooking was an easy one. Clay was easy as well. He really enjoyed making the homemade clay and adding his own colors. I also found him lots of videos online of how claymation was done etc... It can get hectic at times but I have an easier time dealing with it if I just remind myself that this is a need for him and not just a want. These days, it is dominoes. He loves lining them up in different formations and then letting them fall. We have been buying him a few here and there , as we can afford it and other folks are giving him some as well. He loves watching youtube videos of dominoes! Just like all the others, I know this fixation will pass with time. Till then, I'll be right here, on the floor with him, clapping and cheering, each time he makes a new design and knocks it down. His smile is so worth it!
Friday, March 6, 2009
This is a freeware. I downloaded this ages ago and have to say that I would be willing to pay for it, it's that awesome! But, to find it for free was a real blessing. Tallen loves this program. You can even create your own word list for the Hangman game!
From the site:
It's never too early for your child to become familiar with letters and numbers. Sebran's ABC's colorful pictures, pleasant music, and gentle games teach letters, numbers, simple math, and rudiments of reading.
The program teaches using either Afrikaans, Bahasa Indonesian, Breton, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Samoan, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Turkish, Swahili or Swedish (in Swedish, the droll zebra gracing the main screen is called "sebran").
The six simpler exercises display four possible answers. Choose the right one and it becomes a smile; an error gets a frown and a chance to try again. The How Many? counting game introduces the numbers from 1 to 9. These are used in the Add, Subtract, and Multiply matching games, which each function at two levels of difficulty. In Pick A Picture, one of four pictures matches a word; First Letter offers four possible letters completing a word. Your child can employ the skills gained in these exercises to play Memory, Word Memory, or Hangman. Finally, the ABC Rain, Letter Rain, and 1+2 Rain games help train little fingers in using the keyboard.
Sebran's ABC is freeware.
This is an excellent interactive site for children and preschoolers! No reading needed to navigate. If your child can work a mouse, they'll easily have a ball here.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
The one incident that is forever burned in all of our minds, happened when Tallen was 3 years old, after he had finally started talking to all of us. Hubs, myself, and all of the other kids, including Renni, were sitting in the living room. Tallen came out of his room carrying a Lego structure he had just made. It was made up of 2 tall, nearly identical structures, both with holes near the top, and sitting side-by-side on the same base. He handed it to me and said, "I made towers." I handed the piece to my husband and said, " Look, Daddy, Tallen made buildings!" My husband said, " Goodness, look at these skyscrapers. You did a good job!" Tallen seemed annoyed and took the piece from his father's hand, put it back in my hand, and said, "I did not make skyscrapers! They're towers! What he said next left left all of us silent and covered in goosebumps... "There is a fire. I can't move.(He placed his hand on his his forehead) My head hurts. I am covered in red applesauce. Help me!" I don't even have to tell you what horrible day this made all of us flash back to...
He used to talk to an unseen man named George. Often he would laugh hysterically at something/someone we could not see. Almost like someone were there in front of him making silly faces or something. He hasn't mentioned George for a long time now.
Another strange thing he does... Renni ( his adult sister) owns 2 cars. A white one and a green one. More times than I can even count, he has pulled a chair to the picture window in the dining room and stood in it, staring up the driveway. When I ask what he is doing, he will either say, "Renni is coming in the white car." or "Renni is coming in the green car." I used to go over and look out the window myself and tell him that no, Renni was not coming down the driveway or that his sister was off doing this or that and wouldn't be visiting that day. But it never failed, if he said she was coming in a certain car, about 10 minutes later, Renni would show up, in the car he had predicted. These days, if he tells me someone is on their way, I listen...
If you have a special needs child and have experienced similar events, I would love to hear from you. Even if you don't have a child with special needs, I would love to hear your take on this.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
An amazing site, dedicated to special needs children and their families.
Please take time to check it out and you can also win some great prizes during the Kick-Off party! Just follow the link above and read the instructions for entering.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
These days, Tallen calls all of us by our correct names. He does call me "Mama" and his father "Daddy", but you get my drift. Almost everyday, we stop to reflect on how different he was before his sister was born ( she is 20 months old ) and the amazing improvements he has made since then. Just 20 short months ago, he was still in his own little world for the most part. I think the first whole sentence he had spoken directly to any of us was on the day we returned from the hospital with his new sister. He didn't run to greet us, or even seem excited at our return. We had the bassinet in the living room and when we placed Ross inside, Tallen eased over and peeked inside. We nearly jumped out of our skin when he sprang into the air and shouted, " IT'S A BABY!" and he began to dance around the room. Then, just as suddenly, he fell silent, ran into our room and slammed the door. Ever so often, he would crack the door a bit, peek into the living room, spot the new baby, and slam the door closed again. I have always credited Ross in a way for the improvements in Tallen, it's like she changed the way he looked at things. Or maybe by seeing her be affectionate, he has learned to be affectionate, I'm not sure I can even put it in words, but she definitely made a difference...
Not long after her arrival, he began to give each of us "titles". He didn't call his father anything and usually never even acknowledged that he was in the room. He called me "Mama" but he also called his oldest sister, Renni, " Mama". However, after we had a cookout where he really mingled more with some of my relatives, he started to call my mother and Renni "Granny" and my older sister "Mama". He called his other 2 older sisters "Boy". He just called Ross "that baby". We started getting titles around the time we started insisting that he ask for what he wanted. He referred to himself in 3rd person. "Boy, give Tallen a cookie" or "Mama, take him potty."
I finally realized that he was "naming" people according to their size and likeness to each other. For example, Renni and I were a lot alike, so he called us both "Mama" but once he started noticing other people and I showed him my mother and told him she was "Granny", he saw that she and Renni were about the same height ( very short lol ), so he changed Renni's name to Granny. It was so funny, the looks we got at the store, when he would shout for Granny and Renni would come to him. My sister and I look a lot alike, so much that people confuse us for each other, so he called her "Mama". I am not sure why he called the other 2 girls "Boy, but I do know they both got the same label because they were so close in size at the time. We were so happy that he was addressing us at all, we tolerated the strange names for a while...
Soon we set to work to teach him who everyone was. For starters, we began calling each other by our correct names in front of him, every chance we got... "Cina, please pass the salt." or Selly, how was your day at school?" I had never given it much thought before then, but at home, around family that they see each and every day, people tend to just rely on the direction of their glance to let others know who they are addressing. But Tallen didn't pick up on little things like that, he avoided eye contact, so of course he wouldn't get a clue just by our looking at someone...
We also practiced a lot of, "Hello, my name's XXXX, what is your name?" with Tallen. Sometimes, we would intentionally give him the wrong name for ourselves, just so he could "correct" us. Just to help imprint it into his brain. Then we worked on getting him away from speaking in third person. We used a lot of time in the mirror for this. Teaching him that the boy in the mirror was him. Such as handing him a book while he stood in front of the mirror. " I'm giving you the book Tallen" then tapping the mirror, " see you have the book. That boy is you!" I'm not sure why it worked or how it worked, but feeling the book in his hand, even though it appeared that the boy in the mirror was receiving it, helped him make the connection that he was "himself". We also began to correct him gently when he spoke of himself in 3rd person. "Don't you mean to say, "I want a cookie?" etc...
Today, he calls us all and anyone who introduces themselves to him, by the correct name. He also now has a close relationship with his father and calls him "Daddy. He no longer speaks of himself in 3rd person. He does get a bit confused by "he" and "she" and sometimes mixes those up, but otherwise, those issues are history. It took a lot of hard work! But it did work and I am so thankful.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Tallen's progress is coming along so fast, I can barely keep up with it! To see it all on paper, you would never believe that the child that I present to you today, is the same child who was present 2 years, 1 year, or even 6 months ago.
Tallen was a screamer. Some days were worse than others, but every day was bad. If you have never lived with a child who's main form of communication is screaming, you cannot even begin to know what a mental assault this is on everyone else in the home. I really reached a point of thinking it might well send me to the mad house. I prayed, "God, I cannot take this anymore. Please, please, please, help me get through to him. Help him talk to me!" Sometimes, God answers prayers, not by fixing the problem, but by giving us the ideas, tools, and a little more patience, so we can fix them ourselves.
I realized that we just had to stop catering to him. Living with so many females and having special needs, had basically guaranteed his being coddled and babied. I realized one day that we weren't requiring him to ask us for anything. He would start his ear piercing screaming and we would all make a mad dash, trying to locate what he wanted. I explained to the girls that we must stop this and gave them suggestions on how to handle the screaming situations. For the next few weeks, (yes I said "WEEKS"!") whenever Tallen started screaming for something he wanted, we continued with the old routine of trying different things, until we found what he wanted. But, as we gave him the object, His blue truck for example, we would say, " Tallen, next time, just say,' I want my blue truck.' " We also made a point of letting him hear us asking each other for things in the proper way.
Eventually, we stopped responding to his screaming at us and only got him the object he wanted, when he used words to tell us. When we saw him "winding up" for a fit, we'd quickly ask, "What do you need, Tallen?"At first his answers were one word. If, for example, he asked for "milk". We would smile and reply, "Oh, You would like some milk! Thanks for using your words, Tallen!" I know this may seem sing-songy and dramatic. But it was really important for us to mirror back to him what he was asking for and to praise him for asking in a way that we could understand. At first, if it was safe for him to have and was on the premises, we gave him pretty much whatever he asked for. lol We were just so happy to finally have the communication with him. It was a long road and a lot of hard, repetitive work, but the screaming is a faint memory. Like any 5 year old, he has a tantrum on occasion. But, after what we have endured, a few screaming, stomping, fits every now and again are nothing...
He wasn't screaming to be mean. He really just needed to be taught how to communicate. I liken it to being dropped into a foreign country, where you don't speak the language, and can't make anyone understand what you're saying. Everyone must seem so distant and uncaring. But, once you learn the language, once you can make a connection, everyone one seems warmer a friendlier to you. I really think that must be how Tallen felt. He didn't enjoy these episodes anymore than the rest of us. But, even with his advanced vocabulary, which one would think should make communication easy for him, something in his brain just would not cooperate and let him talk to his own family. I didn't, still do not, and may never know just what that mysterious "something" is. The best I can do is work around it. Try to outsmart it and do my best to pull my son from it's grip.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Tallen is, and has been since his very first steps, a toe walker. When I voiced my concern about this to his doctor, when Tallen was about age 2, I was told not to worry, that as long as he was physically able to walk flat footed, everything was fine. Pardon me for being suspicious, but to me, my asking Tallen to walk flat footed and him complying by doing a duck/penguin like waddle across the floor, then going right back up on his toes, didn't seem fine at all. Although it isn't on all of the lists that I have seen, toe walking is absolutely a sign of Autism and when accompanied by other symptoms of Autism, should definitely raise a red flag.
For a long time, his toe walking took a backseat to working on other issues. But, over the last few months, we have really paid more attention to getting him off his tip toes. He has always seemed to respond very well to things spoken with a rhythm ( sing- song fashion) and music.
So, when trying to teach him something new, I first try putting them in poetry or musical form. He also loves marching. So one of the first exercises I developed was to walk past him while chanting, "Heel - Toe - Heel - Toe . That's the way that Mommy goes!" He couldn't help but follow... His curiosity got the best of him. Within minutes, he was following me all around the house and walking correctly!
Soon, I changed the words to include his name, instead of mine. Whenever any of us started chanting this poem, he would fall in behind and walk correctly. Otherwise, he remained on his toes. Soon, I made up a song for him to the tune of "Head, Shoulders. Knees, and Toes"...
Tallon's walking heel to toe!
Heel to toe!
Tallon's walking heel to toe!
Heel to toe oh oh oh!
He knows that's the way to go!
Tallon's walking heel to toe!
Heel to toe!
He absolutely loves marching to the song and positively beams when we are congratulate him for walking so nicely. Every day or so, one of the family marches and chants or sings with him. Well, this morning, he came walking through the house, walking flat footed, and chanting to himself, " Heel - Toe - Heel - Toe. That's the way that I should go." He did this on his own, without any prompting from us, even changing the words on his own!" I am so proud!
To help him even more, this summer I plan on putting down some paper outside and letting him and the girls step in finger paints and then walk across the paper. I know, once he sees that he doesn't have a full footprint, like his sisters, it will annoy him enough to walk the proper way. He really likes things to be perfect! I feel sure that walking on his flat feet must be just as hard for him as walking on my tip toes would be for me. But, with a lot of patience and practice, I think we can beat this!
Saturday, January 31, 2009
This might look like an ordinary baby picture to most, but it is so special to me. Why? Maybe I'm crazy, but I have always felt that it held a symbolic message. The message that no matter how combative, or irritable, or spaced out, my son ever seemed, underneath it all was a sweet, smiling, loving child. A message from a higher power that knows more than me and sees what I cannot. How does this picture say all of that? I'll tell you...
When Tallen was 11 weeks old, his father was going out of town to a meeting of a hunting club, where he is a board member. At the last minute, he asked me to take a picture of Tallen and print it out, so he would have a current photo to show all of his old friends. I sat Tallen in his swing and went to grab the camera. By the time I returned, he was whining, thrashing, twisting, making it no secret that he hated being in the swing seat. In a nutshell, he was very distraught. My husband was in such a hurry to leave that I had no choice but to take a picture of our crying baby to send with him. I said," Oh well, he is just a baby, after all. And babies cry. I'm sure your friends know that..." and I snapped the picture.
After seeing the results in the preview screen, we both stared at each other with very surprised faces. As you can see above, he does not appear to be upset, not even a little bit. Somehow, in what had to be a micro-second, I snapped this beautiful shot, even in the midst of a crying fit. A fit that was still in progress when we were viewing this amazing photo...
At the time, I thought it was just a lucky fluke. But I have come to understand that it was Tallen, sending me a sign of hope, that I didn't even realize I needed at that time, but one that has gotten me through some of our darkest hours...
"Mama, I'm in here. I'm a real little boy, with a real smile, real hugs, real kisses, real laughter. No matter what anyone says, I AM REAL and I AM IN HERE. And you Mama, it is up to you to see what others are blind too. Up to you to spot that fleeting glimmer of normalcy, in the midst of chaos, and grab me quick and hold on tight, lest I flutter away again. You can't ever give up. Yours is the hand I will hold, as I stumble through this darkness. And yours is the hand that will gently pull me into the sunlight. I love you, Mama."
Thank you, Tallen. What a beautiful message...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
From the very beginning, my son had an obvious problem with making connections with the other people in his life. We were there, he was there, but most attempts at any sort of meaningful interaction were futile. We would attempt to cuddle him, he would become stiff as a board. We would smile at him, he would scream back at us. Direct eye contact really annoyed him. He talked very early, but not to us. His conversations, when we could understand them, were a string of letters, or numbers, or shapes, or colors. No "Mama", or "Daddy" etc... Every day was just a routine of making sure he was clean, fed, and did not injure himself while maneuvering around on the tips of his toes.
His doctor, although a wonderful man, couldn't give us any answers. The best he could do was give us the speech about all kids being different, blah blah blah. Doctors have a tendency, especially when it comes to your children, to try and make you feel better about things. That was the case with ours. But I wasn't satisfied with the mental band aid he was trying to press onto me. I felt like grabbing him by the collar and shaking him and screaming, " What the hell do you know? You have only observed him for 15 minutes! We are with him 24-7 and we know that something is wrong with our child! I don't want to feel better! I want my son to be better!" Of course, I did not do that. But I did decide to let the doctor think what he liked. I also decided that I wasn't wasting any more time. It was left up to me to help my child.
Early on, we noticed that, although he treated us like flesh covered furniture, certain things on TV captured his attention. To begin with, it was a few commercials, like the People PC ad that was mostly black and white. Also, he was entranced by Lawyer ads, those cheesy ones that tell you to call if you have been injured etc... To this day, I don't know exactly why he found those so interesting. At any rate, I was jealous. What did that stupid TV have that his family did not? I could follow the standard "limited TV" way of thinking, or I could go with the flow and see what happened.
I decided to use it as a tool, not as a babysitter.This required watching the shows with him and noting his responses. I tried different shows, if something captured his interest, I did my best to mimic it here at home. If leaves got his attention, after the show, I would carry him outside and let him touch a real leaf and tell him, "leaf". The same with flowers, cooking, painting,writing, etc... I bought acrylic paints and painted tiny paw print "clues" all over the house. In effect, I had to bring things from the TV and make them part of his real world. It worked! Soon he was pointing to things here at home and telling me what they were.
When he was 2, we went out for Pizza, he pointed to the sign and said, "Pizza Hut". We assumed this because he had saw that logo on TV and heard it pronounced. I soon learned that he was actually reading. His memory was amazing, which worked to our advantage. On that note, I will add that another important part of this was the fact that I recorded the shows that he responded to and played them for him again and again. The repetition helped so much. I could see his face light up when he knew what was coming next in a show.
I also did this in reverse. I would look for shows on TV about things we did here at home. Cooking, Cleaning, Driving. It was important for him to see people on there doing things we did out here in the real world. Also, when he could see kids his size doing something, it helped teach him how he should be acting. How to get dressed, how to comb his hair, etc... Even playing games, I tried playing games with him a lot with no luck, but once he saw other children doing it, he made the association.
I am absolutely convinced that his TV viewing was a huge part of bringing him out of his shell. That and the fact that we didn't simply "park" him in front of it and leave him there to veg. We asked him questions about what he was seeing. He ignored us for ages but finally started answering. NOW he asks us questions about the shows he is watching. He is like a completely different child and everyday brings more improvement.
I taught him to use a mouse and keyboard at age 3 and he gradually moved from the TV to our computer. Finally, he was able to go to the web addresses he had memorized since age 2 lol These days, he doesn't even care for the TV much at all, except for a few favorite shows, and spends most of his fun time online, studying the Russian alphabet and clay-mation ( his 2 latest obsessions )and using the ASL browser to learn new words in Sign Language.
I also want to say that at one point, Tallen was completely absorbed in learning his letters,numbers,shapes,colors, and sign language. Now that he has mastered those things,the more social he become with us. I have realized now that he wasn't anti-social, he just had no room in his brain for socialization while he was obsessed with learning all that other stuff. Once he got that out of the way, he could relax and get to know his family. His brain finally had room to process emotional connections. I think all the educational shows he watched helped to speed up that process.
I can't comment on the effects of video games and we don't own any. But, at least in Tallen's case, TV was our friend.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
My pregnancy with Tallen was pretty normal. I already had 3 other children and I had also had a miscarriage that same year. The one thing that sticks out in my mind as unusual is the glucose tolerance test that my doctors insisted I take. I had never had to do this with my other pregnancies. As it turned out, I did have gestational diabetes, which I controlled with diet. I really took issue with this test because, from what I could understand, your system is positively overloaded with glucose in order to find out whether or not you body can process it. If it can, then fine, no harm, no foul. But what happens when it can't. What are the effects on the baby inside of you during this test? One of my main reasons for focusing on this test is the fact that, unlike some children on the spectrum who started out normal at birth and then had behavior changes and loss of speech etc... after receiving vaccines, Tallen was different from the very beginning. Different in ways that other people did not notice, but I did.
He slept very soundly. Nothing bothered him. Coughing, laughter, slamming doors, loud music, none of these startled him awake. But all of his hearing tests at birth were normal.
He had bad skin over his nose and and on his cheeks, just beneath his eyes. Not the usual little pimples that babies sometimes get after birth, but more like tiny, almost blackhead like, bumps. His pores there were enlarged as well.
He made this strange, humming, almost growling sound when he nursed or had a bottle. To this day, he makes that sound when he is eating a food that he loves. Almost like he slips away into some sort of trance. However, after years of coaching from all of us, I now hear him tell himself, " Just chew and swallow.", whenever he catches himself making the noise.
When trying to soothe him to sleep, he did not like the motion of the rocking chair, which was back and forth. He preferred to be rocked side- to- side, which is not easy on a tired mommy's arms...
While all my other babies had loved to be sang to, he preferred to be told stories or to have the ABC's or numbers repeated over and over. This lulled him to sleep.
He would go completely off the deep end if he had a BM and it wasn't removed from him within seconds. Even if we were only 5 minutes from home, we had to pull over and change his diaper.
While most babies love to be bundled up and swaddled, he hated it... The fewer clothes the better. His father was always insisting that he wasn't wearing enough clothes or underneath enough blankets. But whenever I tried, he would cry. Even when I was sure he must be cold at night and would put him in a fuzzy sleeper, he would begin to sweat. It always seemed like his temperature gauge was "off".
Needless to say, his first few weeks were a real adventure...