Autism and Physical Symtoms

A friend asked me the other day why Wyatt has Physical Therapy (PT) and Occupational Therapy? (OT) They thought the symptoms of Autism were more behavioral based and didn’t realize there are also physical symptoms associated with Autism. I thought this was a great question and decided to explain more in this blog.

In previous blogs, I have discussed Sensory Seeking behavior vs. Sensory Avoiding behavior and how it effects people with Autism. I want to preface by saying that I am only speaking on Wyatt’s symptoms, as each child is different and experiences different symptoms. Wyatt is Sensory Seeking and can be described as very physical yet clumsy. He loves to run into the couch and tackle his brother; the pressure against his body makes his body feel grounded. If he is having a meltdown or upset, squeezing him tightly thru hugging, will calm him down.

The Proprioceptive System helps children to locate their body in space. Wyatt has a difficult time locating his body in space. What the heck does that mean? Basically, he doesn’t like any activity where his feet aren’t touching the ground. He will not let you hang him upside down, won’t do a somersault, or ride a bike. All of these activities are items that are taught in OT and PT.

The Vestibular System is located in the inner ear and responds to movement and gravity and effects sense of balance, coordination, and eye movement. Wyatt has low core strength and physical activities that come easily to other children, have to be taught to kids with Autism. Hopping on one foot, running without leaning forward, and catching balls are all activities that need to be taught thru OT and PT therapy.

Have you heard of Crossing the Middle Line? I had never until this year. It is Bilateral Coordination and it is the ability to use both sides of the body together in a coordinated way. For example, there is a glass of wine on the table and a person would choose to use their dominant hand to pick up the glass of wine, regardless of where it is on the table. (My friends will appreciate my example) They would use it to reach in front of them or cross over the middle of their body to grab the glass of wine. Wyatt will not do that. He will use each hand evenly and never cross over the middle of his body, hence “Crossing the Middle Line.” When writing he will flip the paper around or move his body to make it more comfortable. This affects his core strength, trunk rotations, and fine motor skills. This can be worked on thru OT and PT.

We decided that gymnastics would be a great way for Wyatt to have fun and work on all of these physical symptoms caused by Autism. First of all, he LOVES it! For us it is a win, win because he is having fun and getting therapy at the same time. Normally, learning these activities and mastering them can take a lot of time. However after 3 weeks of gymnastics Wyatt accomplished something he never had before. We went to Pump It Up and in the 2nd playroom is the “big jump” and Wyatt never did it the 4 previous times we were there. I am happy to report that he finally made the leap last weekend and we couldn’t be more proud!

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There are other physical issues associated with Autism, like gut health and toxins but I will address that in another blog. The good news is one step at a time and one accomplishment at a time.

Thanks for reading and I would love it if you would share my blog.

xx

H

 

Explaining Autism

Explaining Autism can be difficult because every person with Autism is different. I found a fantastic video and wanted to share with my family, friends and teachers. Share this with your family members, teachers, and anyone who spends time with your loved one with Autism.

xx,

H

Lack of Empathy and Compassion

We have entered a world where people can post whatever the want on message boards, Facebook posts, and blogs without any accountability or consequence. We have entered a world where people judge other people and don’t have any empathy for the people they judge. When my son was diagnosed with Autism, we entered a world where my husband and I have been accused of being lazy parents, parents who don’t enforce rules, and whose child is out of control due to our lack of parenting.

We have entered a world when a little boy with Autism is having a meltdown due to sensory overload in a parking lot and somebody videotapes it and posts in on Facebook. We have entered a world where instead of showing empathy and compassion for the parent or child there are comments about the child being retarded, should be beaten, the parents shouldn’t procreate, the child shouldn’t be let out of the house, the child is spoiled, the child will be the guy who kills kids in a school shooting, or my favorite, the parents are lazy and have no parenting skills.

We have entered a world where there have been numerous times I have come home in tears because my son was having a meltdown and people judged me as a bad parent because they were uneducated as to what Autism is. It took me a few years to not give a shit and realize that my number one focus was my son and if they weren’t educated about Autism then that was on them. What is scary is that with all the Autism Awareness and education, there are still people who lack understanding, empathy, and compassion.

Please see the attached photos, which are actual comments that were posted below the video of a child with Autism having a meltdown. In the post it states that the child has Autism, yet the comments show no empathy and compassion. They blame the parents even though they have never meet them or understand their struggles.

Now imagine that your child has Autism and you are reading these posts.

We live in a world were children are cruel and bullies are abundant and we wonder why? We live in a world with hate and school shootings and we wonder why? We live in a world where children commit suicide and we wonder why? We live in a world where people who love people of the same gender are killed solely based on their sexual preferences and we wonder why? We live in a world where people will riot and hurt others based on their political preference and we wonder why?

Everybody has issues and nobody is perfect. Why do we all try so hard to present this perfect image? Aren’t we creating more problems and issues trying to keep our problems and issues quiet?

I ask that as you wake up each morning and try and live a life not judging others and teach your children as well. I want to live in a world were we teach our children they don’t have to be perfect; not the best at sports or school but they always try their hardest. I want to be part of a world that teaches empathy and compassion. I want to live in a world where if a parent is struggling, we step up and help. I want to live in a world where we support and encourage each other. Help each other thru struggles and challenges. I want to live in a world where before you are able to post a comment on a message board, Facebook post, or blog, you ask yourself if you would say the same thing to your mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, or son.

Just my random thoughts for the day.

xx H

Encouraging Positive Behavior

I am sure if you read my blog, you will see numerous posts that are titled, “Encouraging Positive Behavior” because it is truly the most important aspect in your parenting to avoid meltdowns and to give your children the tools they need to be successful in life. Remember, as a parent, you are your child’s coach; you’re coaching them thru life and helping them make good choices and avoid bad ones.

This last weekend we were at the park. I bring cars, buckets, bubbles and basically any highly desired toy and lay them all out in the sand where we are sitting. I do this to encourage kids to come over to my children and play. I am essentially forcing social interaction to help my kids to interact with other kids and promote positive play.

While I was sitting and playing with a bunch of kids, I am watching this little boy running around the playground with his mom following him around. She was catering to his every need and anytime something didn’t go his way, he started throwing a fit. His mom would then let him do whatever he wanted, so he would stop crying. At one point, he tried to steal a kids toy and when the kid started crying, he hit the boy. The mother looked horrified, however she didn’t force the child to apologize and there was no consequence for his behavior. She apologized to the child and parent and moved on.

A few minutes later the little boy came running over to our group and wanted to play. The mom looked overwhelmed and I offered the boy a seat next to me. We started talking and she was voicing her frustrating with her child’s behavior. I told her that my son has Autism and I have been trained in ABA therapy and would she mind if I used some of my methods to see what happens. She agreed and we started playing.

A couple of basic tools/rules that I used included the following:

  1. If you want to borrow a toy from someone else, you need to ask permission and say please. The other child can say yes or no, however if they say no, they have 5 minutes to play with that toy and then they give the toy to the child who asked to borrow it. By doing this, you are giving each child a choice, and the 5 minutes is consistent for every child so now they have an expectation of when they are getting the toy.
  2. Every time a child agrees to share a toy or gives up the toy at the 5 minute mark, you high five them and say, “I like that you shared your toy, what a great choice.” This is encouraging positive behavior and children love praise. They will repeat the behavior over and over to get positive praise from a parent.
  3. If a child doesn’t want to share or doesn’t give the toy up at the 5 minute mark, you simply tell the child, “What a bummer that you didn’t give the toy to Billy, hopefully you will make a better choice next time” and take the toy away. This will teach the child that by sharing their toy they get rewarded and by not sharing their toys, they do not get rewarded.

After about ten minutes we had 6 children all playing with the toys together and sharing with one another. We even had one child offer to share his car before anyone asked to borrow it, because he wanted positive praise.

I then told all the kids we had to go home and it was time to help us clean up. The mom started panicking and trying to calm him down before he had any reaction. She nervously said, “he will have a meltdown because he wants to take a car home.” I responded that he was going to have a meltdown because you just gave him permission to. I knew that this sounded a bit harsh, but I really wanted to help her, and she was asking for my help, so I felt that being straight forward and honest was the best way I could help her.

I distracted the child and told all of the kids it was time to cleanup and to please pick up the cars and put in my bag. As soon as the first child put a car in the bag, I loudly said, “what a great choice you made by putting the car in the bag, thank you” and gave a big high five. Like clockwork, the kids started lining up eagerly trying to put the cars in the bag, even her son. Soon we were all cleaned up, nobody was crying, and everyone had fun.

At the end of the day, she was very appreciative of the new tools she had learned and was excited to use them with her son. As parents, there isn’t a class on how to deal with our children’s different behaviors or personalities. We kind of fly by the seat of our pants, do a lot of research online, talk to our mom friends, and do the best job we can. I was so happy that I could share what I had learned and now she saw first hand that her son is capable of playing nicely with other children, she just needed the right tools as his coach to show him how to do it.

Differences between ADHD and Sensory Processing Issues

Great chart explaining the differences between ADHD and Sensory Processing Issues.

Tantrums vs. Meltdowns

A child with Autism, who is having a meltdown, is vastly different then a child having a tantrum. So why do they call it a tantrum? It is called lack of education and is very frustrating as a parent of a child with Autism when you call it a tantrum. . Let me explain the difference.

I am at the grocery store with my child and my son/daughter wants a piece of candy. I say no and he/she proceeds to roll on the ground screaming and crying and basically throwing a fit. This is called a tantrum. A tantrum is a child who isn’t getting what they want and will do anything to get your attention, usually negative, to get what he/she wants. This happens in ALL children, including those with Autism. This is a tantrum. It is something that the child has control over and the parent can address and ideally change the behavior.

A meltdown is completely different and something a child with Autism can’t control. A meltdown can occur from many different things including, lack of routine, transitioning to a different task or event, lack of speech, frustration, and sensory overload. A meltdown takes redirection, soothing, and other tactics to help calm the child down. It might take calming the child down enough to be able to help them communicate what they need because when they are having a meltdown, communicating comes to a halt. This takes patience and love.

My son with Autism has tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. He is 4 and this is very typical of toddlers. I ignore the tantrum and not give in to his demands. I do not react to negative attention so he realizes that this type of behavior doesn’t work and in the future makes a better choice. Usually when he does it in the grocery store, we get nasty looks and I laugh because if you have a child, you have been in my shoes.

However, if you give me a nasty look when my son is having a meltdown, you will get a different reaction from me. I want to scream, “he has Autism and is having a meltdown so what are you looking at!” However, I understand that they aren’t educated in the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown and they think that my child is just being a brat.

After you have read this blog I hope that you are well versed in the differences between a tantrum and a meltdown and can offer sympathy or help next time you see a mom or dad in the grocery store with a child having a meltdown.

xo

H

Positive Behavior Reward Chart

With twin 5 year old boys and one with Autism, we were encountering some negative behaviors which were making our lives as parents more difficult. These negative behaviors are typical behaviors all kids do; not listening to mom or dad, hitting their sibling, not sharing, and the “I wants.”  The “I wants” are when you are trying to run an errand at the grocery store and they want everything. I want this car, I want this cereal, the I want EVERYTHING that will frustrate you as a parent and make you dream of grocery shopping alone.

I spoke with Ms. Kelli, who is Wyatt’s teacher and specializes in ABA therapy. She gave me a brilliant solution which has worked for us. It is the Positive Behavior Rewards Chart using stickers and it is awesome!

Each child has a Reward Chart, which you can Google for different styles of charts, that will work for your family. For every positive behavior they do, they get a sticker.We then sit down with the kids and talk about positive behaviors and examples of them. We talk about how every positive behavior gets a sticker and once they fill up all the boxes, they get a predetermined award. After explaining the reward chart, we take them to Target and they get to 1) pick out their own stickers and 2) pick out their reward. You do not buy the reward, you have them leave the store without their desired toy. Talk about motivation!!! We use the chart on the left, however you can use the one on the right for more specific goals.

Some key rules to follow to help ensure your success:

  1. It is very important that you allow them to put the sticker in the square and celebrate the positive behavior at the time they are putting the sticker on the chart.
  2. Do not threaten to remove stickers for negative behaviors, this is positive reinforcement only. If they exhibit a negative behavior I would say, “What a bummer that you decided to hit your brother, you missed a great opportunity to add a sticker to your rewards chart, and closer to getting that Star Wars figure.”
  3. DO NOT BUY them anything unless they have earned enough stickers to fill up all the boxes. If you do, their motivation is gone.
  4. If you have multiple children, always point out the good behaviors of another sibling. Example:  Susie is making good choices and sharing with her brother but little Johnny doesn’t want to share. I wouldn’t acknowledge Johnny’s bad behavior, I would tell Susie how she is making good choices by sharing with her brother and playing nicely and she gets to add a sticker to her chart.

I hope this information is helpful for you and your family and helps eliminate bad behaviors!

xo

H