Supporting Young Athletes with Autism

Last season, I signed up both boys for AYSO soccer and I volunteered to coach. I figured that if I volunteered, I could help support Wyatt in learning the sport and interacting with other children. Although he had fun, it wasn’t successful for Wyatt for many reasons. Sensory overload, not enough support from aides or volunteers, and competitive parents and children. I told myself, I wouldn’t sign Wyatt up for team sports moving forward.

A few months ago, a fellow Autism mommy sent me info on Spirit League, which is a organization for children with special needs that can participate in soccer, baseball, and basketball. I signed Wyatt up for baseball hopeful that he could experience a team sport and actually have fun. We had our first game on Saturday and we were blown away at how amazing it was.

Look at the picture below:

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The people in the blue shirts are volunteers and every child has a volunteer. They stay with the child thru the whole game and teach them the game of baseball. The gentleman in the yellow shirt is the coach, who is also a volunteer.

The part that blew me away? The amount of support that each child received, whether standing on the field or hitting the ball. The parents were so excited that their child was playing a team support and most importantly every child had a huge smile on their face. Way to go Spirit League!

xx,

H

How to Teach Your Kids about Children with Autism

I was reading a post about a mom who encountered a child with Autism trying to integrate and learn how to play appropriately at a park with other children. The child with Autism hit her child and she wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. I appreciated her willingness to ask how to handle the situation and it showed compassion and empathy. The responses from other moms was heartbreaking. “I would tell my kid to stay away from kids like that” and “I would tell that mom to get her child under control.” However, there was a lot of moms who were compassionate and really just wanted to know how to teach their kids about other kids with Autism. Hence my blog today.

I am going to tell you what we told our son Tucker (5) when trying to explain to him why Wyatt acts differently then other kids and has Autism.

  • Autism is when a child has a hard time processing things and make take a little longer to respond or do something you want him to do. (I keep it very simple for kids to understand)
  • Wyatt can be very hyper and excited when playing with other kids and has a hard time with following rules or having boundaries and might stand to close to you. He might scream really loudly because he is very excited your playing with him and just doesn’t realize how loud he is.
  • When out in public, he can become overwhelmed with sounds and lights and has a hard time focusing. So if you ask him to stop doing something and he keeps doing it, it is because he mind is overwhelmed with noises. You might need to ask a few times to get their attention.
  • A child with Autism can have a hard time processing their words and being able to express themselves. For example, he might be upset because he really wants a turn on the slide but instead of telling you, he can get upset or scream.
  • Wyatt can be very physical and like to bounce of couches, or tackle you because it makes his body feel good. He doesn’t have a sense of where his body is so his body has to be always touching something and the more pressure he puts on his body, the better.
  • Some children with Autism don’t like to be touched at all and might get upset if you try and hug them or touch them.
  • Children with Autism don’t understand if you are happy, sad, laughing, or mad. So, if you are running around playing tag and touch them on the shoulder, he might think you are hitting him and not playing.

Most importantly that we tell our kids that children with Autism have feelings and being compassionate and empathetic towards them if key. That they work hard with therapists to work on their symptoms and they can be great friends.

I get asked a lot the best ways to teach their children about other kids with Autism, so I hope this blog helped. Remember that these are very general items and that every child with Autism is different.  I love it when parents or kids ask me about Wyatt to better understand him, so please reach out to the parents. We will tell you with pride, everything about our Wyatt.

 

 

Autism Awareness Month

Today is Autism Awareness Day and I couldn’t be more proud to be this guys mama. This year he started Kindergarten, learned to swim, played on a team sport, learned to drive a golf cart and a go cart, braved getting on a bike, learned how to read facial expressions and know how people feel, started giving hugs, started giving kisses, greets me at the door and asks how my day was. He has made friends all on his own, loves to crack jokes, bother his brother, and cuddle with mama and dada. He has learned how to be flexible and not have melt downs, he loves to be tickled, and his laugh is infectious. He earned his first award at school, and had his first “girlfriend.” He is so much more then a boy with Autism, he is a boy who is kicking Autism in the ass and doing everything the doctors told us he might never do. He has given our family so much pride and every accomplishment was achieved with his pure determination. I used to struggle with his diagnosis because I feared his future, know I embrace it because he won’t let anything get on his way. His path might be different, but the end result is what we make of it and the end result is determined by us. This boy is everything and has my heart. ❤️FullSizeRender

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

 

Sleeping Issues and Autism

It seems our sleeping issue have regressed and we all are exhausted. This is our current sleeping situation:

Wyatt is 5 1/2 years old and we are currently using 5 mg Melatonin ER and Lavender Oil in a diffuser and also rubbing it own the bottom of his feet before bed. This was working for a few months, however he is back to not being able to fall asleep until 11-12 pm and waking up in the middle of the night as well as the first one up. This is not enough sleep for him and causing an increase in bad behaviors during the day and at school. This is not enough sleep for his parents as well and bad behaviors have been know to occur. 😉

Recently he has become anxious when going to bed and wants the bed completely covered with blankets as well as many lights on as he can negotiate with his parents. Cullen put up Christmas Lights around his bed to help but he still insists at least one light on or he becomes very anxious. To make matters worse, if there are any holes showing where the blankets overlap, then he can’t sleep and we have to fix the holes. This can happen 4-5 times a night.

We made an appointment with a natural doctor to help get him on some supplements in order to avoid putting a 5 year old on prescription sleeping pills. She was a breathe of fresh air and recommended the following supplements:

  1. Liquid Calcium Magnesium (helps calm mind and body)
  2. Cortisol Manager (helps stop mind racing)
  3. Inositol Powder  (helps anxiety and OCD behaviors)

Initially, Wyatt had some stomach issues as a result from the Magnesium and we have since stopped the Magnesium and are working on some of Wyatt’s gut issues that are often associated with Autism. However, we are happy to report that after 5 days on the new Supplements, Wyatt is asleep by 9-930 pm and isn’t waking up in the middle of the night. 🙂

If you are looking for a natural doctor, I would recommend Newport Integrative Health located in Costa Mesa.

Dr. Koren Barrett (949) 743-5770 and http://www.newportintegrativehealth.com

Thanks,

H

 

Youth Sports and Autism

I have really struggled with this post. I have so many thoughts and emotions on this topic, and not sure how to organize it, so please bear with me.

I wanted my twin 5-year-old boys to try a youth sport this year, so I signed them up for soccer. I volunteered to coach because I wanted my son Wyatt, who has Autism, to be taught by someone who understands Autism and how they need to be coached. Plus, I used to play soccer so I thought it would be an awesome experience for all.

We had our first soccer practice and I was so pleased to see a few other boys who were in Wyatt’s class at school and who also had Autism. I was excited that I would have the opportunity to spend time with these awesome kids and to try and give them a positive experience. Most of the kids spend hours in therapy and school, so getting them on a team, having fun, was my goal.

After the first game was over, it was clear that our boys with Autism, found it difficult to play in this kind of environment. All three of them were on the field, super excited, and really wanting to play the game but anxiety of getting hit with the ball, screaming parents, and coaches encouraging voices seemed very overwhelming. Yet, they continued to play and had a blast. They didn’t care about people staring at them, or other boys making rude comments, or parent’s being more concerned with winning, but I did.

I heard, “what is wrong with that boy?” and “why is he making such loud noises?” I heard “why are you talking like a baby?” and “look, he can’t even talk.” I will be honest, the last one was about Wyatt and took a lot of strength not to break down and cry on the field; just held on until we were home. It was about my son Wyatt, who sometimes when he is over stimulated and overwhelmed he has a hard time finding his words. It broke me. Kids were making fun of my son when I was standing right there. I kept asking myself, “where did these children learn to be so mean?”

I then heard rumblings about it not being fair that we were losing so many games and some other unfortunate comments by parents, who were more concerned about winning then FIVE year old’s learning soccer and having fun. It then became very clear that these kids learned from their parent’s.

I started to observe the parents and I was watching grown men yell at their kids to, Pay attention! Stop messing around!!! I heard a coach yell, “We are the #1 team, so let’s act like it!” Let’s remind ourselves that these children are FIVE. I saw a parent cause his son to cry because he was yelling at him.

These parents were putting pressure on their children to win at age FIVE. No wonder we live in a world of competition and judgement. I saw parents who were more interested in their child winning, then appreciating children with special needs and giving them the ability to be part of a team. I see parents who tell their kids not to text while driving, as them mom is texting while driving. I see parents tell their kids to not drink and drive, yet they drive home after a few drinks after dinner. I see parents hosting a tailgate at a high school football game and then act surprised when 79 children get kicked out of school for drinking at that football game.

Listen, I am not perfect. Not even close. But, I teach my kids empathy and compassion. I teach them that everyone is different and unique and being different is cool. I teach my kids that winning isn’t everything, and if you lose a soccer game, it means there is more to work on and we must work hard to succeed. I also teach my kids, that children can be mean and if someone is mean to you, then you don’t need them to be a friend.

Do I just need to lower my expectations? Do I just need to come to grips with reality that my son will not play well in a team environment? Maybe. I do wish that people would be more tolerant with people with Special needs and appreciate their differences. Most importantly I wish that parents would take these type of opportunities to help educate their children on kids with Special needs.

 

 

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