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

 

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

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

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