Friday, October 29, 2010

Paperwork, an Update

After stalking Craigslist with Google Reader for a couple of weeks, I picked up an HP PSC 1310 printer/scanner for $20. It's allowed me to start scanning our mountains of paperwork, not just for Joseph (though he does account for the bulk of it) but for the rest of the family as well. It's already come in handy a couple of times. New Board of Dev Disabilities service manager needs Joseph's insurance card? Sure, I'll email that to you. I'm also signed up with Dropbox, so I can securely access the files online from anywhere there's an internet connection and a PDF reader.

Now I just have to file the piles of already-scanned papers that are building up on my desk. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joseph's First Field Trip

I went with Joseph on his first class field trip Thursday, to the pumpkin patch at Jacquemin Farms.

(2010-10-21) Joseph's Class Field Trip - 0005

He did not want to sit still for the short presentation about pumpkins at the beginning, which is hardly surprising. One of the classroom aides took him for me and sat him on a table off the the side and rubbed his shoulders and he calmed down. 

(2010-10-21) Joseph's Class Field Trip - 0015

We walked out to the field where they grow their pumpkins, he insisted on walking all the way to the end of the field to pick his. 

(2010-10-21) Joseph's Class Field Trip - 0048 (2010-10-21) Joseph's Class Field Trip - 0050 (2010-10-21) Joseph's Class Field Trip - 0077
Then after he had a snack, he and his classmates spent about an hour chasing each other through a small hay-bale maze and playing in a corn pit.

(2010-10-21) Joseph's Class Field Trip - 0198

His only tantrums were when he didn't want to sit still at the beginning, and then when we tried to leave. He head-butted me, tried to take my glasses and throw them, tried to bite me, then went limp and flopped on the ground. Aside from that, and trying to climb on the 7 foot tall pile of hay-bales with the "DO NOT CLIMB" signs on it, he was very well behaved and had a great time. :) I am even more convinced now that his teacher and aides are the greatest.

After watching Joseph play in the corn, I'm thinking about building one of these for Joseph. I'm not sure I'm handy enough though.

(Inserting photos from Flickr into Blogger posts is a pain in the butt.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Starting Speech Therapy Again

Wednesday, Joseph and I met his new speech therapist, Lori. She seemed to understand Joseph and his motivations pretty well, which I think is key to making progress with him. Instead of trying to get him to sit at the table with her, she sat down on the floor and invited him to do the same. He wasn't terribly cooperative yet, he kept hiding under the table and had trouble getting distracted by the toys on top of her cabinet, but she got him to talk a bit, asking for parts of Mr. Potatohead, etc.

In other news, we went on Joseph's first field trip today, and in a couple of weeks, we've got an appointment at the Children's Hospital Autism Center where we can begin the process of having Joseph fully assessed. Hopefully we'll have a better idea of what we can expect from him, and what help he needs from us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Columbus Autism Parents Support Group

It seems like autism parents' support groups are hard to find. I've been lucky enough to practically fall into one. Shortly before Joseph's diagnosis, my former Explorer Scout leader connected me on Facebook with a friend of hers, Susan Richardson. Shortly after the diagnosis she invited us to a support group session that she was hosting.

It was a small group, and I'm afraid I talked too much, but it was very helpful and it made both Kristy and myself feel a lot better. Susan herself has degrees in counseling and art therapy and has been an invaluable guide for me in this period in my life.

The group's next session will be on October 23rd in Westerville. If you're in central Ohio and have a child on the spectrum, I highly recommend you check it out. Every time I write about the isolation we feel, I find many people who feel exactly the same way. This is a way to do something about that because with 1 in 110 children having autism, none of us have to be alone. I keep hearing this, from my mother, on random TV shows, in various other places, when you're on an airplane the flight attendants tell you that if there's an emergency to put your own oxygen mask on before helping your child or other person who might need help. Because if you don't help yourself first, then you can't help them.

So I'd love to see you there!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our First Parent Teacher Conference

Kristy and I went to Joseph's first parent-teacher conference today. His teacher and aides had a lot of great things to say about him. He's doing really well with the routine in the classroom, and is even transitioning on his own from one activity to the next (even though sometimes he tries to cheat and skip things he doesn't like). He loves the art table and the sensory table, and he's showing real interest in reading and writing and knows the letters in his name. They also said he is a very hard worker, which I'm very glad to hear.

Two of the most exciting things: first, he's already met one of his IEP goals for the year, making eye contact when spoken to, and he's making great progress on his other goals like playing turn-based games with his peers. The other is he's figured out a pattern game on the class calendar that none of the other students (including the typically developing peer models) have figured out yet. His teacher even used the word "brilliant" to describe Joseph.

She said they would be happy to have me observe class some time. They said today was one of his best days all year, which his bus driver said they told her last week too, so it sounds like he's improving all the time. I'm excited to see first hand how he's functioning at school. And I'm also looking forward to going with them for their first class field trip to the pumpkin patch next week. :) I haven't posted any photos of video recently, so I'll be sure to get some good stuff.

I also observed Joseph's social skills group last Thursday but totally forgot to write about it, so I will post about that later. It will be interesting to compare what I saw there to what I will see at school.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Secret Society of Autism Parents

Joseph isn't the only one who has trouble developing age appropriate relationships with his peers. I've always been socially awkward. I've always felt that I'm different from everybody else, that I've got very little in common with other people. This makes it difficult for me to relate to others when it comes to social niceties. My topics of conversation tend to be a little more obscure and esoteric, or non-existent since the scope of my life is rather limited these days. Let's just say, I don't chat about the weather, and you can forget about sports. :)

Parenting a child who is autistic has become my primary activity, as I think it is for many others. The downside to this is that I generally have little energy left for anything else. But the upside is that I have an instant connection with other autism parents, and I think we're all happy to talk and listen about each other's kids and the challenges that come with being in the unique situation in which we find ourselves.

I think that I'm not alone in finding immense comfort in talking to other autism parents. Isolation is a serious problem for us, for many reasons. It's imposed on us, because people who aren't in our situation can't truly understand what we're dealing with, and self-imposed because we are hesitant to do the things that typical parents do with typical kids like going to the movies, eating at restaurants (even if we could afford it), going to the library, because we never know when the next meltdown is going to come. As for having people over, our house is always such a mess we don't want to expose anyone to it.

Kristy and I stopped going to Mass because we couldn't keep Joseph under control there either and it made us self-conscious. Don't get me wrong, this was our hang-up, it's not because anyone was rude to us at church. We started going every week again after we went to a different church and found ourselves sitting next to a single mom with two kids, one of whom is a seven year old boy with autism. After Mass, we told her that Joseph is autistic, she said she recognized the signs and asked if we were going to be going to that Mass regularly because it was nice to be there with other people who "get it."

The isolation started long before the diagnosis, or even suspicion that Joseph was autistic. Putting a label on it finally told us that we're not alone, helped us to recognize the isolation and to start doing something about it. I feel like being the parent of a child with autism is like being a member of an ever-growing fraternity, like Skull and Bones or the Freemasons. I feel like we should have our own secret handshake.

If you're the parent of a child with autism in the Central Ohio area, or you find yourself in the area, let me know. Maybe we can hang out at the McDonald's Playplace and chat or something. :) We need to stick together. Also, I want to tell you that I appreciate the friendship and support of all our family and friends, new and old, parents of autistic kids or not. We've drifted away from many of you and see you less often. All I can say is, I hope that we will learn to handle things better and our exile from having social lives will be a temporary situation.

Oh, and in other news, Joseph is talking a lot more and we're going to be resuming speech therapy on the 20th with a different therapist. Fingers crossed!