Echolalia & The Final Month

Oliver’s “speech sky rocket” that I discussed in my last post has only continued. He has been imitating everything and it probably half of his words have evolved into echolalia.

For those unfamiliar with the term “echolalia”: meaningless repetition of another person’s spoken words as a symptom of psychiatric disorder.

His team of therapists and I have been working to steer him away from this, but it is a challenge. For so long, all we wanted was for him to speak. We wanted him to repeat what we said and, because of that, he is confused as to why we no longer want that. We’re giving him two choices and honoring the choice he makes (even if he is only repeating what we say), flipping words during choice making when he only chooses the last word in the sentence, and prompting him to make quiet choices. Through this work over the past couple of weeks, we are already seeing a decrease in repetition. This means that his words are being used to “appropriately” communicate.

In addition to his speech, grocery trips are much easier now. I don’t see restaurants or the like in our near future yet, but I look forward to that day.

Lastly, Oliver will turn 3 in 31 days. In other words, Oliver will no longer qualify for early intervention in 31 days. Thinking about his last day at his center breaks my heart. I have had the best experience with his early intervention center and every last person who has worked with him. He has made incredible progress. I can’t even imagine what life would look like in the present (and especially the future) for Oliver, had I not found his early intervention center. He will have been there for 17 months when he leaves. The center has become a second home. His team has become family. It is very sad to think about. I’m crossing my fingers that preschool will be just as good a fit for him.

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Speech SKY ROCKET!

In the past, I have posted sign language and verbal language vocabulary updates. While that has always given me great excitement and pride, it doesn’t compare to not having a list anymore. I tried to keep writing down all of the words that Oliver says now, but if I would have continued I would have ended up with a novel. He has made extreme progress throughout the past two months. Most all of his signs have been replaced with words, he is requesting what he wants/needs, is counting up to 20 on his own (and up to 100, when going back and forth with me), is very familiar with the alphabet (knows every letter, the order they go in, and recognizes them), and is speaking up to 3 word sentences in a conversation style. He is greeting his teachers and classmates by name and even spontaneously sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star all on his own last night. While he is still on the vitamins, supplements, and diet he has been on for roughly 18 months, in addition to ABA/SLP/OT services for the same amount of time, I introduced a new supplement called Restore to Oliver 3 months ago. He was battling back and forth constipation and diarrhea since birth and, within 2 weeks, was fully balanced out in that department. Shortly thereafter he became more vocal and has since gone from nonverbal to practically needing a list of words he can’t say, rather than the few he can. I am really grateful for this supplement and just wrote up a testimonial for their website, too. I’m loving seeing other individuals experiencing positive results.

I purchase Oliver’s Restore through Amazon to avoid shipping costs, but you can read more about this supplement at: http://restore4life.com

Potty Training

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Oliver is 3 months shy of his third birthday and I am questioning whether or not he is ready for the potty, despite the fact that preschool is quickly approaching. I have him sit on his little Baby Bjorn intermittently throughout the day, but more times than not, he holds it until he’s in a diaper again. He does not yet seem to understand that if he feels the urge to go, that it is time to go back to the potty. However, he does know when he does end up going that it is a “good” thing and is worthy of celebration. He immediately claps and cheers himself on with an oh-so-sweet “yay!”. I join along with him and then have him help me dump it, flush it, and wash it. Then we wash hands, put a sticker on the potty chart, and end with a high five. While he seems encouraged by this routine, he still hasn’t caught on to the fact that going to the bathroom on the potty is something that we do when we hear our bodies talking to us, rather than when we happen to already be sitting there for a long while.

I am looking to hear from other parents with children on the autism spectrum on what potty training looked like for you. What worked? What didn’t work?

Oliver’s 2nd Trip to the Dentist

IMG_1003.JPGToday was Oliver’s second trip to the dentist. He receives dental care from a center with doctors who specialize in autism. Our first trip, 6 months ago (you can read about how that went here), didn’t go as well as I had hoped. As a matter of fact, to quote myself, “Oliver’s 1st dentist appointment and, boy did it go as I had hoped it wouldn’t.” Don’t get me wrong, the staff was great, as were the parents; it was just that he was in a new place that he wasn’t able to freely roam around and explore. He was only few months into therapy at that point and, with that in mind while comparing these two trips, it was made even more blatantly obvious just how much progress he has made. The only tears that were shed were during the brief invasion of his mouth. To quote myself in my post regarding his first trip to the dentist, “he shrieked while running around in search of an exit; he wailed as he threw himself onto the floor. I tried to show him videos of himself on my phone, I tried to make a game out of running back and forth, and I tried singing his favorite songs with him; however, nothing helped. When he gets into sensory overload mode, it can be impossible to pull him out of it without removing him from the new environment.” This time was different for both of us. He went into the building in his stroller and a hat to, in a way, “hide” from all of the people and fluorescent lights. He also found comfort in watching videos of himself, which did not work for us last time around. He did wonderful and I couldn’t be happier! This center (visit their website here) is amazing and I would highly recommend it to anyone on the spectrum or who has a child on the spectrum. And…… NO CAVITIES! Hooray for healthy eating and incessant tooth brushing.

(Failed) Movie Theatre Attempt

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This past Saturday morning, we trekked down to an AMC Theatre for their Sensory Friendly showing of Finding Dory (click here to find out when your local AMC theatre is hosting a Sensory Friendly Film). We arrived, found a seat, and were fine (for the most part–there was some running around for all but one preview) up until the movie began. When baby Dory made her way onto the screen, Oliver stood up and quickly wiggled his way past the stroller barricade that I crafted to contain him to the aisle. He ran down to the bottom area, near the screen. I chased after him and kneeled near the lowest seat, motioning for him to come back. He started dancing and running in circles and then, following a look of play, ran as fast as he could toward the other set of stairs and up them. I, for some reason, thought that I could reach him if I ran up my set of stairs and walked around the top. Movie going has been scarce throughout the past 2.5 years, so I must have forgotten that that isn’t the case. I watched him closely as I ran back down, noticing a look of distress when he didn’t recognise any of the faces in the packed full theatre room. With that being said, he ran back down; both of us reaching the bottom simultaneously. I scooped him up and we left. Seeing as how he can’t sit still for the life of him at home, I should have assumed that this would be the case in a loud, crowded room, as well. At least now I know that he is not ready for movie outings. I will try again in due time!

What do movie theatre trips look like for all of you?

Since I Last Posted, Oliver Has..

  • Successfully consumed 2 full sippy cups of juice.
  • Said “mama” and “nana” for the first times in well over a year.
  • Said “no” and shook his head along with it appropriately.
  • Started saying “under” when going under blankets.
  • Starting saying “three”. He can count 1-5 on his hands and say “two” (and now “three”).
  • Hugged and kissed a fellow toddler without being prompted!

Tears of Frustration: Party of 2

While a majority of my days with Oliver reflect growth and happiness, today was one of the  off days. I always try my best to keep my cool; I aim to be persistent, understanding, and encouraging for him.

He is still drinking from bottles, despite working on it in his autism class (and his occupational therapist and at home with me). When he isn’t biting off the tips of the nipples, he is shaking and/or pressing it into the floor to make it all spill out. After yet another puddle this morning, I took it away and gave him a sippy cup and figured if he got thirsty enough he would drink from it. This was not the case.

He is also still having issues with feeding. He’s allergic to a lot of different foods (see my post on “Allergy Test” to read about his allergies) and also happens to be extremely picky. In addition to feeling the need to give him his sippy cup, I also decided that he was going to attempt GFCF waffles, carrots, rice crisps, and almond cheese this morning. I know that one food needs to be introduced at a time, but I have been attempting to introduce foods slowly for so long now with little to no success (aside from the single occasion where he took a bite out of a carrot a few weeks ago). I woke up feeling determined, so I went with it and hoped for the best. He ate all of the cheese and rice crisps (yay!) and then cried when I tried to feed him the waffles. After two attempted bites of waffle, I tried the carrot out and he just kept trying to throw it on the floor.

After cleaning up and washing dishes, he signed that he wanted a bottle. I sat him down and told him that he would need to drink from his sippy cup if he was thirsty. He proceeded by throwing it on the floor. As time passed, I attempted more non-fruit/carb foods and then eventually caved and gave him his beloved toast, fruit, and cereal. Throughout the next couple of hours, he cried between hitting me, hitting himself, throwing himself onto the ground, flipping his table over, knocking the baby gate over, and breaking his nana’s crystal window hanging — all because he wanted his bottle. I knew that if he was truly thirsty and not just wanting a bottle nipple to bite off, then he would drink, so I stayed consistent with my word. The cries and hits began wearing on me before I caved yet again and fell into tears. I haven’t felt quite that frustrated in a while, so it was rather overwhelming. I want to stick with it so that he will learn that I mean business, but it becomes so stressful that all I can think about is how badly I want to end his meltdown by giving in. I know that cutting him off cold turkey probably isn’t the answer, but I have been trying for nearly one year and felt suddenly fed up with the lack of change in this area.

I took a deep breath and cuddled him, feeling like somewhat of a failure. I plan to touch base with his early intervention team on Monday, but for now, I wanted to share a tough excerpt from our day with all of you since I often forget to do so.

Have any of you dealt with this or something like this? I’d love to hear suggestions.

A Big Day for Oliver

A little over a week ago, Oliver had a friend over. He’s about 7 months younger and very sweet. Oliver has spent time with him before, but with most all of his experiences with other children, he kept to himself, for the most part. This day was, however, quite different. We used the visual aid cards that Oliver’s therapist made to talk about how we had a friend coming over. We looked at his photo and I pointed out what they could play with. I wasn’t sure that he understood anything that I was saying, but upon their arrival I could tell something had stuck. Oliver greeted his friend with an electrified “Hi!” and made direct, beautiful eye contact. He brought him toys to play with, fed him snacks, tried to hold his bottle for him, sat across from him to play, and showed off all of his signs. It melted my heart to see him showing genuine interest in another toddler. While I sometimes experience doubts and worries, it is moments like these that reassure me that everything is headed up.

Oliver’s 1st Trip to the Dentist

Before I jump into the appointment details, I want to mention how amazing The Center for Pediatric Dentistry in Seattle is. They offer an “autism clinic” every Monday, where a dentist who specializes in autism spectrum disorder sees all the kids on the spectrum to address their dental needs. This is such an important program because there aren’t enough businesses, much less medical professionals, who specialize in autism. Every doctor that specializes in autism that I have contacted doesn’t accept insurance and charges $450+ an hour. As a young, single, low-income mom, that just isn’t possible. The thought of taking Oliver to the dentist was something I had been dreading and putting off for a while, but upon my discovery of this center, I felt eager and excited to pursue an appointment. While I felt less scared than I would have before heading into a “normal” dentist, I still feared the stress that I could still be facing as I would head into those doors. So, with that in mind, Monday was Oliver’s 1st dentist appointment and, boy did it go as I had hoped it wouldn’t. Five days prior, I had my impacted wisom teeth removed and had been laying low up until that point. We arrived 20 minutes early and they brought him back roughly 10 minutes past his scheduled start time. He was in an unfamiliar environment, with loads of other children near him, and all he could do was scream. He shrieked while running around in search of an exit; he wailed as he threw himself onto the floor. I tried to show him videos of himself on my phone, I tried to make a game out of running back and forth, and I tried singing his favorite songs with him; however, nothing helped. When he gets into sensory overload mode, it can be impossible to pull him out of it without removing him from the new environment. Back to my post-wisdom teeth state, I hadn’t eaten many solid foods, not to mention my having become quite attached to my couch, so chasing a screaming toddler through a waiting room of other children on the spectrum, having equally hard times, wore me out. After we were called back, they let us pick a movie on Netflix for their overhead T.V. and as I held him, belly-to-belly, I laid his head down on the dentist’s knees and he brushed and checked out his teeth. Now, for the only good part of this outing… *drumroll* NO CAVITIES! Because of Oliver’s sensory issues, brushing his teeth is always a battle, so I was extremely nervous for cavities and what would come after. So, all in all, while this was a stressful day, it was necessary. I encourage everyone in Washington to look into getting their children’s’ dental care from this center; it is so refreshing to not get dirty looks from other parents and staff members while your child is having a meltdown.

Here is a link to the center’s website: https://thecenterforpediatricdentistry.com

Sensory Friendly Films by AMC

I recently found out about AMC’s Sensory Friendly Films program and immediately overflowed with an abundance of joy. Prior to Oliver’s entrance into my life, I was a big time moviegoer. I grew up attending workshops through an incredible all girl, filmmaking nonprofit in Seattle called Reel Grrls. I have always been drawn to making, watching, and analyzing films, so to lose the cinema experience was a bit of a damper. So, back to AMC’s new program– different AMC theaters across the country are offering special showtimes for viewers who need more sensory  support (particularly those on the autism spectrum). These showtimes are offered in most every state and will occur the second and fourth Tuesdays and Saturdays of each month, with varying 9:00 a.m. and 7 p.m. showings. While I’m not completely sure how Oliver will handle the movie theater experience, I’m planning on giving it a go next week. Stay tuned to see how our cinema outing unfolds!

Here is a bit more information on the program, the upcoming showtimes, and a list of the participating theaters: https://www.amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films