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

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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.

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.

Back to CUBS!

After having over two weeks off from Oliver’s CUBS class and Special Educator visits, he was overjoyed to resume. Over the break, he endured and got over his first cold, visited the aquarium, had a gift-filled Christmas, played with friends, and even learned how to count (verbally, as well as using the correct fingers). We got lots of snow and experienced another power outage, but in the end, it was obvious that he missed his therapies. As we pulled up to his early intervention center on this first day back to class, I told him, “Oliver, we’re going into CUBS. We’re going to change your diaper, have a snack, and then you get to play!”. He smiled so big and didn’t even fuss during the diaper change. He became a little anxious in the last few minutes of waiting for the doors to open, but that came from a place of excited anticipation. Watching him in class made my heart swell; I love that we have found a source of knowledge and support that he is so comfortable with. I will probably have to go through a grieving process when he turns 3 and no longer qualifies for services.

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

The Past Two Weeks of Early Intervention

The past two weeks we have been, and are currently, working on the following:

Oliver LOVES books, but only if he’s holding it and turning the pages quickly. While allowing him to do this encourages appropriate book handling, I want him to be able to allow me to hold it so that he can listen and comprehend the story and point at different characters on each page, which would give us a better chance of getting him to imitate words and sounds. I am making it a rule for, when working on goals, I have complete control of the book, while reading it. I give him a chance to turn to page and point at different things on each page. He is still getting pretty frustrated that he can’t just turn all of the pages and then be finished with the book, but there have been several moments where he actually looked at the pages without any grief, so I have hope and plan to persist in this.

We are still working on rolling the ball saying “roll” each time. Playing together encourages engagement, playing across from each other encourages eye contact, and saying “roll” encourages word imitation. He has attempted to say “roll” several times now!

We have been practicing the following songs: Elevator song, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, Row Your Boat, If you’re happy and you know it, I’m a little teapot, Open shut them, Ring around the rosie (attempted holding hands and spinning), hickory dickory dock, and old McDonald. He laughed and smiled at all songs every time. He imitates the actions to: Open Shut Them, The Elevator Song, and tried a little with Itsy Bitsy Spider.

We’re currently dealing with feeding issues around texture. He is not wanting to eat anything other than fruit. He is making himself throw up or spitting out/refusing anything that isn’t fruit. We have a meeting scheduled with an OT later this week. He is having lots of veggie/protein powder/coconut milk smoothies to make up for his lost foods. His naturopath thinks that with his supplements and smoothies, that he should be fine until we get this worked out with the OT, but that I should continue offering other foods, of course.

This past Thursday, we had an appointment with one of the early intervention center’s Speech Language Pathologists. She observed Oliver and my’s interactions for a few minutes and then suggested that I use shorter sentences and speak with exclamations rather than questions. I had never thought about or realized this, but I talk to him using long and complete sentences most of the time and ask him questions, even though I know he can’t respond to them. I figured that, by doing this, I would be expanding his vocabulary and giving him opportunities to answer me back. She said that this is okay in moderation, but that I can best engage him by upping my “affect” and using one to two word statements; she called this the “one up” rule. Because Oliver uses one word statements when he speaks, I should be on his level, while increasing my words by one. So, once I can get him to imitate what I say (a word one sentence), such as “UP!” when stacking blocks, then I should add in another word, such as “Blocks UP!” and continue on with this until he can imitate full sentences. This is called the “One up” rule and I find it completely fascinating! Using an exclamation rather than question when it’s my turn lets him know that it’s my idea instead of his– this increases and encourages flexibility in play. So, for example, I would say, “Time to read a book!” rather than my usual, “Oliver, do you want to read a book?”.

One of Oliver’s biggest tantrum sources, when it comes to play, is his stacked blocks falling over. Everytime they have ever fallen over, he is sent into an excruciating screaming fit. The Speech Language Pathologist was able to witness this and suggested saying “Up, Up, Up!” as we stack, encourage pushing them over, then saying “Down!” with a smile then cheering “Yay!” and clapping, as to make their falling over a fun experience rather than a scary one. We have been working on this goal several times a day and have successfully 100% stopped the screaming associated with falling blocks. After cheering and saying “Down!”, I start saying “Up, Up, Up!” again to start the game over again and he replaces his fear of their falling with excitement and anticipation. I am so proud of him and so grateful for this suggestion.

Before using Care Bears (Oliver’s go-to calming TV show) as a coping mechanism, we will use Care Bears print off coloring pages. By turning on the TV for Oliver, when he is inconsolable, I am teaching him that if he cries and cries, that he will get the TV. While I don’t do this all that often, his Special Educator suggested using it as a reward only, because when he is in school the teacher won’t be able to turn on Care Bears for him when he’s having a tantrum. I just Google searched “Care Bears print off coloring pages” and downloaded several of them. I’m going to start using those today– I thought this was a great idea and encourage you all to give that a go with whatever your child’s interest is. Another example would be buying stuffed animals/figurines of the characters/animals/objects of interest, buying a related book, or singing a song from the movie/TV show to calm your child.

Some of the Early Signs of Autism in Children

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Here are some of the early signs of autism in children. The ones listed that Oliver can relate to are: doesn’t answer to his name, is frightened by loud noises, other inexplicable phobias (is scared of stuffed animals), tip toes, flaps hands, avoids eye contact, limited facial expressions, ignores children of the same age, and has trouble imitating adults. He doesn’t qualify as being in the “high risk group” that this image discusses. Oliver was diagnosed, after 6 hours of observation and concerns from multiple professionals, by a clinical psychologist at the University of Washington Autism Center.

The Past Two Weeks in Early Intervention Land

What we’ve been working on these past two weeks in early intervention:

3 minute timer where I imitate everything he does. This shows him that I am joining him in his world and that I am able to play on his terms, rather than all work. After each 3 minute imitation, I will invite him to play briefly on my terms (when I would introduce new skills- ex.: rolling the ball back and forth).

Rolling ball back and forth with encouraged eye contact.

Taking turns with toys.

Books: (imitation, attending, and increasing your affect)
-Sit across from him
-Keep control over the book
-Encourage him to turn the page
-Model 1-2 words or sounds for him, give him time to imitate
-Animal sounds are great for imitating sounds!
-Model pointing to the pictures –especially if he is grabbing at the page
-You can remind him-Mommy holds the book. Make it a rule for this activity.

Use countdowns for transitions (5 minutes until ___, 1 minute until ___, 3 more seconds until ____, 3, 2, 1– all done! Time for ___).

Offer him choices between two toys, offer him a choice of who cleans up (him or me).

Singing songs with actions. Examples: Open, shut them. Itsy Bitsy Spider. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. Row, Row, Row Your Boat. If You’re Happy and You Know It. I’m a Little Teapot.

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I will write what we work on this upcoming Thursday. So far, I know that the Speech Language Pathologist will be joining Oliver’s Special Educator that day and we’re introducing PECS visual cards to help Oliver communicate. I’m feeling really good about Oliver’s early intervention program so far!