Sunday, June 14, 2015

We Owe Our Children Happiness

Raising Autistic children can be very different than raising typical children. We speak a different language, we have different concerns, we have different goals, and we have a different grief. I totally understand the grief over the loss of our dream of a typical child. I understand that it's hard, it's hard to have a child that has so many unique needs and challenges. Our heart breaks for the burdens and grief they face.

However our children are still children. They pick up on our attitudes and emotions. I have no idea how much my girls understand or comprehend about what goes on but every Autistic person who communicates say that they understood far more than people knew.

Then I began to think about how awful it must be to feel like you are a disappointment to your family. How soul crushing it must be to know you are the reason your mom cries. Then I came to a simple epiphany. WE OWE IT TO OUR CHILDREN TO BE HAPPY AND DELIGHT IN THEM.  Our children need us to have joy in them and their accomplishments, they need us to take pride in the fact that they are our children. Comparing them to the child they aren't is cruel and hurtful.

My kids need to know that I am excited that they learned a new skill. It doesn't matter if other children mastered it at 8 months my kid mastered it now and I could not be more proud. They need to see me smiling over their interests (even if it is watching the same Youtube video for the 123,753 time). 

I'm not saying it's easy and I find myself sinking into grief but I know it's my responsibility to be happy. I do that through medication, self care and a spirit of being grateful. Self care isn't easy but it's a huge part of care for our children.

I came to the realization that even if nothing ever changes, even if my girls never talk again, never use the potty or never learn another skill I will be completely happy with the children I was lucky to have. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Day of Acceptance

When Gracie was first diagnosed I thought my world was going to end. I thought it was a life as I knew it would be over and in many ways life as I knew it WAS over. I couldn't comprehend what the next week would look like much less what next year would look like. To me it was bleek and depressing. I saw my sweet baby who had just been given a life sentence of Autism.

The diagnosis was so big it blocked everything out. There is no cure, Youtube was filled with videos of violent meltdowns, co morbid seizure disorders, and adults who made weird noises and couldn't speak.  Previously my knowledge of Autism was limited to Rain Man and PSAs about the early signs of Autism (which my daughter had none until around her 3rd birthday).

It hurt that my sweet baby girl might be different that she might be *GULP* disabled. In some ways it was like grieving a death, the death of the child I thought I would have. The child that I would read Anne of Green Gables to, the child that would watch movies and have slumber parties with her friends. It stung that my daughter struggled to do things that other children had mastered years ago. I fell into a deep depression and gained 80 pounds, as Gracie's Autism progressed I imagined a horrible future full of the things she would never do. I sobbed when she stopped calling me Mommy, and I wondered if I would ever hear her sweet voice again. 

However there came a point when my greif over her Autism was over shadowing my joy of being her mother. There came a point when I decided that the daughter I have is better than the daughter I had hoped for. I realized that I knew my little girl so well that I would not know her any better if she could speak. She expressed her love in her sparkling blue eyes, her smile and she radiates joy in her countenance.

Autism is not what we planned and it's not a journey I would wish on anyone but it is our life. I finally realized that it's not a horrible life, perhaps different challenges than other people face but it was not the nightmare that I had imagined.

I have no idea if things will ever change, for us change is slow and sometimes not at all but even if my life is the same in 10 years that's okay. Where we are isn't so bad.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Please Don't Pity my Autistic Child

You think I don't hear you whispering, I do. You think I don't notice the symptomatic looks and the relief in your eyes that your child is "normal", I see the looks. I smile to myself because little do you know.

Gracie does not need pity. She is the happiest person I know. The sound of running water gives her indescribable joy that I can only dream of.  My daughter has everything in her life catered for her. We have all of our routines and home designed for her comfort.

My daughter is protected by her Autism, because she can't protect herself we protect her. She doesn't have to worry about how peers will treat her because she is never unsupervised, she is never in any situation where she or another person can hurt her.

Gracie my not have the understanding of a typical child her age but she understands she is loved unconditionally. Gracie may not know about the latest toys or media but she does know her own beloved toys. She doesn't dwell on what she doesn't have, instead she loves what she does have.

She will most likely need life long care but Gracie knows that she will be cared for. Gracie wakes up every morning with out a worry of fear she knows that we will wash, dress and feed her then she goes to school where she has a full day of games that teach her.

Someday I want to have the happiness and joy that my daughter enjoys, perhaps Gracie should pity us. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What to Say When Your Friend's Child is Diagnosed

Since Autism is becoming more diagnosed it's very likely that you will have a close friend or family member announce that their child is diagnosed. Here is a helpful list of a few things to say and to not say.

Things NOT to Say

1. I knew someone who's child was diagnosed as they are fine now.

I hated to hear this because every child and every case of Autism is different. I DON'T know that my children will be okay.  All I know is that right now they have huge stuggles and that their future is uncertain at best. You have no idea if your loved ones child will be able to overcome their Autism.

2. God only gives speical children to speical parents

We aren't speical parents, we are just parents. I don't have special coping skills, more patience, better organization, or some secret strength. We will find a all the things that we need to care for our children, but not because we are speical but because we are parents.

3. I read that vaccines, older fathers, sparkly rainbows, etc causes Autism

The truth is that we don't know what causes Autism, and at the point of diagnosis it doesn't matter. Believe me we already go over every minute of our pregnancies and every parenting choice we ever made trying to find how it's our fault. We don't need to explain to defend it to anyone else.

4. They don't LOOK/ACT Autistic

Autistic people don't look any different and there are different levels of Autism and different kids have different mannerisms. Some might have very little eye contact, others might look away. Some kids can talk and carry on a conversation others might be non verbal.

5. They seem to diagnose everyone with Autism these days

Despite what you may have heard Autism diagnoses are NOT easy to get. Our children often wait for months to be seen by a specialist. Once they are there are often multiple observations and the child must meet a specific criteria of having severe defects in communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. While the symptoms manifest in different ways they must be observed by a specialist.

6. I heard about injections, B12, laser treatment, special mud cures Autism

By the time a treatments hits the mainstream news most of us have heard and looked into the treatment. It isn't news. Believe me your loved one will explore every treatment option. They will talk to doctors, read blogs, and find all the information they can. In the end they will decide what they believe is best for their children.

Things TO say to your loved one

1. I'm so sorry

Sometimes we need acknowledgement that this sucks, it's not fair, and it just sucks. You don't need to go into great detail just some heartfelt sympathy goes a long way.

2. He/She is still the same child

When we first hear the news we are overwhelmed with all the challenges that they do and will face. It's important to hear our child is still the same child from before the diagnosis.

3. I love the laugh, sweet nature, and hugs from your child

We know so well the challenges and difficulties our children face, it's nice to hear about their speical qualities.

4.  Let's go to lunch, the spa, take a walk, etc

So many of our friends disappear when our children are diagnosed. It's like it's a disease that they are afraid their child will catch. Or that somehow that now that we have a special needs child that WE have the plague. Somehow we aren't invited to parties, girls' nights, and lunch anymore. Yes we may spend the whole time talking about our child but we need that shoulder to cry on too.

5. What can I do to best support you

All parents are different with different needs, and it's nice to be asked. Sometimes it's a little babysitting, a meal, a shoulder to cry on.

And Finally

6. Just a really big hug

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Our Updates

First I'm so sorry for abandoning my blog for so long. The truth is that I got overwhelmed with our BIG move and the care for my children so I hope to update as much as I can and to move forward with a more regular blog.

First in Feb we started having issues with the class Gracie attends. Her teacher approached me and mentioned that Gracie might have a UTI since she was pulling at the vaginal area and whining. I dismissed the teachers concerns due to the absence of pain ques and that Gracie often whines and pulls at the vaginal area. Well about a day or so later a social worker for CPS showed up at my door with a report Gracie had an untreated UTI.  Thankfully the social worker was kind and professional, and a quick trip to the doctor ruled out any UTI and she closed the case. I was upset at the teacher but decided to move past it.

In March Gracie came home from school with a mystery bruise on her upper inner thigh. I assumed she had been climbing at school and fell. I was not concerned about the bruise. However again the teacher approached me and asked about the bruise. I told her that I had no idea where it came from (remember Gracie is non verbal and has a very high pain tolerance).  Once again a social worker showed up on my doorstep (why do they always come when the house is a mess?). Once again we went to the doctor who did not find the bruise concerning.  However at that point I lost faith in the teacher and I pulled Gracie from school. 

At the end of April we moved to Salt Lake City in our planned move. Both Ray (my husband) and I are from Salt Lake. While we were heartbroken about moving away from half our blended family we felt that we had to move to get the right resources for our children.  Happily both girls adjusted quickly to the move and love their family here in Utah.

In May we got the news that we were expecting. Elizabeth was diganoised with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It was both heartbreaking and relieving to know that Elizabeth is also Autistic. I was heartbroken that I will never have a "typical" parenting experence but I was relieved that we had answers and could move forward with her treatment. 

Elizabeth has also been accepted into the same Autism specific school that Gracie will be attending. I was lucky to get them both in and I am excited at possibilities that exist at that school

Since May we have been enjoying our summer and eagerly awaiting the start of school.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why We Decided to Medicate

I often hear people talk about how it's horrible to medicate children, mostly it's uneducated opinions like "who would pump their child full of chemicals?" or they talk about pharmaceutical companies pushing drugs for children to make a profit. I confess many moons ago I was one of those uneducated and judgmental parents. I swore I would never do such a thing to my child and that diet and exercise where severely underrated.

Then Autism hit! At first it wasn't too bad and nothing I couldn't handle Gracie would meltdown but I would hold her and after a little while the meltdown would end. Toddler meltdowns weren't so bad and sometimes she could even be confined to her bedroom for the duration. The meltdowns were easy to predict and as long as we stayed on routine she was happy.

But as Gracie got older her meltdowns became more intense. More unpredictable, I never knew what would set her off or how long the meltdown would last. At one point she was melting down for 4 to 6 hours a day, and being sent home from school 2 to 3 days a week for uncontrollable meltdowns.

I began to hate my life, as soon as I got up in the mornings I had dread in the pit of my soul about when she was going to start screaming (the screaming would most often start about 2 to 5 am). My husband and I were on edge and snapping at each other. The most heart breaking thing of as was that Gracie was miserable. My soul ached for her, my sweet little girl who couldn't communicate with me was in agnoy and I didn't know why.

Finally after much soul searching we decided to put her on Rispidal an anti psychotic. We started out with the smallest dose and I was amazed that the nest day we only had two meltdowns. Within a week we were brearly having any meltdowns at all. But most of all I got my little girl back. Gracie is once again her happy, giggly, stimmy self.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Open Letter to a Mama of a Newly Diagnosed Child

Dear Mama,

First I just want to give you huge hugs. I know no matter how much you anticipated this it's still a punch in the gut to her the words that your child is on the Autism Spectrum. Take a deep breath and let someone else take notes as the doctor talks.

First I want to tell you that it's okay to grieve, it's okay to mourn for the lost dreams, it's okay to rage at the universe that your child is facing huge challenges that you can't imagine right now.  It's okay to be depressed at the loss of your typical family. Please let your loved ones hold you tight, even as they say the wrong words please hear the love behind the words.

Remember that your child is the exact same child they were before those horrible words were uttered. Your child still loves bubbles, you and the family dog. That hasn't changed, the only thing that has changed is the label. Now you know why your child behaves the way they've already been behaving.

You are overwhelmed and that's understandable. There are so many options, bio med, conventional, ABA, floortime. Take a deep breath, you don't have to decide this moment. Your initiation will guide you, and you aren't married to any choice. If bio med speaks to you, and it doesn't work you can stop. If ABA is your first choice and it's not the right fit for your child you can stop at any time. Finding the right treatment is life changing, but don't let the pressure overwhelm you, it might be trial and error but you will find your way.

Remember the spectrum is wide. While there are some on the low end of the spectrum (my daughter included) there are many people who are independent and living their dreams. Your child is most likely under the age of 3. Please know that our children change so much like other children and that your child who is so behind now might catch up. Non verbal toddlers do learn to speak, and motor skills do come even if they are a little later.

Last please find a support group. Ask your child's teacher or your local hospital. Take care of your mental health, we are need to stay healthy both physically and emotionally so we can care for our little angels. I run an online support group and if you want to vent with people who understand please let me know and I will give you the details.

Signed with lots of support and hugs.

A Mama who understands.