Wednesday, May 30, 2012

when behaviours come back: the joy of autism (my ass).

This past month, Max has been putting us through our paces. When I say it's a good thing he's cute and looks like an angel when he sleeps, I am not exaggerating. These periods of intense behaviour are hard on everyone, including Max. I feel like they are brought on by one of two things - the first that he is about to get sick, the second that he is experiencing a burst of development and doesn't know where to put the new pieces. It's especially difficult when his new skills are more comprehensive in nature than expressive. He may have a better understanding of his world, but not be able to do anything with these new skills, which as you can imagine, is incredibly frustrating.

He expresses this frustration by bringing back tried and true behaviours that we thought we had worked through and left behind us. The hardest one is his screaming when Cameron coughs. Conveniently, Cameron has a cold right now so there has been a lot of screaming which wears thin on everyone's nerves. He has bionic hearing, and it doesn't matter where he is in the house, he can hear her when she coughs. And he knows the difference between her cough and everyone else's. An amazing skill, but hard to appreciate at 6am before you've even had a sip of coffee.

The other behaviour that has increased is Max's love of slamming the fridge door. Any time anyone opens the fridge, he runs in the kitchen and slams the fridge door. Not just once either, but twice. Sometimes he even slams the fridge twice and returns for an extra set of slams, who knows why. The interesting thing is that when he is on his own, without Cameron, he is quite happy and a lot easier to manage. We have been coping by keeping the two apart as much as possible, which is fine on weekends but hard in day-to-day life. This week we're bringing Cameron into one of Max's therapy sessions to see if we can make some headway on the coughing issue. Once we tackle that I have some door locks for the fridge. Just another fun day at the Carefoot household...pass the vino.

Friday, May 18, 2012

gymnastics as part of autism treatment.

As part of Max's treatment for autism, he recently started taking gymnastics at the Oakville Gymnastics Club. I was hesitant to enrol him at first because I was worried that the huge physical space would be stressful for him, plus, it's a really busy gym with a lot going on all over the place. Would he be able to stay with his class or would he being trying to escape to go check out the gymnasts vaulting into huge pits of foam? The folks at the club encouraged me to give it a shot, and were really supportive of integrating Max. They have quite a few children with autism in their current program and I was very impressed with their attitude towards Max and helping us make sure it would be a successful experience for everyone.

Max's IBI therapist, Wendy, attends with him. She helps him stay focussed and after the first few classes, is pretty much able to stand back and let him do his thing. There are six kids in the class, which is a perfect size and the class is an hour long. Every week, Max is excited to go, and he is doing well from a social perspective. The goals that we have set out for Max have nothing to do with gymnastic skills (though he can bounce with the best of them on the trampoline), but social skills. We want him to be able to follow his coach's instructions, wait for his turn, participate with the other children, and most of all, have fun.
Over the summer, Max will continue taking the weekly class, but this time, Cameron will also be attending with him. It will be a new social challenge for both of them. Will he stick by her side the entire time? Will she boss him around? Probably, but maybe not. We'll have Wendy attending as well so she can step in and tell Cam to "get her own kids" if she gets in Max's face too much. I think it will also be a good bonding experience for both of them. We're also looking at putting Max in soccer this summer and swimming lessons in the fall. As if the kid wasn't busy enough!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

autism bumper cars.

When the going gets tough, I get quiet. This I know for sure. It has been a roller coaster of a month, filled with a lot of fun stuff and a lot of stress (much of it self-imposed). We celebrated Birthdaypalooza with our friends and had a great turn out, beautiful weather and happy kids. After eleven years of faithful service, we sold our Camry and bought a Ford Escape. The upgrade in size is so we'll have room for Max's service dog which will be joining our family in November. I've never had a brand new car and I have to say, I'm loving it.

I've been trying to quiet my brain. There are so many thoughts bouncing around in my head, they create a wall between what is important, and the bullshit minutia of life. I have drastically reduced the medication I take for depression, giving my body a chance to adjust and for me to accurately assess what it is I truly need. The hard part is managing my anxiety, which has increased. But as summer gets closer and the sunlight increases I find my mood lifting. I remind myself that whatever it is that is causing my heart to beat out of my chest is only a moment in time, will pass, and that on my death bed, I won't be worrying about whether or not I filed my taxes on time for 2011 (which I did not).

I had lunch with my friend Christina on Friday. She's got a huge heart, is wicked smart, polished and stylish in a way I'll never be, and she also has a son who was recently diagnosed with autism. As we talked, I told her about some of the ideas I have been having about what I want to do creatively and professionally, because I wanted to hear her thoughts, get her feedback. Am I nuts? On the right track? Can I do this? Should I do this? What I want to do is help families in the early stages of autism, to help them keep their heads above water when their lives are turned upside down. I want to do important work that truly makes a difference and to use my experience for something positive. I'm not exactly sure how this will take shape or what form it will be in, but I finally feel like I'm on the right track.