Saturday, March 31, 2007

Anticipating Brendan's birthday...

Tomorrow (nearly today!) is Brendan's 11th birthday. He was our April Fool's Day surprise (he arrived 6 days early :) and is very pleased to share his day with JK Rowling's Weasley Twins, Fred & George. Since Brendan was 6 we have had themed birthday parties, involving much planning & a relatively small number (no more than 7 total) of kids, since it's been obvious to us since well before he was diagnosed with autism that Brendan does best with less noise & lots of structure. His 6th birthday party had a Harry Potter theme & the kids dressed-up in capes & robes, "pinned the scar on Harry", had a potions lesson (involving food-coloured baking-soda-&-vinegar mixtures), & tried to guess what was in the HP-themed themed box by feel alone. I think this was the last time I made Brendan's birthday cake from scratch- topped with a quidditch pitch complete with hoops & lego Harry & Malfoy flying above on brooms, suspended by wires. The next 2 birthdays had a science theme & we all wore lab coats & constructed simple flashlights from film cases, made clocks run with lemons, & ran a weak electrical circuit through the whole group to light up a special ball. The last 2 (9 & 10) have been spy parties, & Brendan decided to pretend to be "kidnapped" from his own party last year, so the real spy task was to find him (at the neighbours') using various gadgets that they'd had to find hidden around the house, by cracking various codes... The details of last year's party may be found here & here.

This year Brendan decided on an Adventure Quest theme, which was a nice change, planning-wise. We will dress-up, of course, & I have a basket full of his out-grown wizard & jedi robes, capes, tunics from the mummer's plays for the larger kids, & various other paraphenalia, although we've decided not to include any swords or sword-like objects for obvious reasons... This year there are a few more kids invited-11, since Brendan has made more friends over the years. We have never approached birthday parties as a social obligation- I have never liked big, blow-out kids' parties & Brendan wouldn't be able to cope with that sort of thing, anyway. We've never been able to invite his whole class at school, nor have we been able to reciprocally invite some of the kids that invite him to their parties. So far we haven't heard any complaints... two of the parents of first-time invitees that I spoke to this year when they RSVP'ed seemed very understanding (when I kind of broached the subject :), but they both have special needs kids, too. One of the fun things about planning the activities for the parties as Brendan gets older is that the activities can get more & more sophisticated. Another is that Brendan can be involved in more of the brainstorming, although I still need to do most of the planning because it won't be fun for him if he knows too much.

I decided that I wanted to stress co-operation this year. The competitive spirit just seems to get stronger with some of the kids & that's fine on a playing field, but I don't think it's much fun for a birthday party... I googled "co-operative games" & found some really good resources, which I adapted to the mediaeval/dungeons & dragons-type theme. We'll start with everyone who wants to dressing-up (I hope they still want to! Brendan will be wearing his "Glacius" robes & has requested that Charlie & I dress-up, too). Then I'll do a bit of explaining for the newbs (to Brendan-style parties) & explain the quest, which will be to earn bags of "gold" (puzzle pieces) by participating in group challenges. Some challenges will be for the whole group & some will be by choice. The puzzle pieces, assembled, will be a treasure map. The treasure is goody bags for all on a bed of mardi gras beads :) The first challenge will be for the group to construct a "bridge" across a room with a limited number of boards, which will require some thought & co-operation, since they'll all have to cross over in a group & the boards don't reach all the way. Then they'll be able to choose between solving riddles posed by a sphinx (our 17-year-old goddaughter :) or finding certain pokemon that will be scattered throughout the place by decoding their names in Japanese :) (yes, Brendan will have an advantage here, but he's the birthday boy!). Then comes the twist... half of the group (to be determined blindly) will be "cursed" & become a dragon :) They will then have to accomplish the task of getting the other kids to do something for them, all without speaking, in order to lift the curse. At the same time the other kids will be trying to "Cross the Great Divide"- crossing a room by standing side-by-side, sides of feet touching at all times. The final task will be avoiding being captured by the sphinx as they cross her desert by all crowding onto a "magic carpet" whenever she shows up. Anyone caught off the carpet by the sphinx will have to be ransomed by the rest of the group by answering one last riddle. Then, all they have to do is assemble the puzzle pieces they've earned, figure out the map, & retrieve the treasure... If all this seems to be a bit involved, all I can say is that I learned my lesson 2 years ago when they went through a spy activity that took me days to plan (I actually flow-charted it) & 2 hours to set up, in about 30 minutes. I was really proud when last year's activities took over an hour to solve...

These past few days leading up to tomorrow's party have been busy. I helped my mom move to a new apartment yesterday morning, picked Brendan up at 1:30 from school, then made dinner for 7- we 3, my mom, & friends & family who had all helped her to move (one of my cousins came down from Ottawa to help out!).

Thurdsay morning I had a very disenheartening experience, which took some of the joy out of planning Brendan's party & turned it to worry. As Brendan & I got to school that morning we ran into 3 classmates, all who are invited to his party, who had been dropped off early. Brendan gave them a cheery "hi" when he saw them... & they completely ignored him. He tried again, but they said nothing to him. I was caught between disbelief, anger, & hurt for Brendan. I couldn't believe that they would be so insensitive or ungrateful. Brendan didn't say anything & it didn't seem to dampen his mood, but I was really upset. I mentioned it to Cherie, his consultant teacher, with whom, I spent a few minutes sorting out the events of the next few days (scheduling Brendan's birthday meeting at school for next Tuesday, since he gets the rest of his braces on this Monday, figuring out if I could fit a japanese lesson in on Friday & still help my mom move...). She didn't seem terribly surprised, in a sad way, & said that this was one reason they're doing the weekly socialisation workshops, because so many of the kids don't have good skills for positive interaction with their peers. Sigh. My stomach was knotted all morning. I have tried to convince myself that these are good kids at heart, that Brendan wants them at his party, & they'll probably be better behaved out of school, but, as I said, I have been sad & worried ever since. I also mentioned this incident to Paula (friend, director of the school, & mom to college-age son with ASD) & she said that she'd experienced this quite a lot as her son was growing up. The irony that our boys, who have had intense intervention for social skills since they were both quite young, are the ones considered "socially impaired" is not lost on us... It was very comforting to be able to share my worries with Paula, who's "been there, done that". I am very fortunate to have her as a friend! (She'll be at the party tomorrow, too, & offered to sit on anyone who gets out of line, but I told her that I want her to enjoy the party!)

Today Brendan was really on edge. He seemed almost sad to be getting older, & at the same time excited about presents & party. Anticipation is never easy for him, so that may have been what put him closer than usual to meltdown throughout the day. We had an early japanese lesson, at 11:30 rather than 1:00, so that we could go over to our sailing club (where the party is going to happen) & set some things up. Tomoko planned the lesson to be a conversation about InuYasha's birthday & finding out how old he is (he's not really sure, being a demon) & what he wants as a present... It was really cute & Brendan did his best to participate from the kitchen floor (we started out at the table). Today Charlie helped him read some of the conversation (written in a mix of hiragana & katakana), which was really cool. Tomoko was very impressed by how much he's learned. After lunch we went to the club, taped, measured, blew up balloons, & decided the location for the treasure to be hidden. Then we came home & I made a list of everything else that needs to be brought tomorrow. We'll have church in the morning, which won't go over well with Brendan, since he'll want to make the lego set he's getting (an ExoForce set he's been wanting) or watch one of the dvd's (a Marx Brothers' collection & new a Pokemon Advanced Battle) instead of going to church. Sigh. When I look into tomorrow I keep seeing places where Brendan may get hung-up. I just hope he has fun. Charlie & I were talking this evening about this being perhaps the last year he'll want this sort of very involved interactive experience for his party. If so, it'll be sad, but a relief, too. I rarely look back & get wistful about Brendan getting older- he was an extremely challenging child in early childhood & next we knew we were dealing with intervention upon intervention, co-ordinating care-giver upon care-giver in the wake of his autism diagnosis. Now he's within minutes of being 11... I teased him a bit this evening about perhaps getting his Hogwarts letter this summer :) He said that he wouldn't mind having an owl fly down the chimney to visit him :)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

There's a Dragon in the house...

All the pieces have finally arrived &, with some help, we have put them together... Brendan has begun working with the Dragon voice-recognition software!

We ordered the software through the university that Charlie's affiliated with, but they didn't carry the laptop we wanted (after consulting Consumer reports). We ended-up ordering the laptop directly from Toshiba (after consulting the Dragon trainer Charlie had worked with when they got it at work & discovering that it needed a gigabyte of memory to work (!)) & it arrived on Monday. Brendan's best friend's dad, a computer software & hardware designer & guru to many, was able to come over last evening to add the laptop to our home wireless network, which he's configured so that it can't be accessed by any computers but those we specify. (I was amazed to discover that the new laptop can detect 3 other wireless systems, presumably belonging to neighbours, from our living room...) It was not a particularly easy thing to do, mostly because of how the machine itself was configured from the factory (made me sooooo glad that we have chosen to be, primarily, mac people), & while attempting to disable the bits that were repeatedly preventing the laptop from accessing the wireless system, the wireless drivers were inadvertantly disabled... I learn so much when I watch this friend problem-solve computer problems. He ended-up turing it off, removing the battery, reinstalling it, & doing a reboot which resulted in the little orange light going back on (indicating that the laptop had re-discovered that it had a wireless system installed- crazy thing!). We decided to begin downloading the Dragon cd's while he was there- good thing. I had intuited that internet connexion would be necessary, so hadn't tried to do it yet, & as it turns out the Windows Vista operating system wouldn't run the discs we bought, but Charlie happened to notice the sticker on the box that gave the web address for Vista support... Our friend got us logged-on & registered & left while the updated software was downloading, after having showed me how to re-access the internet connexion should we lose it again. Happily, I was able to finish the download successfully on my own (whee!) & get it registered. I also found some of Brendan's favourite web sites & bookmarked them before going to bed.

Charlie had decided that, having recently been trained on Dragon himself, he could/would do the training with Brendan & after school today they got started... There was a bit of frustration while they accustomed themselves to the headset & got it working properly so that the sound check could be done. The real fun began when Brendan did some reading to start training the system. They chose a funny essay by Dave Barry (which Brendan kept pronouncing "bar-ry" rather than "bear-ry". Then, Brendan kept making side comments on what had been written, plus adding words, which confused the computer... perhaps having "oh crap!" yelled at it so many times was making it woozy. Then Brendan simply started to giggle & we did too. Ok, it was a very funny essay about cyberspace (of course), & Charlie kept having to pause it until Brendan stopped laughing. There followed some frustration about it getting hung-up on certain words, & finally Charlie suggested taking a break & Brendan agreed that was a GOOD idea :) They took off on the first bike ride of the season & although it's not nearly as warm as yesterday, the sun is shining gorgeously & the sky is blue. Brendan's back at it now, with dad checking-in occasionally (he's up to highlighting & punctuation!). Charlie has suggested celebrating by Brendan dictating a story this evening, after going out for pizza. Looks like Brendan's story-blog will become a reality very soon- stay tuned!!

This whole involved process, I know, will soon become a memory, & having the Dragon will definitely change Brendan's life (& ours). I am left shaking my head at how complicated getting all the pieces to work together can be. We are very fortunate to have a knowledgable friend!! Our on-site computer count is now up to an almost obscene 5... each one acquired for a specific purpose (like the new laptop) which simply couldn't be done by the others. Which says a heck of a lot about the state of computers in this day & age!

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Full circle...

This past week can't have been just a week long... I feel as though time has stretched (sometimes agonisingly so), but then that's what happens when you have a kid in discomfort, I guess. Happily, we seem to have come back round to where we were & life is settling down to what passes for normalcy (for us). But what a ride we've had...

The first main consideration was the pain of these new braces & how to cope with it. We did the usual tylenol, round the clock, which helped, as did the hot-water-bottle teddy bear I'd bought years ago but had never used. Brendan'd lay on the foof chair (like a beanbag) & watch tv after school with the bear over his face & said it really helped. By Tuesday evening Brendan's face was really swollen & the initial all-over discomfort had settled into just the spots where the wires were poking his cheeks. Up to then he wasn't tolerating any wax in his mouth to cover the poky things, but by Wednesday morning he was ready to tolerate just about any secondary discomfort... Wednesday morning as I was trying to situate small lumps of soft wax on his upper back molars I realised that, in nearly 11 years of life, this was something I'd never done to/for my kid before. I've changed diapers, fed him, wiped & bathed him, placed thermometers where "the sun don't shine", but had never reached this far back into his mouth before. It was weird. He was so relieved when the wax was in place, you could see it on his face. After Charlie took him off to school, I called the orthodontist & got an appointment for that afternoon, to see what they might be able to do. Fortunately, they were able to re-situate the end of the wires so they didn't bother him & his face de-swelled by Thursday morning.

Eating has been a big challenge, too. He was really psyched by the prospect of going out for Japanese on Tuesday night, since dad had to work late, & we were pretty sure that his usual selections (rice, soup, edamame, ice cream) wouldn't cause trouble, but we weren't prepared for him to be so frustrated with the amount of time & effort it took just to eat. He nearly exploded a couple of times while we were at the restaurant, while not getting much food down (on top of it all), so I was not inclined to order dessert... but when he promised to keep it together while he waited for the tempura ice cream, I relented. Good thing- after eating the ice cream he was feeling much better & proceded to eat everything that had been giving him so much trouble pre-ice cream. When I went shopping Thursday morning I stocked-up on ice cream... He'd also decided that ice cubes made of fruit juice helped his mouth, so I got more juice, & decided to get him some jello (which he's never, ever liked) along with the requested apple sauce. He tried the jello for snack that day & loved it. :)

As for distraction- what we discovered was that tv worked best, with me reading out loud to him coming in second. Dragon Fable (his newer, better version of Adventure Quest) was not distracting enough, so he's spent remarkably little time on the computer this past week. Tv-wise, he asked me if we could try watching my old (from the early 90's) "The Adventures of Batman & Robin" animated series tapes again & I agreed. The first time we tried, maybe a year ago, he was too freaked out by the costumed criminals & decided himself that he should wait. I sat & watched with him, just to be sure he was doing ok. It's funny how you don't really notice certain things... while watching the shows this time around I was struck by the heavy undertones of mental illness (with the bad guys) & focus on their incarceration in a mental hospital (Arkham). The more we watched, the more Brendan asked me about how or why various baddies went crazy & I was getting more & more umcomfortable with exposing him to this. He was particularly taken by Two-Face's compulsion for flipping coins to make decisions, which, given Brendan's OCD, made me uneasy...

By Friday morning he was much more comfortable, physically, but I could tell that he was on edge in general, very likely due to the discomfort of learning to live with the braces. So much has changed- when & how often he brushes his teeth, a new fluoride regimen that has to be timed, what & how he can eat, when & if he can have a snack before bedtime... & just the constant feeling that he's got these things in his mouth. I went in on Friday afternoon for our usual japanese lesson to discover that Brendan had gotten in a bit of trouble during lunch/outside time & was waiting to have it all dealt with. His teachers were actually a somewhat pleased, since it seemed to them normal, kid-type trouble & it was good to see him doing developmentally appropriate things. I was cautiously ok with it all, but it never feels good to know your kid has given a teacher trouble (he misunderstood a direction that lunch had to be either entirely consumed or put away before he could go & play, & thinking that he had to eat it all, got angry & was caught chucking woodchips at the teacher, thinking she couldn't see him do it). He was pretty embarassed about doing it, being caught, & worried about the consequence. I had suggested to the teachers that the consequence be helping the teacher he'd given a hard time to with something at school & they thought that was a good idea, so I told him that much, to relieve his anxiety. But not much seemed to relieve his embarassment & discomfort. I managed to talk him back to a place where he could join his classmates for a workshop (japanese lesson got steamrollered by it all) & he hung in there for a bit, but then the tics got out of hand & he had to leave. I finally just took him home, but he was an emotional disaster by the time we got there.

One of the things that complicated it all was that he'd showed me something he'd made at school & it was weighing on my mind... he'd taken 2 playing-card jokers, taped them back to back, made a scratch on one side (to indicate the "bad" heads) & was flipping the whole thing like Two-Face flips his coin. I didn't react strongly when he showed it to me, but realised that I wasn't comfortable letting him see any more Batman... Of course, when we got home that's what he wanted to do, & when I explained that we were going to take a break he flipped. Sigh. He got so worked up, it was very much like the psychotic episodes he'd had when he was 8 & had just developed the OCD. He was "scared" to go in just about any room in the house, scared of his "bad" left hand & arm (a long-standing OCD issue), writhing on the floor & banging his head repeatedly. I wasn't really sure what to do- call Charlie? Call his psychologist? I didn't feel secure leaving him alone to do either. Finally I just shook him. I felt rotten about doing it & he got really angry, but he came back down to earth. He ran into his room & burrowed under the covers (which is something I'd suggested he do but he was too scared before...). I sat on the bed & held his hand through the covers, apologised for breaking trust with him, & explained that I'd been scared & didn't know what else to do- & cried with him. When he calmed down & we both were blowing our noses he told me I did the right thing. I'm not so sure... but it was over for the moment. We had a snack & I suggested that we watch some of a japanese programme I'd found on the internet (at veoh) called "Kamen Rider Den-O". It's in the Power Ranger/Super Sentai genre, but with a lot more plot (IMO), & although it's not subtitled, I've been able to glean alot from watching & researching the show on wikipedia. He was psyched to watch, so we did for about an hour & then he wanted to play Dragon Fable.

He was emotionally up & down for the rest of the evening & it was a great relief when Charlie came home from work & could spell me. Grammie was due to come to dinner, but called during the afternoon (while Brendan was on the computer) in a panic about the pet food poisonings. She was afraid to feed her 3 cats & couldn't get through to the vet to see which foods were safe, so I looked it up for her on the internet & then told her that Brendan was having a tough time. She decided that she'd stay home & recover from her scare (& feed her cats). It is such a gift to have a mother who understands & gives us the space to do what we need to for Brendan, plus loves us all pretty much unconditionally through it all :)

Saturday morning was fairly calm (good thing, because Charlie was in the office for the morning). We watched more Kamen Rider & discussed it over lunch. Charlie came home in time for japanese lesson & sat in with us. I'd thought Brendan would be up for lesson, but he had a really rough time coping (the purple part of the sofa pillow bothered him & his left hand bothered him) & finally he melted-down. Charlie suggested that they play with legos instead, so Tomoko & I finished the lesson & talked about orthodontia- she'd had braces as an adult & really sympathised with his discomfort. I also invited her to Brendan's birthday party next Sunday & we arranged to have our lesson in the morning next Saturday, so she could move her Sunday students to Saturday afternoon & come to the party.

Brendan spent a goodly part of the afternoon alternately obsessing about legos & raging around, & watching Kamen rider with me or other stuff with Charlie. It was a good day to have 2 parents at home! One thing we discussed over dinner Saturday was strategies for Brendan to reclaim his left hand & arm from the bad OCD thoughts. We've been working with him on this particular "thought" for a few years now- it's one of his earliest ones- & from talking to him about it, it may be that the whole thing originated because he has some sensory issues with his left hand. He's told us that sometimes it tingles or feels weird, which seems to have mutated itself into an OCD thought. He's renamed his left hand "Q-1", which stands for "quadroped 1" & that's how he refers to the thought, too. Over dinner we talked about Brendan trying to move his own "ki" or life-energy into that hand & see if he could reverse the bad thoughts about it. Brendan is very sensitive to "ki" & has found that he can sense the "ki" from other people & objects as well. I mentioned that the American Indians use bundles of herbs called smudge sticks to purify things, & that he might want to try this as well. I have done some healing work with crystals in the past, too, & told him he could use some of my crystals if he wanted to. Brendan seemed psyched to have some positive ideas for dealing with his hand trouble & went to bed in a pretty good mood.

I was worried about church on Sunday, since it's always a challenge for him, but he settled into his usual Dragon Fable game on the church computer during choir practise, transitioned really well to reading his book during the first part of the service, & even participated in the kids' story that happens right before we all go upstairs for Sunday School- something he rarely does. He wanted to stay for lunch (it was pledge Sunday, so there was good food :) & we heard that he'd taught his whole class some yoga that he'd learned in 3rd grade... although I don't think that was exactly the lesson for the day :) Flexible Sunday School teachers are another great gift... The whole afternoon at home went very smoothly. I found another ancient vhs tape- of episodes of "The Tick", which had been another of my early-90's faves- & we watched it in & around other activities. We went over to our sailing club, which is where Brendan's party will take place, to scout it out (I'm looking for likely places to hide the treasure, & we're all looking for where to do the various activities of his D&D-themed party). The bay is still mostly covered with ice, which was pretty amazing considering how balmy the weather has been lately. When we got back home I collapsed on the sofa to snooze for a couple hours while Charlie & Brendan went to fly a kite on a neighbouring hill & then played quietly with legos until I resumed consciousness. Brendan was much mellower all day- such a relief! And in the evening, after jammies time, he told us that he wanted to try to de-tic his left hand & arm. I found some lavender incense (I have real smudge, but strong smells are a problem & he loves the scent of lavender) & we did it in the living room rather than in his room, in case he had trouble with the smell. He lit the incense (part of the cachet was being allowed to light the match) & held some crystals in his left hand while I smudged his left hand & arm. He closed his eyes & pushed his "ki" until he said both sides of his body felt the same, energy-wise. The I smudged all of him. We affirmed that it was ok if his left had sometimes felt differently, because he's different & he's ok. Brendan looked very peaceful & happy when he was done, & he liked the incense so well he wanted to burn the rest of it in his room :)

I know this all may have sounded hippy-dippy... but I think that the incense & crystals were important psychological tools for him, that helped him to imagine himself as whole & ok. The effort certainly tired him out- he slept right up to the alarm this morning,which usually makes him grumpy as heck. But when I mentioned that I suspected the effort of moving his "ki" had tired him out, he smiled & agreed. He seemed proud to have done it. I asked him this morning how his arm felt & he said that it felt a little empty, so we discussed his taking time during the day to keep the "ki" moving. We told Cherie, his consultant teacher, what he'd done & she was delighted, knowing what a problem the OCD has given him over his left hand. I really love seeing his pride & joy in reclaiming part of himself. When I left school Brendan was sitting quietly at his desk doing his morning work with the rest of his class.

So we seem to be back to normal- for now :) This is birthday blowout week- I need to make lists of what needs to be done, particularly the adventure-quest-type activities (I have been googling co-operative games & have found some particuarly fiendish ones that will work very well to make things seem like a quest :) & then do them!! Our goddaughter has offered to help out & I think she'll make a good sphinx (tee hee). The RSVP's are dribbling in... And then, the day after the party (a week from today), the rest of the braces are installed & we get to go through it all again!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Discover" this...!

The recent article on autism in "Discover" magazine has raised many hackles, including my own. I received the latest issue after reading about the the article on a few sites (abfh's was the first one I read, & she included the link to write to the editor- thanks!), so I was "prepared" when the magazine arrived- but how can anyone really be prepared for such idiocy...? I've spent the past couple of days ruminating (in between dealing with a kid with a sore mouth :( ) & this morning Kristina's post finally put me over the edge. Here's what I wrote:

Dear Editor,
As the parent of an autistic child I was absolutely dismayed by the recent article on autism in Discover magazine. The focus of the article on unproven & sometime dangerous "therapies" for autism has done a great deal to foster the widespread misunderstanding of autism. Some of the therapies mentioned, such as chelation, have killed the children they are supposed to help & there is no scientifically-proven basis for their use. Also, most of the parents & "experts" quoted in the article represent autism as a dreadful & devastating "disease", which is an extreme view & does not reflect many people's experience. I would also like to point that none of the "experts" interviewed for this article are autistic people, who are arguably the most expert "experts" of all on this subject. Contrary to popular belief, many autistic people are able to communicate what it's like to be autistic & do so regularly in blogs such as these:
In the future it would be of great assistance to all if your article showed the true balance of opinion on such an important topic as autism, & actually reflected the scientific data available. My family lives every day with autism & we embrace life with our autistic child with great zest. I write about it here:
A podcast of a radio show describing our positive approach to raising an autistic child may be found here:
You should know that I have been receiving my copies of Discover through a promotion from Edmund Scientific & had been seriously considering subscribing, but in light of this recent article have decided not to (in fact, the issue went into the recycling as soon as I read this article). Please do consider all of your readers in future when publishing such ignorant reporting. I am not asking for you to refrain from certain topics at all, but to make sure the reporting is balanced & at least accurate! Thanks for your attention.
-Lisa Gwinner

The web address to write is:

I encourage anyone else who feels strongly about this careless sort of journalism please write, too!


Monday, March 19, 2007

Braces, pt. 1...

Today we slept in a bit, since Brendan wasn't due at the orthodontist's until 9:00 am, about 45 minutes after we usually arrive at school. (Missing some school has been part of the charm of having to get braces :) Brendan had a tough time getting to sleep last night, in spite of having gone sledding in the afternoon, & intermittently had more than usual difficulty with tics yesterday, but also did some good work in overcoming them. He didn't want to go into the kitchen for dinner due to a tic, but I calmly reminded him that he had de-ticced other things & that he could do this, too. At this point he was sitting on the sofa headed for meltdown, so I asked him if he could stand up & he said he could... & when he did I slowly led him into the kitchen, where dinner was all laid out on the table. Charlie had poured us some wine & surprised Brendan by pouring him a teeny glass of his own. This proved sufficient distraction to get him to the table. All thoughts of tic were lost in sampling the wine & then drowning it in tonic water to make it taste better :) His difficulty falling asleep led to his waking up around 7:00, rather than his usual 6:30 (with time to read or watch tv until 7:00) so it was good to have the extra half-hour for him to settle into the day.

He bounced into the orthodontist's office in a mild state of excitement & they were ready for him almost immediately. It was clear that I was expected to wait in the waiting room this time & he didn't seem to need me, so although it felt odd, I let him go. A couple of times a technician came out to report that he was doing very well which was really nice of them. I tried to concentrate on my kanji practice while I waited. I have decided that the only way to learn to read kanji is to learn to write it, so I purchased a workbook a few weeks ago & have been working away when I have the time. It's been really good to do because learning kanji has deepened my understanding of japanese language concepts (today I discovered that the kanji for "understand" is the same as "divide"- to break down into smaller bits, maybe?). It's also helped me to understand why there's more than one pronounciation for most concepts (the original, imported chinese pronounciations & the adopted japanese ones). Tomoko likes the book I got & has been a great resource for answering questions that come up as I work. Drawing the kanji is a challenge & after a while I feel as though my brain is going to explode, which is when I know to take a break :) I've been thinking of ways to share some of this with Brendan, too, because I think he'd really enjoy it. It's like the ultimate secret code...

After about 45 minutes Brendan came & got me. He was still upbeat & showed me the wire in the brackets that had been cemented all along his upper teeth. The technician had him sit back in the chair & showed us a series of goodies for him to take home & how to use them. There was wax to cover any brackets that irritate his lips, samples of special fluoride paste that he could sample to see what flavour I should get for him (by prescription!), a new toothbrush & new rules for brushing, flossing threaders & how to use them... By this time I could tell Brendan was getting spacey from all the info, so I assured her that I'd help him out & we gathered our things to get him to school. Before we could leave, though, he had to kiss me on the cheek to make sure the brackets wouldn't hurt me. Pretty sweet... On the way he wanted to eat his snack (baked Lays) & asked me to remind him how to eat them (put one chip in at a time & chew with back molars). When he started picking at the food in his teeth I suggested he take a big swig from his water bottle to wash it out. I told him maybe he should have a toothbrush at school & he mentioned that a classmate with braces sometimes brushes her teeth after lunch. A couple of times he asked me nervously to look at the wire & make sure it was ok. I'm really glad they're taking it slowly, so Brendan can get used to the changes in stages. Right now the wire is just sitting in the brackets because they fitted the upper bands, took an impression, then took them off to have the appliance for his upper palate attatched to them, & he won't get all of that gear for 2 weeks. It will be enough for him to get used to a different & more time-consuming teeth-cleaning regimen, plus the way the brackets feel.

School was very quiet when we got there. It was 10:15 & everyone was at work. We slipped into his room & he showed Cherie, his consultant teacher the work in progress on his teeth. He went to his desk & his teacher, Jen, suggested that the class go over what they'd been discussing, to catch Brendan up. I quietly told Cherie to have him call me if he is uncomfortable or nervous. The I went home to laundry...

I had 2 calls in the morning but neither from Brendan :) One was Charlie checking up in how things went. I thought about how he's going to manage toothbrush & paste at school & decided that a zippered bag made from a wash cloth would work well (to keep things from getting too nasty-gooey), so I found a cloth & zipper & was just getting ready to figure out how to sew them together when the phone rang- it was 1:30 by then. Cherie was on the line & said that Brendan was starting to get some discomfort from the brackets, so I said I'd come over to get him (it was just half an hour before I usually go get him). They were playing a game in her room & Brendan was sucking on a lollie when I got there. Cherie said she wasn't sure about the lollie but it seemed to be helping... I told her as long as he didn't crunch it they were fine, although we both agreed that he can't go through the day every day sucking lollies either. She said he'd eaten his lunch in stages, some before outside time & some after, but that he'd really had a great day. I told Brendan that after his snack he could brush his teeth & then I'd stick some wax to the offending brackets.

On the way into the house I asked him if I could take picture of him & his braces for the blog, acknowledging that it was an odd request. He replied that I could & that he was glad I was not normal... I told him I was glad that he was not normal too :) He approved of the picture (said it was his "rogue's grin") after I showed it to him. We decided to freeze some orange juice in the ice cube tray to make freezies he could suck on to relieve his sore lips & they're now in the freezer. The zipper bag is made, equipped, & in his backpack. He's already dumped the first lot of wax, saying that it was annoying, & trying to lose himself in a Dragon Fable game... I'm poised to suggest a movie & knitting if that doesn't work. Wish us luck...!

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pokemon hats!

Here are big Pikachu & Pochama (aka Linus) wearing their new hats. Brendan has made both of them in just 2 days :) For the second hat, Pikachu's, he worked the starting-off row himself, which can be tricky. I have been doing the finishing (knitting two together around & gathering all the rest of the stitches to form the top of the hat) but I've been thinking about how to teach Brendan how to do this, too... He's ready to start one for Skitty, which will require a bit of thinking when it comes to finishing the top because of her ears.

Brendan's had a somewhat pre-adolescent day, with frustrations setting him off pretty regularly. He did (barely) manage to get through japanese lesson, which was good because it was really fun. We learned how to say "___ is ___ than ___" & had a riot coming up with sentences using the adjectives we know. I came up with "InuYasha is noisier than Sesshoumaru." & Brendan followed with "InuYasha is kinder than Naraku." We then degenerated into "Brendan is stinkier than dad." & "Brendan is more mischievous than dad." Brendan agreed with the latter statement, but did take issue with the former :)

Later in the afternoon Brendan was at loose ends & not enjoying it, so he asked me to read some "Eldest" to him. I suggested that he knit while I read, but he didn't want to. However, when I noticed that he was chewing his nails, I told him that I thought knitting was much better than biting his nails & he took the hint... & finished Pikachu's hat before dinner!

We are coping pretty well with the snowstorm that's hit the northeast US... Charlie made a fire in the fireplace which we enjoyed during japanese lesson this afternoon- very civilised. I still hope that Spring isn't far off, though :)

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Knitting & chatting...

The transition back to school after 2 days off was the least bumpy in recent memory :) Charlie mentioned to me that Brendan grumbled a bit while getting jammies on Wednesday night, but then remembered that it was just 2 days until the weekend & the grumbles subsided. By all reports he had a great day, & although he swore he wasn't going to go outside after lunch into the dirty, nasty snow to play, when he came home his snowpants were so mud-encrusted that I had to put them in the sink & scrub them. Leaving school was the toughest part of the day, which has been the pattern lately, & is something we've got the whole team- psychologist, OT, teachers- working on. When I arrived I could hear the last bit of music class wafting down the stairs. I heard the teacher's voice & then Brendan loudly declaring "I'm a vegetarian!" (He can say it in japanese, too :) When class finally broke up his music teacher, Joe, said he wanted to ask me a question (I was in the midst of collecting Scholastic book orders), & when I was free he asked if there were foods that Brendan can't eat or be around when cooking. I immediately answered that Brendan can't bear to be near cooking meat, & explained why (he can't bear the thought of animals being killed), prompting the good-natured reply "Well, there goes the fried chicken..." It turns out that Joe is planning to do cooking projects on Friday afternoons with small groups of kids & was discussing it at the end of music class (this is the sort of school where the music teacher plans cooking activities :), hence Brendan's declaration of vegetarianism. With that all sorted out & book orders collected, I aksed Brendan to get his things together so we could go home. Unfortunately, the tics started in earnest right about then & he started exploding about "these parasites" (the OCD thoughts :( I stayed calm & helped him get his things & get to the car, where he collapsed on the seat in relief. I got him talking about the day & what he'd like to do at home & he was back to his usual, cheerful self by the time we were there.

They had been learning a new song in music class today, the Poilce's "Every Breath You Take" which put me in a nostalgic mood (I saw the "Synchronicity" tour back in the summer of 1983... sigh, memories), so I suggested that we listen to the cd that the song is on ("Synchronicity") & Brendan said yes, & he also wanted to hear "Ghost in the Machine" afterwards. Can't help but feel I've raised the kid right when he knows his Police albums... :)

Brendan had mentioned earlier this week that he wanted to knit a red cap for his pokemon penguin plushie, so during the day I had found the set of knitting looms (they're like glorified spool-knitters) I'd picked up a while ago. I got the smallest one going with some thick red yarn & then after his first DragonQuest session we sat down for him to try it out. All past attempts to use something like this have ended in boredom or frustration, so I kept my expectations on the low end... & was very pleasantly surprised that he had little difficulty using it. He actually worked around it about as quickly as I did & I told him so. I also suggested that he think of this as a process, rather than worrying about when he'd be done with the project, & then he'd probably find it more enjoyable to do. At the end of the first couple of rows he needed prompting as to how to proceed, but, as I told him would happen, he got it very quickly. Next thing I knew we were sitting & chatting, he knitting away & me working with a new braiding tool that had looked interesting to try out. He started telling me about some things that had gone on during lunch at school- one kid thought another had put tacks in his shoes, so Brendan decided to ask the accused directly if he had. Then we discussed whether or not this person's reply could be believed & why or why not... when I asked him why someone would put tacks in another's shoes, he told me, "Mom, I am not an expert on how the neurotypical mind works..." which cracked me up. I had to agree, then pointed out that his atypical thinking might help them all find another way to handle the situation.

As we continued chatting about this & that we were listening to "Ghost in the Machine" (which, I have to confess, makes me want to bounce around the house rather than sit still :) & Brendan asked me about the Police. I told him about the band members, how 2 were from the UK & one, the american, is the grandson of a famous composer. He asked me, "Were they really popular, mom? Did people think they were kakkoii?" So I talked about how popular they'd been & still are (to some of us... although I've heard they're getting back together & going back out on the road after nearly 25 years, so perhaps a new generation will discover it for themselves). He wanted to know if Sting was Sting's real name or his band name... It didn't hit me until later that Brendan had used a japanese term while we were chatting. The word kakkoii (かっこいい), although translated in the dictionary as "attractive or good-looking", has the connotation of meaning "way cool" too, & I realised that Brendan used the japanese term because it's more succinctly descriptive than anything we have in english. Plus, he knew I would understand what he meant. I love this evidence that the japanese is taking hold of Brendan's imagination & vocabulary. Kakkoii!

Brendan worked on & off on the hat for the rest of the day & even this morning before school (using the timer for getting-dressed time is working wonders :). I told him that after he gets home we'll be able to cast it off & finish it, since it's big enough. He's ready to knit a whole fleet of hats for his plushies (could take quite a while...) & I'm delighted, for lots of reasons. We have been worried about finding ways to keep Brendan from putting things in his mouth while watching tv (since he's less likely to be monitoring his actions while watching tv). We found that he could watch tv & knit (we watched some Kim Possible before dinner while we knitted & braided) without any difficulty so this looks like it will work just fine to keep his hands busy. Brendan mentioned more than once yesterday that he likes the knitting. I can tell that he's motivated because not only did he pick it up before school & do a row, but he's working with red yarn & nary a tic- red is one of his trigger colours these days. The cool thing is that there's a whole set of these looms in various sizes, so when he's bored with pokemon hats... people hats!! :)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New food, developments, & braces!

Hi. I'm back... Blogging for me seems to be a repetitive process of getting into "the groove" (keeping up with the flow of life & reflecting it in regular blog posts) & then periods of hiccuping through, trying to capture snapshots as life whizzes by... I am in hiccup mode these days & have found that, although it's uncomfortable to settle for posting snapshots of life, it's the only practical thing to do & I'm going to have to be satisfied with it. I have been thinking a lot lately about some of the deeper underpinnings of society's attitudes toward people who are different & at some point it's all going to gel in my mind when I actually have time to post it... but for now it's going to have to stay put. Sigh.

Brendan's been off school, yesterday & today, for family-student-teacher conferences. Yesterday we bopped out briefly in the morning to the asian food store & office supplies store to pick up some things. I had expected Brendan to want to stay in the car while I went into the asian food store because he usually can't handle the smell (lots of fishy overtones in a rather dank, warehouse-y building) but he was interested in looking for okashi (snacks) so was eager to go in with me. His only bad moment was running into (not literally) a cooked duck hanging in a corner, but he was able to go somewhere else in the store & didn't need to leave. We had to find non-gum or -chewy type snacks, which wasn't easy, but he found some konpeito & thought they would do :) (Konpeito is the bumpy, colourful sugar candy that the soot sprites are fed in "Spirited Away".) We talked about tolerance for those who eat meat on the way home in the car... which was interesting because Brendan decided that he wanted tuna fish for breakfast that morning. He hasn't eaten tuna for years. He has, however, assured me that it's ok if I eat fish or seafood around him, which relieved me considerably about travelling to Japan, since we're more likely to encounter fish & seafood there (Brendan can't bear to be in the room if someone is eating other animal products & even refuses to eat tofu products that are shaped like meat products, like veggie burgers). On Monday Brendan had earned a pokemon plushie from the new Diamon & Pearl series that is a penguin (whom he's named Linus) & yesterday morning he told me that Linus wanted tuna, so he'd like to have some too. I convinced him to hold off on the tuna until lunch time (I was trying to get out of the house early to run our errands) & so when lunch rolled around I made him a tuna salad sandwich. He loved it (so did Linus). So, I told him I'd make tuna onigiri for dinner & see if he liked that, too. Onigiri are japanese rice balls, a staple of box lunches there, but Brendan's never liked them with with any sort of filling & I'd been worried about finding any that he'd eat when we're in Japan this summer. (On a side note, according to our japanese teacher, the best place for take-out onigiri in Japan is the local 7-11 (yes, they have 7-11's in Japan). Tomoko says they take great pride in using the best quality rice & fresh fillings... something we're just going to have to experience, I think :)

We had a pretty mellow afternoon- we designed his birthday invitations using an image from his AQ online game- & when dinner came around I made tuna onigiri for Charlie & Brendan (I have really neat onigiri moulds that make the process go alot quicker & are less messy) with edamame on the side & tamagoyaki (rolled sweet omelette) for us parents (I had temaki sushi- yum!). Brendan ate all of his edamame first & then sat with an onigiri in his hand, breathing deeply. I encouraged him to "just take a bite & see..." & he told me he was preparing himself (new food is never easy...). Then, he bit into it. And he loved it :) He so rarely even tries something unfamiliar so I really savoured the moment. It's a lucky thing that we got him started early (as in, as soon as he started eating solid food) with japanese cuisine, or he wouldn't be eating it at all...

Today Brendan's school conference was at 8:50 am, so we got up nearly as early as a regular school day. Charlie got home from doing some catch-up at work as Brendan & I finished breakfast & we all hopped in the car to go to school. In preparation for the conferences all of the kids had done self-assessments & I always look forward to hearing what Brendan has to say. I also remembered that it was reading the assessment that had been partly-scribed for him last fall & seeing the contrast between what he'd been able to write & what he'd said to the scriber that led us to begin looking into voice-recognition software for him. That definitely came up in the conference today & we were glad to be able to report that we are finally ready to order the software & the laptop necessary for him to use it. (This will bring the number of working computers in our house to 5... deranged, but true. You would think that we might find a suitable computer from the array already available, but Dragon won't work with any of them for various reasons...) Brendan read his self-assessment (scribed for him, so it was full of interesting things) & commented on it as needed. One thing we all found interesting was that he prefers to work in groups of kids (as long as he doesn't have to do any writing), rather than alone because when he's in a room of students working on their own he feels an atmosphere of competition. When he's working with a group of kids he gets a feeling of co-operation. Charlie snagged a copy of Brendan's self-assessment to give to his psychologist, whom we were going to see at noon. When Brendan ran out of things to say he left the room & we did the grownup part of the conference. His teachers are very pleased with his current level of functioning at school. They moved desks around in the classroom a bit & found just the right place for Brendan's desk relative to the blackboard so that he can concentrate on his work without too many distractions. His big box has also helped enormously, since he can retreat to it & regroup when feeling overwhelmed. His teacher says he uses it a lot, but I didn't get the sense that he was in it during lesson times or that it was interfering with work time. He has also been much more fluent about telling his teachers when something is giving him a tic (triggering an OCD thought) so that they can modify things before he melts down from distress. So his days are less full of emotional explosions & he has more energy for school work & fun. We ended the meeting by thanking them very much for their flexibility & creativity in working with Brendan. So many of the things I've been reading lately highlight how lucky we are to have such a school in our community, which is not dedicated to serving kids with special needs but whose focus on alternative education provides him with teachers who are dedicated to helping him learn in the best way possible. They replied by telling us how much they enjoy Brendan as a person & how much he brings to the class. :)

The next event after school conference was the arrival of Grammie to stay with Brendan while Charlie & I went to see his psychologist for one of our regular meetings. I showed Grammie the chewy tubes that arrived on Monday, to be used instead of gum for Brendan's oral-motor/sensory feedback needs from now on... Luckily Brendan was on the computer when I did this because she was a bit puzzled by the tubes (& maybe my excitement?) & asked if they were like a pacifier. I kind of laughed & then asked her not to say that in front of Brendan... Later Charlie & I reflected on how well-thought-out plans could be destroyed by a single word & how lucky we were he wasn't around to hear the word "pacifier". Sigh. It also made me realise that I definitely live in an odd little world, where it's perfectly ok for nearly 11-year-olds to need chewy tubes... because, of course, is is ok (& necessary). We had a very productive meeting with Dr. M & he gave us some ideas for strategies to help Brendan transition to wearing the braces, particularly if he continues to have trouble keeping foreign objects out of his mouth (which is currently a problem). It's very clear that we will have to rethink how we do things at home until the transition has been made, & that Brendan will need more monitoring than he's required for quite some time. So he's not the only one who will have to learn to do things differently. Another thing we talked about was the way we've been approaching how to help Brendan learn the social skills he needs. Dr. M was pleased that we've evolved a strategy of talking about this sort of learning as getting "information" about things, rather than viewing it as coaching or getting help. He said that by speaking this as information-gathering we are not only piquing his interest (because he loves information) but empowering Brendan to learn how to do it himself, rather than teaching him to depend on others. It's a subtle difference, but affects how he views himself & his own capabilities. At these appontiments we always get positive feedback as to how Brendan's doing developmentally & it is always nice to know the ways that he's right on track for his age, rather than the focus always being where he's not doing as well... Brendan's recent interest in earning money is developmentally spot-on & is to be encouraged, we discovered :)

The final appointment for this busy day was with the orthodontist to begin the braces process (!). Brendan was a bit flakier than he's been at past appointments & had to be brought back to topic repeatedly (they did a thorough job on what foods he must avoid, how to eat others, & how he'll have to change his present methods for toothbrushing, flossing, & flouride rinsing). He was very pleased with the new water bottle he was given (as a treat :) & the dental mirror of his very own to use to keep track of the spacers that they put in today. He was really captivated by the mirror & was able to find all of the spacers with a little help from the technician. We checked-out using the chewy tubes to replace gum in Brendan's life (they hadn't heard of them) & after I explained how they work we got the ok... whew!! As it turned out, he only needed 3 of a possible 8 spacers, & although he complained that they made his teeth feel weird, he was barely noticing them by the time we left. I am worried by how he'll do once everything's actually in his mouth. We'll have to check his lips regularly to make sure the braces aren't abrading too much & giving him sores. His pain threshold is very high & I'm not convinced that he'll catch any abrasion before it's really bad. And we're really going to have to think about what he's eating & how. As I mentioned above, we're going to have to change our habits as much as Brendan will have to change his. It makes me realise what a creature of habit I am... On the way home we brainstormed a list of Brendan's friends that have braces already, so that he can ask them questions & get ideas for coping strategies. He's still pretty excited about it all &, I think, liking the extra attention :) Hey, if you've got to put up with all of this, feeling special is a nice perk!

Back to school tomorrow...!

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Whee! The podcast is up!!

Back in January I posted about being interviewed about being an autism mom for a radio programme that is produced by our local Unitarian Universalist churches. The show aired a few weeks later & I was really pleased by how well my friend, Santosha (who had interviewed me for the show) had managed to get my "posautive" message across in the editing of the show & since then I have been waiting as patiently as possible for the podcast of the show to go up. Well, the "Life Now Radio" site has been revamped & all of the podcasts are up. The audio may be found (for listening online) here or go to the "stories" page for downloading. There have been very positive responses to the show & I am delighted. I feel very strongly about trying to get a different message across, than, say, the one shown in the "Autism Every Day" film :( I would very much like to make the hopeful message, that life can be wonderful with an autistic person in your life, more widely heard. It's a small voice in a big world, but now it's out there!

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Atypical autistic development?

I was reading a couple of posts today that got me thinking...

Friend mcewen, in this post talks (in typical self-depricatory fashion) about the system that's worked best to jumpstart her 2 boys socially & verbally. Not only does it seem heroic to me (with just one autistic kid) that she was working with both at the same time (go girl!) but it made me reflect on our journey with Brendan & how he seems to be doing this autism thing, well, backward. This post by Kristina also led me to think back on what we were told Brendan would or wouldn't accomplish, vs what he has accomplished, & that reflection also made me realise that Brendan's path is not what might be called "typical", even by atypical standards...

There is no question in our minds, knowing what we do now, that Brendan has been autistic from birth. He was a high-needs baby who literally could not be put down (unless already sleeping) until he was 5 months old. He needed to be rocked to sleep every night & did not sleep through the night until he was 2 1/2. Charlie & I adapted to him. We never tried to "Ferberise" him, finding that the night-parenting methods of Dr. Sears fit better with our philosophy, although it was a challenge. Brendan was never a "terrible two" in that he rarely tantrummed, but his needs for constant diversion & his uneven development (although he hit all the developmental milestones on time) made him a very intense child. He had a small but eloquent vocabulary of baby signs that we taught him at around 10 months, which he lost completely at 14 months when he began learning to walk. After he'd mastered walking, at about 17 months, he began speaking & quickly moved from single words to sentences. He was very imaginative but rarely played with toys, so depended on us as his playmates. When he was around 3 1/2 he began having difficulty with transitions, particularly with leaving places he wanted to be (like toy stores & playgrounds). He would scream for long periods of time & sometimes run in circles until he fell exhausted on the floor when he was upset. We started to use the time-out system (from the "1-2-3 Magic" book) to help him learn to self-regulate, but sometimes had to adapt things to his quirks. I remember having to time him out on the landing of our stairs because if we put him in his room he'd trash it (at 4 years of age) & if we put him in a chair he wouldn't stay there. Because Brendan was so verbal we knew he understood what was going on & he could give us a fair amount of information about how he was feeling, too. Up until he was about 5 we thought that we just had a "spirited child" on our hands & were not aware of any of his developmental delays or visual/perceptual difficulties (although in retrospect it all makes sense). He didn't like colouring or drawing very much, choosing to use just one colour & scribbling when asked to draw. Although he wasn't getting any formal therapy before the age of 5 (since we didn't realise he needed any) we were with him constantly when he was not in school. He rarely watched tv alone because one of us would watch with him, whether PBS or a video, & we would discuss what we watched afterward. Although our time with Brendan wasn't structured, like a therapy would be, we structured his life securely around him because that was how he functioned best.

When we began to discover that he had severe developmental delays, the summer Brendan was 5, no-one ever told us that there were things he "would never" accomplish. The only "never" was that we were told that no child from our school district had ever received on-site therapy services at the private school he attended for kindergarten. The initial plan was to bus him, 3 times a week, in the middle of the school day, to another school where he'd receive OT & PT. Being very inexperienced with "the system" we weren't happy about this, but didn't know what to do. When we asked a friend who is an education lawyer if this was acceptable legally, he told us that the laws in NYS are pretty ambiguous about how & where therapy must be given. It took a compassionate person in our school district's special ed. services department to realise that busing him to another school "wasn't in his best interest" & she decided to make it possible for him to get on-site services. The school was delighted, since it meant that they had a precedent & could argue for other kids from our district getting on-site services as well. It wasn't until that fall of his kindergarten year, after OT & PT had begun, & Brendan began to perseveratively whack himself in the stomach, that we could really see that Brendan was behaving differently from most kids. Up until that time whatever he did seemed to us to be within the realm of "normal". We also noticed, after taking him to his second movie in a theatre at age 5, that he couldn't cope with the intensity & noise, so we just stopped taking him to theatres. No big. :)

Even when Brendan was diagnosed with Aspergers, the following summer when he was 6, the idea of his possibly never accomplishing something was never brought up. I guess we were lucky :) The focus was on getting him the proper therapies & school interventions so that he'd do the best he could. The pediatric neurologist did tell us that he would probably develop Tourettes (& he did, 3 years later) & was concerned enough about depression to want to put him on anti-depressants at the time, but we were not keen to do that, since he seemed to be functioning just fine to us. It wasn't until Brendan developed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder 2 years later that we needed to resort to anti-depressants to help him cope.

A snapshot of Brendan at age 7 1/2, just before the OCD became a major player, would show an imaginative, highly verbal child, with poor social skills, poor fine-motor skills, proprioceptive & motor-planning issues, & emerging visual/perceptual skills (thanks to intensive therapy). Although he had difficulty functioning at school (he wanted to be under a table most of the time) his first grade teacher, Paula, had the skills to bring out the best in him & really help him learn to function there. (Paula's skills came from not only being an experienced teacher, but from raising a son with autism as well.) Brendan started out in second grade doing the best he'd ever done with schoolwork (he could now see & track visually well enough to read & write). He seemed to enjoy many things in life- legos (which he could now build with independantly, thanks to the new visual skills), building with blocks, learning to ride a bike, & he was doing more socially with friends, like going to his first sleepover. He developed a great interest in Harry Potter & was very keen to discuss his theories about the mysteries in the books. Although very imaginative, he still mostly made legos for the sake of putting them together, although he sometimes set up tableaus illustrating scenes from HP or Bionicles stories.

Just around his 8th birthday Brendan began having trouble making decisions, getting terribly upset he'd make the "wrong" decision & sometimes becoming paralysed by decisions. He started getting extrememly agitated & frightened when he saw spiders & developed fears about touching certain things. We were (fortunately) working with our present child psychologist, who we'd started to see to help us deal with the perseverative behaviours when he was 5, & were able to get in to see him a little sooner than usual. He identified these new behaviours as OCD & recommended that we see a child psychiatrist. We also happened to see Brendan's pediatrician around that time, & it turned out that her research specialty was OCD. She loaded us up with information & materials, which we really appreciated. One thing that she told us was that 8 years old is often the time when OCD shows up in children, which we found very interesting. The summer after the OCD began was very, very difficult. Brendan's functioning became more & more limited. He developed fears & phobias at an incredible rate. He had psychotic episodes where he was so revved-up by the fear that he'd thrash around, hit himself, whack his head on things, scream, cry uncontrollably. It was heartbreaking. The evenings were the worst time of day for him & we nearly called an ambulance 3 times that summer because he was hurting himself & we weren't sure we could calm him down (although we finally did). He had enormous trouble falling alseep. His psychiatrist had him try anti-depressants at first (prozac), but he didn't tolerate a high enough dose (they would rev him up even more) to really help, although we could never completely withdraw him from them either, since that would cause frezied behaviour, too. Brendan developed a fear of not only spiders, but of anything that had touched a spider. When Charlie picked up a spider in a kleenex to dispose of it, Brendan noticed which hand he used & wouldn't allow him to touch him with that hand. He developed an aversion to his thumbs, particularly to the nails, & wouldn't hold anything using his thumbs. We found that if I taped his thumbs with surgical tape he did better, so we spent the summer doing that. He dropped things all the time because of his awkward, thumbless grasp. He couldn't write like that, either. He became extremely sensitive to touch & to certain smells & by the end of the summer I was the only person who could hug him. Charlie could touch Brendan's foot with his right foot. That was it. Grammie had to back-off with the hugs & kisses & she did an admirable job of holding back. I couldn't wear any perfume or use soap that wasn't herbally-based. If we had a sitter stay with Brendan they couldn't touch his bed or he wouldn't get into it (we found this out the hard way) & I would have to change the sheets before he'd get into bed. We did discover that one of my herbally-based sprays would "sanitise" things so he could tolerate them, particularly if there was an unacceptable odour there or if it had been touched by someone else. Finally, Brendan's psychiatrist recommended that we try seroquel when it became obvious that prozac wasn't going to give him enough relief. Brendan responded immediately. He was calmer & the fears began to abate, although he was still hemmed-in. When he started 3rd grade we brought in a can of the spray for them to use, so that he could overcome the many OCD triggers there. He began working much more with the consultant (special ed.) teacher because he couldn't stay on the classroom & finally the school asked our disrict to modify Brendan's IEP to include time with the consultant teacher (which they did). Another child's aide wore very perfumy lotion & because of this he developed his first aversion specifically related to a person. On the plus side, his teachers were able to help him sit down & explain to the aide why he ran away whenever he saw her, which was a great lesson in self-advocacy, & she sweetly responded by changing the lotion she wore at school. On the down side, Brendan broadened the aversion to any middle-aged african-amercian woman he saw, which has caused some misunderstandings ever since- how do you explain that your kid is not racist? However, when people could see just how specific the aversion was (Brendan's godfather was african-american as is his music teacher & he has no trouble with them at all, nor was he bothered by our young, female, african-carribbean music director at church) it became understandable, although this is the first time I've written about this, & sometimes it still feels like a "dirty little secret"...sigh.

It has been 3 years since this phase of our lives began. When the OCD became the major issue neither Charlie nor myself saw it as part of Brendan's autism, & in fact, the Aspergers became almost irrelevant in light of the changes the OCD had made in our lives. Until about a year ago I thought that the OCD was something to "fight" & "defeat" & I feel a bit ashamed of this. If I have any understanding of parents who say they hate their child's autism, it's due to our struggle with Brendan's OCD. It's very hard to have any positive feelings at all about something that causes your child (& you) so much pain. About a 1 1/2 years ago, though, Brendan also developed Tourettes, with most (but not all) of his tics being directly connected to OCD thoughts. We remembered that Brendan's neurologist had told us that this might happen, & we realised that we were not dealing with separate "diseases" within one brain, but a related set of neurological differences, which we have now come to see as falling under the umbrella of Brendan's particular brand of autism. The professionals we deal with (almost literally) day-to-day, Brendan's psychiatrist & psychologist, have never disputed this perception/perspective. Perhaps they see that this is what works for us... or perhaps they agree with us. Nobody's disagreed yet :)

To get back to where I started this trip down memory lane, Brendan's unique journey with autism seems to have taken him from being pretty functional (highly verbal, imaginative, articulate, not too many aversions to food/noise/odours) to relatively less functional as he's gotten older. He is certainly just as imaginative, verbal, & articulate as he ever was, & has added insightful to the list as well. But he is much more highly reactive to noises, tastes, smells, sensations than he's ever been in his life. He's highly reactive to his environment as well, thanks to the OCD, & far more disruptive than he was in kindergarten, thanks to the Tourettes. His learning difficulties are almost solely related to the OCD, although his resistance to using a keyboard has led us to what would have been a more functional alternative anyway, voice-recognition software, so there's a tick on the side of OCD :) Do I see all of this as the much-touted "autistic regression"? No, I don't. When Brendan's pediatrician told us that age 8 is the classic onset time for OCD, it made me wonder if that wasn't due to this being the prime age for things to get much more complicated developmentally. In Brendan's school, the classes are grouped developmentally, with K-1, 3-4, 5-6, & 7-8 graders taught together. But within the past 10 years it was determined that 2nd graders have very specific developmental needs that are best met if they are grouped only with 2nd graders. I really can see how many more demands are put on the kids as they get older. It didn't really surprise me that the transition to 5th grade this year has been very difficult for Brendan, & it's taking pretty much to the end of the year for him to settle into being in 5th grade... good thing he's with the same basic group next year, too! At home, I can see Brendan accomplishing some very developmentally-appropriate milestones- making his own breakfast, learning to use a knife, learning to use timers to help him self-regulate. But he also needs much more structure than the average nearly-11-year-old. He did begin to imaginatively play on his own with his legos (not just build them) around age 9, but these days the OCD interferes so much that playing on his own doesn't provide enough structure to overcome the thoughts & enjoy himself. His favourite play-time activity these days, other than the highly-structured online games he loves, is to play legos with dad. We've come to understand that Brendan doesn't trust other kids to play this way with him, & he seems to really crave the lego time with Charlie, who is fun & trustworthy, too. I love hearing the two of them playing upstairs, & I really admire my husband's patience & flexibility to give this time to Brendan, when most other dads with boys this age are moving onto more sophisticated pasttimes. Not to say they're not getting more sophisticated, as shown by their first-place finish in Brendan's first-ever stint crewing for dad in a sailboat race...

When it comes to wondering what or if Brendan will ever do certain things- go to college, get married, live independantly- basically we don't think that far ahead very often. It's not because we assume he will, though... right now these things feel as though they depend on so many variables that it would be just as valid to flip a coin to find out. This afternoon I'll be meeting with Brendan's music teacher to help him understand why Brendan's functioning is so variable in music class this year. Brendan has had this same teacher for music for the past 2 1/2 years, so the necessity for this meeting just underlines for me how much trouble Brendan is having adapting to the complexity of life as he gets older. Some of his biggest enemies right now are the assumptions that are made about how he should function... This is not to say that we feel hopeless about Brendan's future, nor are we any less than proud of the amazing young man that we are raising. I believe that, somehow, he will find the right niche for him that will give him a happy & productive life. In fact, that's what we've always been about, even before we discovered that he's autistic. "Nuff said!! :)

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Back on the roller coaster...

It's been an odd couple of days. Luckily, energies are running high so they've just been odd... :)

Monday afternoon Brendan saw the orthodontist. It's been one year since his initial evaluation, where we learned that he would definitely need braces to correct an upper overbite & lower jaw arch problems. Fortunately, no surgery will be required, just 2 years (give or take) of braces. Even more fortunately, Brendan's pediatric dentist was able to send us to an orthodontist who has experience with autistic kids, & it really shows. At our first visit, last year, Brendan was hyper-chatty & into pretty much everything. The response of everyone who dealt with him was to be charmed by his obvious intelligence & interest in the proceedings. The orthodontist spoke directly to him when it came time to tell us the results of the exam, & the whole place is really relaxed & quiet. When we explained Brendan's oral-motor issues & voiced our concerns about loose appliances we were assured that they could do the work without his ever having to wear a removable device. Very good news. Since Brendan's 12-year molars hadn't fully erupted yet they couldn't begin the treatment last year, so they told us to come back this March. The thought of Brendan being done with braces before he even enters high school is very exciting to us parental units :)

Brendan was psyched to go back to the orthodontist this past Monday. He really liked the people there & remembered the doctor's name :) He was just as hyper & chatty & they were just as relaxed about it. After the exam we were told that Brendan was ready for braces. Whoo hoo! :) (Later in the day I asked him why he's so excited about getting braces & he said that it "was something new" & that it "would be a challenge"...) While we were there we consulted the doctor about Brendan's reporting another loose tooth, even though we'd thought he was finished with losing teeth. I was very nervous because Brendan is extremely aggressive with loose teeth & I could envision him working away at a permanent tooth... It turned out that this was, indeed, his last primary tooth to come out (we'd miscounted) & Brendan was told that it could take up to 2 months to come out, at it's present stage of looseness. This guy doesn't know Brendan, though... The good news was that it won't affect the schedule of getting braces. So, we got the list of suggested payment options (of course ) & I made 3 more appointments while they took Brendan upstairs for xrays & impressions of his teeth. He bounced off after the technician chatting away. I was a bit worried about the impressions bit, since I've had this done & it can be unpleasant (I felt like the goop was going to run down my throat) but Brendan came bouncing back about 20 minutes later, all excited about the possible uses (other than dentistry) for the alginate (the goop's real name...). He's thinking that encasing fleeing miscreants in the stuff would be the "havaheart" trap version of catching criminals.

We're all going back (dad, too) next Wednesday for the pre-treatment meeting, & they'll also insert spacers to get him ready for the bands. They will also repeat the do's & don'ts & explain how he'll have to clean & floss (he already flosses) with the braces on. The biggest issue I can see is that gum will be forbidden. (When I told Cherie, his consultant teacher, about this yesterday morning she kind of gasped.) Brendan gets significant deep pressure feedback from chewing gum, plus it seems to prevent him from putting other, less appropriate, things in his mouth. Sigh. He had been using a chewy tube a couple of years ago while watching tv at home (never at school) but then stopped abruptly & I never really found out why. I brought it up a few weeks ago, when I found him chewing on a lego, but he said he wouldn't use it. I brought it up again yesterday afternoon, since the gum ban is starting to sink in, & he was more interested in the idea of a chewy tube then. So I looked at them on the Integrations site & found a couple different kinds that Brendan thought he'd like to try. One kind acts as a kind of pencil-topper, which I thought would go over better at school, & it even has little terry-cloth covers to catch saliva & give a different sensory experience (Brendan liked the idea). He'd also been telling me how it would be cool if they were flavoured, but the closest I found was scented ones (chocolate & the like) so he said he'd try them, too.

The other impetus for getting chewies back in our lives was the end of Brendan's schoolday yesterday... He had called me around 1:00 all excited because he'd lost the loose tooth (remember? The one that was supposed to take 2 months to fall out...?). When I got there I was surprised to see that he was sitting away from the rest of the class (around the corner but still within earshot), who were having music & seemed upset. His music teacher came over & explained that Brendan had been asked to remove himself from class for spitting on another kid. I was rather taken aback because Brendan has never had much trouble with spitting before. Brendan was really upset with himself & just this side of meltdown, so my priority was to get him home & then try to sort things out. His teacher said that things were ok, he understood that Brendan hadn't meant to disrupt things, but Brendan was not able to forgive himself for his lack of judgement. (The teacher has since asked to meet with me tomorrow afternoon, which was kind of funny because I had told Cherie just this morning that we need to sit down with him & explain more in depth what's going on with Brendan...) I barely got Brendan out of the building without a meltdown, he was so upset. He didn't calm down at all in the car & was on the kitchen floor in meltdown mode when his nose brushed my sleeve & we both made a run for the tissues, since he'd snotted my sweater & his face has gotten smeared. Before we knew it we were laughing uproariously at this & he was fine. Once he was in a better place I decided to try to sort things out piece by piece, so I first asked him why he was spitting... I guess there were a couple of issues, one being that he had a paperclip in his mouth (!) & had to spit it out. Another was there was a bad taste in his mouth (from the paperclip perhaps?), & then finally it became a tic & he felt he had to spit. I explained to Brendan why people freak out when "spit happens" (spread of disease) & explained that, if he feels the need to spit, he should excuse himself & find a sink. I asked him to imagine spit=sink, so that it would become an automatic reaction over time. Brendan told me that he thought the kid who'd accidentally gotten the spit-out paper clip on his shoe was over-reacting & when I checked this out with Cherie this morning she agreed that this was a good possibility. Then we tackled the paper clip in his mouth... I asked him to imagine getting a paper clip stuck in his braces. He made a face & decided that it would be bad, & then I told him I'd find him some chewy things to use instead of paper clips & the like. The last thing I tried to address was his over-reaction to the whole thing. We talked about how embarrassing it can be to be called out of class, & also that we know that he's not going to remember appropriate behaviour all the time, but that he needs to cut himself some slack & allow himself room to make mistakes & learn from them.

Last evening, when Charlie & I talked about it all, we decided that his lapse in good judgement & over-reaction was very likely due to the decreased dose of seroquel. Sigh. We've seen small signs over the past couple of days that he's just not coping very well with life. Episodes of screaming because the tics won't let him alone (literally) & his not being able to do things like lego because it's not diverting enough & the OCD starts freaking him out. So we decided to resume the 50 mg twice daily (we had reduced his evening dose to 25 mg 2 weeks ago). It looks as though he's just going to have to outgrow the seroquel. From what we've been told, as Brendan grows & matures, he'll be able to take more cognitive control of the OCD (& he already has), plus the Tourettes may back-off as well. The main thing is that he have "a life" & not spend large amounts of time terrified or paralysed because of the OCD & be able to do the things he likes & wants to do.

Charlie usually takes Brendan to school on Wednesday mornings & either goes to work (just for the morning) or does errands & comes home. Today I accompanied them so that I could get Cherie up to speed on yesterday's music class doings... She was surprised & distressed when I told her what had happened, because they (the teachers) had been meeting right across the hall, & Brendan's classroom teacher, Jen, kept going out to see if everything was going ok. It all must have occurred right at the end of class. I told Cherie how we'd decided to handle the spitting & all about the chewy tubes, & she told me that one of Brendan's school friends had just started using a chewy tube at school, which was a great relief. I also mentioned that we're going to have to do more with deep pressure, & we both realised that we're having trouble getting him to accept it when he's really upset. I had used it to stave-off a meltdown over the weekend, when Brendan was just starting to get agitated, & Cherie had had a similar experience last week in gym class, but he won't let us do it when he's in meltdown mode. I mentioned that I'm thinking of making him a "shoulder pal" - a weighted object that he coulld wear over his shoulders at school to give him more consistent sensory feedback. I mentioned it to Brendan (I had seen one in the OT catalogue) & we talked about making it look like one of his pokemon, then he could wear it & have it be kind of fun. He said he might wear something like that at school... Cherie & I brainstormed some, too- she said that if there was a beanbag component (like the head or the tail) he might like it because she's seen him play with beanbags. I was thinking that making it out of fleece might make it fun to touch & pet, too. The main thing is to make him want to wear it... I will definitely have him help me sew it when the time comes. He's been bugging me to do another sewing project, so I'll bet knowing he's made the shoulder thingy himself will make him want to wear it :) Stay tuned...

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Incentives- the continuing saga...

This morning, as he took his boxer shorts out of the dresser, Brendan surprised me with a hug & a kiss :) The reason was that I had finally tie-dyed 3 pair of his new white boxers & he was quietly, but obviously, pleased. I have been making Brendan's boxers since he was in kindergarten, partly because he preferred to wear boxers & I couldn't find them in his size, partly because I made most of his clothes back then, anyway, & partly because he was so skinny that he regularly crawled out of his trousers & didn't notice. If he was wearing boxers made from fun fabrics the kids were more likely to say, "Wow, neon cats!" than laugh at him... About a year ago I made the final batch (size XL) from the KwikSew pattern for boys' boxers & went looking for a men's-sized pattern that was as easy to make. I finally found one, but what I had trouble finding, when it became obvious a few weeks ago that Brendan was outgrowing the last batch, was the time to make new ones. Charlie encouraged me to find some store-bought ones, since Brendan's no longer too teeny to find them easily, so I checked out the Dharma Trading Company site, where you can get plain white clothing (for dyeing, etc) inexpensively, & found some boxers that would fit Brendan. But, of course, fit isn't the only issue... When the boxers arrived Brendan unfortunately got a look at the packaging, which featured a guy wearing only boxers of course, & it triggered an OCD thought & tic. So for the first few weeks every time he put them on he had to go through an elabourate de-ticcing ritual. I asked if dyeing them would help & he said it would... then he waffled & wasn't sure. It was getting easier for him to put them on, but he's always loved jazzy boxers, so I decided to tie-dye a few anyway. When I asked him which colours would be ok to use (becase there are OCD thoughts attached to certain colours) he said blue would be ok. So, I tied 3 pair & got them soaking in the soad-ash solution that makes the dyes stick (I use Procion dyes because they're really bright & long-lasting). Then I discovered that I had about half an inch of turquoise dye left in the bottle & no other blues at all. So Friday after school we went out to the art store & I had Brendan pick out 3 more blues. Saturday morning I made the dye solutions & did the dyeing, & by Sunday afternoon they were rinsed & washed. He liked them when I showed them to him, but wasn't effusive, hence my surprise when he kissed me this morning upon opening his undies drawer :) Sooo... I am finding that dyeing just 3 pairs wasn't enough & am looking around for more stuff to dye (oooh- I just got Charlie some new boxers, too.... evil laugh).

Charlie didn't have to work Saturday morning so it was one of those unplanned-but-busy-anyway mornings. While I was dyeing boxers Charlie & Brendan made brownies from scratch (we have a great recipe that uses whole wheat flour as the base)- a double batch with some for us & some for church. Our congregation belongs to an interfaith hospitality network that hosts homeless families for a week, 4 times a year. During that week volunteers make the meals & stay overnight with the guests. The families move from church to church & during the weekdays they attend programmes designed to help them get jobs & housing of their own. It's the only local programme that allows families to stay together (usually men go to a men's shelter & women & children go to a women's shelter) & it has a high success rate. So, half the brownies were going for dinner at church for our guests. Charlie dropped them off after our japanese lesson.

We hadn't had a lesson for a couple of weeks because Tomoko was interviewing in 3 different states for doctoral programmes, since she's graduating with her masters in family therapy & counselling in May. We'd really missed her & spent some time catching up (she had some stories about her travels, since this is not the time of year to be flying in or our of the northeastern US...). She also told us that her sister has made reservations, for the weekend we'll be staying with her family in Japan, at not only an Onsen (hot springs resort) but at a traditional Ryokan as well. It's a very traditional place with a fireplace in the middle of the room & sounds way cool. I've seen pictures, & the thought of actually staying at one is mind-boggling. We also talked about the daily rhythms we've found are best for Brendan when we travel. We usually do anything exciting in the morning, when energy is high, & eat out, then have a quiet afternoon at our hotel (or where-ever). Tomoko said she'd let her family know about this. It looks like the afternoons will be spent in the car, over the weekend, which should be just fine since Brendan travels well & sitting in the car would qualify as down-time. We always travel with the laptop (& plug-in power converter) so he can play games or watch a movie. Brendan was getting kind of antsy as we chatted about all these things, so I was giving him some deep pressure on his arms while we talked. He got right to the lesson, though, when we began. It turns out that March 3rd (3-3) was Hinamatsuri, which is the girls' doll festival. So our lesson was a conversation between InuYasha & friends, with the women explaining the festival to him, then everybody going out to a restaurant for special food. I learned the very useful term "okosamaranchi" which mean's "kid's lunch" (the "ranchi" part is how the word "lunch" sounds in japanese) & Tomoko included the kanji for this term so that I'll recognise it when we see it on menus in Japan. We also talked about how to ask them to "hold the meat" when we order one... a must for our veggie kid (he has memorised the phrase which means "I am vegetarian" :).

In the afternoon we watched (& giggled through) the rest of the Kim Possibles I'd downloaded on Friday. Paula came to dinner - we'd been hoping her son Ck would be home from college on break, too, but his flight was cancelled due to bad weather, so we enjoyed Paula's company & are hoping to see him some time this week.

Sunday Charlie & Brendan stayed home from church because the Sunday School classes can't meet in their classrooms on the weeks that we have guests sleeping in the church ('cause that's where they sleep!) & so they all do an activity together (except my Sr. High kids, whose room is only used if there are a lot of guests). Brendan doesn't cope well with this sort of change in schedule, so we've decided to give him the day off. I not only had Sunday School but a music committee meeting after church (I'm the committee chairperson) so I went to church. It was odd to be there without my guys, but it was fun & we got a lot of work done at the meeting. When I got home, around 2:00 pm. Brendan had a school friend over & Charlie was vetting them through their play time together. Friend is also on the spectrum & Charlie has determined that he & Brendan do much better together if they have a schedule. When he mentioned a schedule to the boys, friend piped-up "Yes, I do much better when I have a schedule." which made us grin when Charlie told me about it later. And they did :) They started out playing a 3-way game of war (the card game), which friend won, then the boys moved on to half an hour of Dragon Fable (Brendan's newest Adventure Quest-type game), then settled down to watch "The Incredibles". There was an intemission with brownies ala mode, & after the movie there was time to show friend the sock-puppet easter egg we'd found on disc 2 (it's the whole movie acted out by sock puppets- it's a hoot!). After friend left Brendan played more Dragon Fable & then helped Charlie make burritos for dinner. Charlie told me later in the evening that Brendan told him, when he realised that the weekend was nearly over, that "There will be another weekend soon.", which was the first time he's actually taken a positive philisophical approach to the impending school week.

During dinner Brendan asked me how he was doing with the swearing part of his behavioural charting. During the school break week we had decided to separate out the swearing component (because he wasn't earning anything ever, it was such a problem, so his appropriate behaviours weren't being rewarded) & make it into a separate category with a separate incentive. He had found some supplemental pokemon card packs at the grocery store, so we decided to use them as the first incentive for the swearing chart. When we set up the guidelines for this chart we established which words were considered swear words & I asked Brendan to choose how many days he has to refrain from swearing before he earns the first incentive, & he thought 5 days would be fair. (This means 5 days cumulatively, not in a row...) By yesterday he had earned 4 stickers, but it had taken him 11 days to get this far, partly, I think, because he'd forgotten all about the incentive & partly because when it started he was not as "het up" about pokemon cards as he's been in the past. I reminded him some time last week about the incentive for the swearing chart, & wouldn't you know, he got all excited about pokemon cards again... He earned the last 4 stickers all in a row, he was so motivated. He & dad started playing pokemon card games again over the weekend, to much excitement about customising the decks with cards he's acquired over the past few months. Last night, right before he went to sleep. Brendan asked if he'd earned the final sticker & I told him he had. He then asked if he could open them up before school (in the past he's had to wait until after school because there's no time before). I told him that if he got dressed & ate breakfast quickly, then he could open the cards.

This morning, he was dressed wayyyy before I was, so I suggested that he go downstairs & start getting his breakfast. When I came down he annouced that he was having "bread with butter, & milk". He had cut himself a slice of bread (& done a great job of it- Charlie's been working with him on using the bread knife) (ps: I make most of our bread in the bread machine, hence the need to slice it), buttered it & poured his milk. I put his medicine in the little bowl & then went to put laundry in. He was finishing up as I got my own breakfast, & he wasn't frantic or anything, just moving along at a nice pace. He brushed his teeth & finally got the cards out & opened the packs. I heard lots of ooohing & ahhing (there were 4 "rare" cards & other ones he's been wanting- a real haul :) as he opened them. Then he took them upstairs & played with his legos until it was time to go to school.

I feel as though we had the benefit of 2 different incentive systems going this morning- the timer system for getting dressed, which has given him the ability to make the most of his time in the morning, & then the pokemon cards in exchange for being mindful of his language, which will eventually become a habit that is it's own reward. We've got the next incentive lined-up, too. It's a cute little penguin pokemon plushie from the new "Diamond & Pearl" series & Brendan is just itching to take off the tags & make it his own... :)

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