Autism and Preparing for a Sibling: Phase 3 Upping the Ante and Possibly Losing Sleep

In may last blog about preparing my son J for his new sibling, who should be here in a few weeks, I spoke about helping J understand why a baby would cry and what we can do to help that. I felt that J would be better prepared for the challenges to come, armed with this knowledge.

While in a brainstorming session with two of J’s service providers a good question was raised. How about the middle of the night? How will J respond to hearing one of his triggers, the sound of his little brother crying, at 2AM? Unfortunately one of the realities of Autism is that we have to worry about things most parents might leave to chance, but from concern came strategy. Better to find out now while the little bambino is still safe in mommy’s belly. So this Friday when I woke up for one of my many bathroom breaks from sleep, I played a recording of a newborn baby crying, at full volume.

I played it twice in the space that the crib is and baby will be for accuracy. Nothing. I checked in on J, he was still sound asleep. I expected him to wake up screaming or to come running in my room very upset, but nothing, not even a creaking sound from his bed. I went back to my room and played it two more times, this time from the distance of my bed, like the baby will be when I am nursing. He stayed asleep, it looked like he adjusted but the sound didn’t wake him up which was a very comforting discovery.

I’ve been playing this sound bite sporadically throughout the weekend and although it seems to get him a little nervous he is tolerating it more and more. On another note, the recording also didn’t wake up my husband who was in the same room and right next to me, but one challenge at a time 🙂

-JRED

Keeping A Balanced Mind

Anyone who knows me well enough will tell you I swear by Yoga. I started doing it about 13 years ago and really became dedicated to the practice within the past 6 years. whenever I slack off for whatever reason I notice I am so much more irritable and my once optimistic perspective narrows into a stream of negativity. Luckily I notice this fairly quickly and get back to my mat ASAP. So when I became pregnant one of the many things I was sad to have to put to the side was Yoga, until I found a great Yoga video collection on YouTube. I am not the Yoga class chick, I prefer to work out on my own. I took a class once when I was in high school and I recommend taking at least one class so you know what muscles should be engaged, if you have never tried Yoga before. For the past thirteen years I’ve been practicing on my own and with DVD’s. My favorite DVD is with Kristin McGee, unfortunately they do not have it on YouTube but here’s a link to buy it if your interested: MTV Yoga.

I like vinyasa yoga but some of the poses are not safe for pregnancy so I had to try out some prenatal yoga. I tried a bunch of different videos but the one that I loved and did for my entire pregnancy is by Katy Appleton. If you are pregnant and looking for a new routine I highly recommend hers and if your new to Yoga her routine is a great way to try it out. The most important thing in Yoga is the breath, which is probably one of my favorite things about it. It’s not about how far you can stretch, that all comes with time, or how strong you are in your pose, again that comes with time, but the breathing which to me is the most helpful part.

There are times when life is just so stressful, IEP meetings, and unconquerable behaviors, and since doing Yoga I remind myself always to breath, not the way we do most of the time, but deeply with intent. While I was homeschooling J I was diagnosed with Anxiety and my doctor immediately wanted to get me on some meds, I rededicated myself to doing yoga at least three times a week, and within months I regained my clarity and balance. Just like anything that garners results it has to be done routinely. Give it a try, at least the breathing aspect of it and let me know if it helps.

Yoga can treat so many ailments in the body but for me the big one is stress. If you have any other questions about starting Yoga feel free to comment below, I will try my best to advise, Namaste 🙂

-JRED

Back to School and Feeling Grateful

bus pic

It’s always good to take a moment when things are going well, to be grateful. Yes I am that person 🙂 but when you live side by side with Autism you gotta take your good moments where you can. As we begin the second week of classes I have so much excitement energizing me, besides the fact that I am entering my last month of pregnancy. So many changes have occurred over the summer that are just keeping me stoked!

This Fall, J will be starting a ten week program that seems very promising. We will be working with a team of specialist to try to help him with his Auditory Sensitivity and Anticipated Anxiety. The team will also work on these goals with his teachers and service providers at school, so very exciting.

We are also starting our second season on J’s local sports team, The Thunderbolts, so excited to know he will be rejoining his community of friends that he has made over the past year and staying active.

I’m just overwhelmingly grateful for the smooth transition J has made from being on summer vaycay to returning to school. He was actually excited about going this year which has NEVER happened before, he was either indifferent or full of dread. We picked right back up with our sticker rewards system and he was excited to start that again as well. He’s got a whole list of things he is ready to earn.

Well hope you are all off to a good start. For all my parents of kids on the spectrum, remember transitions are tough for our kids, be kind, be patient and implement that routine, they will get used to it eventually, stay strong.

I will leave you with a quote I read from a German writer that helps keep me calm in intense situations with J, “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

-JRED

Apps for Autism- White Noise App

I previously wrote about 5 apps that I think work really well for kids with autism.
Here is another app that I have found really useful recently in my day-to-day life with J.

Relaxing Melodies – Free.

relax melodies

I’ve used this app in different situations.
It works extremely well at church where it is quiet except the occasional baby who spontaneously makes sounds that J can’t handle. If I put music on in his headphones it could over stimulate him in a situation where sitting still and quiet are preferred. Also, it would be distracting to those around him since he would have to play the music very loud to cancel out the baby’s noises.

This app has many different sounds but the one that works best for us is a combination of wind, white noise, heavy rain and the river. It just quiets every noise around him and doesn’t over stimulate.

relax-melodies

I also use it when we are out shopping and there are too many loud children. This app works with Bluetooth and is available for download on most phones as well as tablets. It also works when you close out  the app so if the screen saver comes on it wont turn off. I usually connect his Bluetooth headphones to the app on my phone, and leave my phone in my purse so he doesn’t change it or have to carry around his iPad, especially some place like church.

J also deals with anticipated anxiety from his triggers which means just seeing a trigger without hearing the actual sound can begin an outburst. Having this app as a tool has definitely helped him feel more confident and calm when entering a situation where he knows triggers maybe present. It always helps to have options.

Hope this helps anyone out there whose child has auditory sensitivity. Let me know if you give it a try or how you deal with Auditory Sensitivity.

-JRED

Spreading Awareness of the World of Autism- What are Triggers?

In my blog you may hear me refer a lot to J, his Auditory Sensitivity and the Triggers that set it off. When I say Triggers I am referring to the sounds that he is most sensitive to and the outburst that these Triggers tend to cause. An overload of Triggers will usually result in J yelling, screaming, crying and becoming uncontrollably upset. His heart will race, his body temperature will rise and then he will crash moments later from the adrenaline rush that accompanies this fight or flight response since his senses are basically under attack.

J has come a long way with his major trigger, smaller children. It helps that he has lots of cousins that range in age from one to twenty-three, so he frequently gets some safe exposure to the sounds he finds intolerable at family events. This gives me an opportunity to teach him the proper reaction to noises that he has a hard time with, like stating that the room is too loud rather than yelling and screaming and asking for a break from the noise. I usually have a game plan in place, like a quiet room he can take breaks in, his headphones if it gets too loud, and his iPad.  Familiar Triggers are always easier to deal with than unexpected ones but it helps lay the ground work for what is expected and acceptable behavior for J when faced with a Trigger.

J and his younger cousins on an Easter egg hunt this year. He did really well that day, he isn’t even wearing his headphones, thus the fingers to his ears.

For many kids on the spectrum Triggers are an overall word for anything that will set a person on the spectrum off, because it for whatever reason makes them extremely uncomfortable. It could be anything from the color yellow or the feel of denim, to dogs barking or a bright light. It usually is sensory related in some manner.

What are some Triggers you guys are dealing with? How are you trying to help your kids deal?

-JRED

A Poem for Grandma

Happy Grandparents day everyone, hope you enjoy this little poem, this is for you Grammy.

Our Wedding (147)

What a strange thing to refer to every day people in my life as grand like they are royalty of some sort. I guess it is because of the way they earn our love that makes them royalty in my heart.

They are not obligated to love us as deeply as they do and yet they love us like their own and sometimes even more than their own do. For they possess a patience and wisdom that only comes with Life. They’ve watched their own grow and have lost folks they know which gives them the insight to cherish this time.

For time is fleeting, youth remains in the skin but for so long, but in the souls of their family’s young, it resurfaces, is reborn and lives on, keeping them contemporary and strong. Their love and knowledge seem limitless to those lucky enough to bask in it. They are generous with their heart but also teach discipline and respect.

Anytime I do something wrong it is their voices I hear in my head. When I couldn’t talk to mom or dad, when I wasn’t sure if what I did was bad, when I had great news to share, when I needed advice from someone who cared.

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A friendship that stands any test of time, my love for them always remains fresh in my mind. In this fast paced, no time to waste, life design it truly is grand to still have this connection of mine. So this grandparents day I say thank you to all those Grand for loving us so deeply and for always doing all you can.

-JRED

Autism and Preparing for a Sibling: Phase 2, Four Reasons a Baby Might Cry

So it’s been about 12 days since we started our experiment, to get J ready for a sibling, “baby brother practice doll”. I figured it was important for J to understand why a baby would cry in the first place, the four main reasons being, hunger, fatigue, loneliness and  a wet diaper. I figured if I armed him with the knowledge of reason and methods for correction this would help his anxiety when he hears his real baby brother cry, hopefully.

On day two I turned on the sounds of the baby doll. The doll makes four sounds, two cooing sounds and two discomfort sounds. I pushed the cooing sounds first, and J got very anxious. He dropped the doll, put his hands up to his ears and held his breath. I reassured him it was ok and allowed him to inspect the doll. He quickly found the sound triggers on the doll, and listened to the four different sounds at his discretion, the baby crying was clearly his least favorite as it made him hum to block out the sound, and drop the baby to plug up his ears and verbally acknowledge “baby cry”. I reminded him that his real baby brother will make noises and cry from time to time, and we can not drop him if he does, but sometimes we can help him.

1. Hunger– I showed him that sometimes a baby cries when he is hungry and asked him to feed the baby. The doll stops crying once the bottle touches its mouth which made J relax quickly.

2. Fatigue- The doll goes to sleep after it is fed a bottle, which relieved my son as he stated “baby sleeping, no cry”. I validated his conclusion and said yes sometimes the baby will also cry because he is tired, he might just need a nap. We laid the doll down and covered him with a blanket.

So now he knew two reasons a baby might cry, hunger and fatigue and how to help ease this discomfort. I didn’t push too much with the discomfort sounds on day 2 just an introduction, I focused more on the cooing sounds. After a while he didn’t mind the cooing sounds and even began imitating them.

The next few days, I kept playing the cooing sounds mostly, about 4 times a day for 10 minute periods of time, and playing the discomfort sounds twice a day for five-minute periods, allowing him to comfort the baby with one of the above mentioned remedies. I noticed after about three minutes of hearing the cooing sounds J seemed to become less interested and anxious about the baby, however a little annoyed and would ask me to leave his area with the baby, by saying,   “by baby”. When the baby was crying he would jump into action, grab the bottle and put the baby to sleep. I plan on breastfeeding so I realized I would have to show him some other methods to soothe.

3. Loneliness– After about a week in, I decided to increase J’s exposure to the discomfort sounds. I actually had him hold the doll as I repeatedly pushed the crying trigger. I explained to him sometimes the baby just needs some attention and love to be soothed and showed him how to gently rub his legs and hands and how to soothe the baby with a soft tone. Once he started to follow my instruction I pushed the trigger less, and less, until I stopped and told him what a great job he did giving the baby attention and soothing him. I told him he is going to make a great big brother, he beamed with pride and got very excited.

We have not attempted to change a diaper yet, that’ll be the next phase in our little experiment. Hope your all having a good Labor Day weekend. Any suggestions or comments are always welcomed below.

-JRED

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