Monday, April 21, 2008

Time Off

We had plans for this weekend. They were different from what actually happened. Another of life's affirmations.

I was planning to join the Walk for Autism event, before going out on an overnight date with my husband. That was before James' allergies started getting worse and my daughter's infected toe. Before I knew it, it was 2pm on Saturday afternoon and I was frantically trying to get the last 3 loads of laundry done. Of course this was one of two afternoons this year that James did not want to take a nap.

We managed to get things ready (enough), complete with two had-written pages of our routine, meds and their schedules, and a note authorizing my mom to get medical assistance for the kids, should it be needed. My husband and I were off for an afternoon, dinner, overnight, and brunch sans children for the first time in almost six years. It was amazing.

My mother said that when she was putting him to bed that night, James was softly chanting "Mama, Mama, Mama." I didn't know whether to smile or cry, so I did a little of both. James hardly says "Mama," but I hated the thought of him being sad, even though I know he was being well loved and taken care of.

So yesterday and today he has been running up to me/into me and pressing against me, going "mmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!" I give him lots of smiles and hugs and tell him how much I love him. Yesterday he started saying his sister's name, then "Dada" and "James" --- yay!!!! The first time I have heard him do that!

One his favourite people came by this afternoon -- she likes to keep track of his progress. She says she is seeing a lot of James finding himself and gave an encouraging take on the increase in screaming, hitting, and throwing. He is testing limits and being 3, his age. He is also trying to come to terms with all the new things he is noticing and trying to do. She suggested gummies or nice crunchy things for his teeth grinding and is encouraged with how much he interacts with people and in his class. James kept giving her hugs and finally collapsed happily in her lap, after taking her pen and playing games with it/her.

A little perspective can be a wonderful thing! But I still feel bad for mising the Walkathon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Getting into SHAPE

I am listening to James working with his SHAPE assistant. He is laughing and singing along to his favourite "walking, walking" song. The tune is like the "Are You Sleeping, Father John?" song. They march, tip toe, and run in circles. What is not to like?

We are working on colours for James. He can say them most of the time, but his matching is not consistent. We also work with his Flash cards, to work on words and sounds. Some cards he really likes, like "happy," "eye," and "apple." Other ones he ignores, such as "noodles," "Heidi," and "oh boy!" We also work on stop and go, as James will run out into the street, looking behind him and laughing at me. It is just a big game to him and one of my worst nightmares.

James also likes to work with the Play Dough, something he wouldn't do at first. He also likes to string beads on a string. He does great, except for that last poke through the bead before he can slide it down the string. After a few "helps" he can do this. Sometimes James will bring out his favourite books for reading, and sometimes the SHAPE asst. will pick the books. I admire so much their patience to work with my son. I learn something new from watching them work together almost every time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Growing Pains

James is still going through what I hope is a transitional phase. He has been using less words over the past two weeks or so, after a small explosion in his vocabulary. His sleeping patterns are messed up and instead of sleeping at night, I can hear a Party of One in his room. This makes working with his SHAPE asst. the next afternoon extremely challenging. He also is doing more screaming and face hitting, which I try to counter with asking "What do you want, James?" and "No hitting," followed by time-outs.

I am trying to look on the bright side. My daughter did similar things before leaping forward developmentally. James has largely been sunny, serene ... and about a year "behind" (developmentally). He still loves going to school and taking the bus. He loves looking at books, the Cars trailers, and singing. His sister can get him to play with toy fish and cars. He loves to do his Flash cards with her. I imagine that it must be pretty frustrating to start to realize all the things you could do ... and then realize there are some things your fingers just can't do right away, or that you are trying your darndest to communicate with people, and it doesn't work. I'd get really tired and cranky too.

So then I try and find ways he can do more things with us, and make sure I make time to just hold him and tell him I love him.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Take Me to the River

My mom and I took the kids to play in the River this morning. My daughter has been there before, but this is James' first time playing in the water. He really liked feeling the water on his legs and getting cooled off on a hot morning. He threw a few rocks, and really got into a game with his Nana. He stood upstream and emptied a bucket of water on himself. Then he'd laugh and throw the bucket into the current, where it would be carried downstream and scooped up by Nana. Lather, rinse, repeat!

He was really looking around and taking everything in. He called out "bird" when a backbird landed nearby on a log. He went "Qak, qak!" at the ducks flying overhead. And when his sister exclaimed "fish!" he did too. He sang his "walking, walking" song as he plowed through the water. He also loved walking through the trees and grasses to get to and from the beach. I am so proud of the way he totally jumped on board and explored everything around him. And how fortunate that he seems to have grown out of eating rocks!

Up until his nap time, I kept hearing the occassional exclamation of "Wah'er! wah'er!" I am looking forward to summer!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ten Things I Love About James

1. His sunny personality; he makes everyone smile.

2. The Look I get when he is testing my limits: part imp, part "I don't care," part "I know you'll love me anyway."

3. The way his face and entire body lights up with joy when he sees things he likes: the moon, the car out back, favourite people, or the school bus.

4. Hearing him say "Mama" in his soft voice.

5. Hearing him bellow "CAR!!!!" when I show him the Cars trailers on my laptop.

6. Hearing him make horses say "moooooo!" ... and then laughing.

7. Schnuggles. Nobody does a happy nestling wiggle like James!

8. Watching him go up to people who are doing something else, bending over while circling and looking up at them, and having them smile and say "hello!" to him.

9. Watching him run, laugh, and be so happy.

10. The way he looks up and smiles at me.

Because I Am

The last few days have been a little hard. James is upset by things that normally don't phase him. He panics when he sees me leaving, which has never been an issue before. There is a little more screaming and a few fewer words at home too. Physical activity really seems to help him, as does music.

Last night after dinner, I took a walk to the local park with both kids. My daughter loved running and James was so excited to see the moon. He would stop and tip his head way up and say "Moon! Mooooon!" I got him to sit on a swing with me for a few seconds, and help push his sister up and down on the teeter-totter. Maybe one day he will enjoy doing these things himself. I hope so!

He liked singing with me at bedtime again. And he is up to listening to three books at bedtime: Rainbow Frogs, The Mouse/Strawberry/Big Hungry Bear and Five Little Ducks.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Music is Magic

James has always liked music. He would perk right up if her heard a fun melody on the radio or TV. He has always adored the Baby Eisntein videos. And if someone sings around him: bliss central!

Last year one of my biggest concerns was helping James talk. I was told that "vocalizing" is very important, and often precedes spoken language. So one of the things my husband and I tried was to sing to James and encourage him to sing back a few simple words. My husband also kept bringing home instruments or things that could be used as such. James loves the guitar, keyboard, and lately the drums (!). Introduce something new like a xylophone or glockenspiel and he becomes fascinated. He loves to watch live music performed at our Farmers' Markets.

And yes, singing did help him to vocalize. Now, I can actually hold him before bed or nap time, and we sing together. It is one of the sweetest times in my day.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


James has been a big fan of cars for quite a while now.

Last summer, during an impromptu diaper change in a beach parking lot, I stood up from bagging a dirty diaper to see my son "driving" our van. One of the first words he said on a regular basis was "Caaaarr?" That meant he wanted to look out his bedroom window to see the cars on the street.

Trying to be a supportive parent, I sat him on my lap to show him the trailers for the Disney/Pixar movie "Cars" on my iBook. Oops. It became his new obsessive thing. On the one hand, it got him to vocalize. The words "car?!" and "more?!" were quickly mastered, but after six showings in a row of the trailers, mommy needed a break.

James quickly learned to get creative. His next ploy was to come up to me, say "car?" and start making kisses (while looking at me in a beseeching manner) when I did not start up the trailers. Well, that was really hard for me to refuse. Then, he learned that please ("pease") opened so many doors as well! He also mastered the art of saying "vroooooom!!!" -- which became the basis of some of his first imaginative play and play vocalizations.

Oh yeah. Cars have been good to us all!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Many Hands Make Light Work

This morning, James was trying to talk with me. To him, I am sure he was talking in words. What I heard was babbling, but with a purpose. He wanted me to get down his special Flash Cards from his speech therapist.

He sat down expectatly and picked out the cards delicately, with one thumb and finger and shouted out the word on his own, most of the time. What a difference a year makes!

One of the biggest reasons I asked for a referral for James was because his babbling had stopped at about 13 months (right around when he started trying to walk, I later realized) and by 2 years his biggest means of communication were screaming and biting. This was very much out of character for James, who is one of the happiest, sunniest kids I have had the pleasure to know.

I had to insist with his pediatrician for the referral in end of February/early March 2007. In April 2007, a Care Coordinator from North Bay Regional came out to assess our son. She found significant developmental delays and ended up writing purchase orders for services from the following clinics: Early Learning Institute, The Swain Center, and Redwood Pediatric Therapy Associates. She also put James on the waiting list for evaluation at the Collaborative Autism Diagnostic (CAD) Clinic. It would be five months before he was seen at the CAD Clinic, and James was very fortunate to begin receiving services in May.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

April is National Autism Awareness Month

April is an auspicious time to launch this Blog. Not only is it going live during National Autism Awareness Month, it also commemorates the first anniversary of when our son James was unofficially diagnosed with developmental delays.

Since that first meeting with a Care Coordinator through the North Bay Regional Center, our family has learned so much and our son has grown. We have gone from a vague feeling of "something's not right" to a formal diagnosis of autistic disorder. We have met so many wonderful people along the way who have helped James and his family to understand his needs and how we can best help him.

This Blog is for James, our family, and any others who are learning about autism.