What a difference a year makes!

My ONE photo with eye contact that Halloween...
It's hard to believe that just one year ago, I could not get a photo of my son's whole face, let alone one with a smile!  I would twist and turn at every angle to try to get a shot of his face.  Mr. K constantly avoided eye contact.  So many of my pictures at the time are serious side shots of his face.  We also have many pictures of him moving around when I was too slow with the camera button... in my awkward positions.  The evidence is below (I call it the "Godzilla" picture ;)  We started Early Intervention about a week or so after Halloween.  Best week of our lives! 

Now my little Kekito is a total cheese ball!  He will bring me my camera and pose up all cute with a big grin and say, "CHEESE!!!"  If you don't take a picture, he'll tell you to!  Over and over... 

Take a look at our successful picture this year:
I can't wait to see how much he'll love Halloween this time around!!!!!!!

Post inspiration provided by the Halloween Party at SITS!

Remembering Self Care!

Hey everyone, here is a post written by my friend Chris over at "A Crazy Kind Of Faith".  She is a mom to two beautiful children, one of whom (Kai) has Autism Spectrum Disorder.  We decided to swap writings about how we remember to take care of ourselves, because taking care of others starts with making sure we are prepared to do the best we can!

Taking care of ourselves is usually not something we women do very well, and I tend to think that when parenting a child with special needs we seem to do a worse job of taking care of ourselves. After all, we have therapy appointments to attend, doctor appointments, IEP meetings, insurance issues to contend with, and the list goes on and on. We can easily become so consumed with all of the caretaking that we forget to take good care of ourselves.

I remember hearing about the concept of self care when I was in graduate school for social work. A term that was frequently thrown around was caregiver burnout, or secondary trauma. It is not uncommon for folks who are so “other” focused to become depressed and fatigued…particularly in situations where we are working through difficult circumstances. While self care is always a good idea in theory, it is seldom really encouraged in the workplace. Reality sinks in….and there are always more “fires” to put out.

Having a child with special needs is not like having a job, however. It can CONSUME every aspect of your life if you let it. You cannot “leave it at the office.” There is no turning off motherhood-- if our kiddo struggles with sleep issues, emotional regulation, or a bout of the flu… SO DO WE. It’s just par for the course! There’s no saying “I’m outta here!” at the end of the day….that is, unless we have a spouse or significant other who is willing to step up to the plate (at least for a while!) I am lucky enough to have a husband who can and will take the kids for me, so I can “do my thing.” The trouble is, I’m still always THINKING about my son, even when I’m doing other things (I have to get better with that!)

One of the buzz phrases that has become en vogue recently is extraordinary parenting. Extraordinary parenting = more than ordinary, above and beyond what is “normal”, exceeding the “typical” parenting experience. It is not part of a job description or even an expectation. It is just something we DO when walking the journey with our SN children.

Consequently, I have decided to begin “walking the walk” of self care. I have taken it upon myself to set aside three days per week to exercise and attend yoga, as well as putting a lot more effort into healthy cooking and drinking plenty of water. It doesn’t hurt to load up on foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids to help combat depression, especially here in Wisconsin where the winters are long, cold and gray! I’ve started looking for some creative outlets (such as blogging) to pour my creative energies into. It is amazing how much more revitalized I can feel just from giving myself permission to self-nurture.

My son was really my inspiration to begin my OWN self-care journey. He is on the autism spectrum, and recently has begun ABA therapy 25 hours per week (in addition to early childhood special education classes in the mornings). It is no picnic for him….but we have every reason to believe that the outcomes will be well worth the effort. SO, I thought I would also use this time as an opportunity to create and adhere to my own schedule and eat a healthy diet to sustain optimal mental, spiritual and physical health. When my kiddo is struggling, I want to be in tip top shape in all of those areas.

Someone told me recently that parenting a child with special needs is very much like running a marathon. Just as marathon runners cannot “go the distance” without appropriate training, I cannot expect to give my best to my children without being the best I can be.

Chris blogs about family life, special needs, adoption, and the excitement of having a child on the autism spectrum at: http://www.acrazykindoffaith.blogspot.com/
If you'd like to read the post hosted by Chris's page, click here!

Don't forget to enter my AVON giveaway- It's my thank you for reading my blog!

Post it note tuesday

So here are my four favorite status updates from friends this week:

I'm "guest blogging today", first time ever!

So I was just saying... "THIS is the essence of Danny".
Guess what everyone!  It's my first day as a guest blogger!  And I'm blogging in two places.  Funny how that worked out!  Well I hope that you enjoy my picture of my little cutie Danny Boy, and stop by my friend's blogs to browse through and to read my guest blogs as well!

A Crazy Kind of Faith by Chris

Both of these beautiful moms are mothers to children with special needs, and they are a part of a great support network that's growing together! ;) (Shout out spring chickens!-Woot Woot!)

Post-It Note tuesdays

I saw the cutest "Post-it note" posts on Three Peas in a Pod last week and fell in love with them!  Immediately I realized that I just had to be a poser! ;) 

For my Post-it note Tuesdays, I've decided to post my favorite Facebook posts of the week.  A lot of times there is something I post up there that isn't quite enough on it's own to warrant a blog post.  Sometimes it's something funny that happened, often it's something the boys did that I am uber proud of!  This week I'm putting up all my own posts.  But I'm going to start keeping track of all my friend's posts that crack me up or catch my interest this week and start including those!  So here goes with my first Post-it note Tuesday:

 Which of your own social network posts were your favorites?  I'd LOVE to hear! ;)

Lessons I Never Asked To Learn

I’m honored that Jill asked me to guest post for her today! My name is Jennie. I am a stay at home mom to a toddler and a preschooler, who, for blogging purposes, I call Moe. He is three and has autism.

Jill asked me if I would write about what I’ve learned since Moe’s diagnosis, which was just over a year ago. Despite the increase in autism diagnoses, and therefore attention paid to autism, many people don’t really understand what it means to have an autistic child. So here is a list of some of the things I’ve learned. Some are about autism specifically, while some are about me and our new place in the world.

1. Autism is not just one thing: I knew that autism was a “spectrum” disorder, meaning that some kids were higher functioning than others. Before I knew kids with autism, I always thought of this more like a cold – it might be mild or it might be severe but it is basically going to look like the same thing. But autism is not like that. One kid might be incredibly sensitive to lights and noise, never want to be touched, and learn to read by age 2. Others, like my son, don’t talk but are all about hugs and snuggles. These kids couldn’t be more different, but they are both autistic.

2. Autism is a disability: I didn’t really think of kids with autism as having “special needs” in the same way that kids with other disabilities have special needs. It took me a while to realize that kids with autism are definitely special needs kids (or your preferred term), and that – important distinction - I am a now parent to a special needs child. As big an identity shift as it was going from “Jennie” to “Mom,” this shift was much harder.

3. Autism affects everything: I knew, at least at a basic level, that autism affected the social communication pieces of a child’s development. But I didn’t know that many kids with autism also have trouble with fine motor skills, gross motor skills and sensory processing. Toilet training can be especially challenging and often happens late. Many autistic children, including mine, have major sleep issues that can last into adulthood. And the stress that comes with all of this will bleed into your marriage, your family life, your social life, everything.

4. Autistic traits may change over time: When my son was first diagnosed, he didn’t have many behaviors typically associated with autism, like hand flapping or other stimming behaviors, echolalia (repeating words back without really understanding their meaning), or adherence to rigid routines. I asked our doctor if that meant he would never have them, and the answer was “maybe.” Some behaviors come and go while others are there from the start and never leave. Still others may never appear.

5. You will never know if you did the right things: There are a lot of different behavioral interventions out there, including ABA, Floortime, PRT, and Son Rise. There is occupational therapy, speech therapy, and integrated playgroups. There are diets to try, biomedical interventions, recreation therapy, music therapy, and a host of other things you can try. You can surround yourself with professionals that you trust but they can only make suggestions. As the parent of a child with autism, you are ultimately responsible for making the decisions as to what you will do, and you will never really know if the choices you made were the right ones. You will question yourself every day.

6. You are not alone: This is the most important lesson to learn. Know that there are others going through the same experience and they are a loving, supportive, and helpful group of individuals. At first I didn’t want to meet other autism families because I was scared of what I might see. This is a mistake; don’t isolate yourself. Seek out others, read their blogs, join their forums. Go to autism events. The people you meet will save your life.

You can read more about Jennie at her blog, Anybody Want A Peanut? She also writes for Hopeful Parents, and was recently featured at Support For Special Needs.

Mother's intuition

My goal with this blog is to blog about all sorts of things in my life.  I don't intend for it to turn into a blog purely about Autism.  I'm down with blogs aimed that direction (I read a few myself), but still this isn't my intent.  Just wanted to throw that out there.  ;)

I blog about what's on my mind and about the things that catch my interest.  Lately, however, Autism has been a large part of that.  There have been so many things I've wanted to post up on here about Autism in our lives.  But with out an official diagnosis up until recently, I didn't want the hassle of people telling me I was being paranoid.  Now that I can say whatever I want to say... there's just so much to say!

"A clue!  A clue!"  His imagination is
One thing I've mulled over a lot in my mind is "mother's intuition" (or "women's intuition"- whatever's clever).  I'm curious to hear what everyone else thinks about it.  Do you believe it's a real phenomenon?  Why or why not?

Here's the thing: the entire time I was pregnant with Kekito, I had a gut feeling that he would be Autistic.  The few people I told tried to reassure me that I was just being overly worried.  But it didn't feel like a worry.  It felt like it was just a fact.  Looking back now, I feel like it was God's way of preparing me. 
K's creative lately: 
He made his own "Blues Clues"!

I began noticing Kekito's Autism when he was about 10 months old.  I went back and forth with "is it?" or isn't it?".  I wanted so badly to believe that it was not Autism slowly stealing him away.  But I kept remembering back to those pregnancy memories.  The only reason I think I even noticed it that young was because I kept looking and looking for it.  I was very sure he would have it.  The first few months of Kekito's life, I actually felt a lot of surprise and relief that he was completely average.

We are so blessed that we were able to get intervention for him at such a young age.  I shudder to imagine the different boy he'd likely be today had we not acted on our suspicions.  He had very little interest in us, no words, and no eye contact.  Now he is literally like sprinkled sunshine in my day (most days). ;)  Always quick to grab my attention and show me all the little things he's learned.  He's very proud of himself, and I'm so proud of him too!

So any brushes with your own intuition?  I'd love to hear!

Reaching goals!

Oh how exciting the last couple days have been!  Kekito has been learning so much.  Up until now whatever question you asked, he'd repeat back without an answer (Echolalia).

In our current IEP, one of our four goals was to have him be able to answer 4 questions (other than yes or no) with one word answers.  We decided to try to work on things that will help him socially like, "What's your name?".  Although it wasn't on our IEP, I was also hoping for him to learn how to answer yes or no questions as well.

Well guess what!!!  In the last two days he has learned to answer THREE questions.  1) "What's your name?" 2) "How old are you?" 3) "Where do you live?" (I figured this last one is always good to know)...  I just have to share this cute video with you all:

I only wish I could include him saying our address- it is adorable but obviously not such a great idea.  Since we live in Hawaii, most of the street names are Hawaiian.  Hearing a toddler attempt such a mouthful puts a huge grin on your face.

I am brimming over with pride!  I am beyond ecstatic with his achievements.  Oh, and the cherry on top?  It looks like he's finally figured out how the "yes" answer works!  Of course he's known how to say no for a long time now.  But today he has answered "yes" appropriately to several questions.

Sigh.... I love my babies!  I think I'll always call them my babies.  It's so nice on the days when you can clearly see all the hard work Kekito, his therapists, and I do paying off!  I am stoked to see the awesome young man he grows into!

I'm in love with StoryCorps!

Wow.  That's mostly all I can say about these amazing videos.  StoryCorps is one of the coolest things I've seen!  They speak for themselves, I'll leave you to the videos...

Warning: They may jerk a few tears...