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Saturday, April 27, 2013

First Karate Lesson

PDD-NOS certainly is a pervasive developmental disorder.  I sometimes forget that Bubs 1 has this diagnosis, but it's there. He is a typical four-year old most of the time and that fools his mom and me into thinking that - just maybe - all those professionals made an error on his high-functioning ASD diagnosis. I sometimes wish that they had made an error. Although, we also love the bubs just the way he is.

Bubs 1 recently had his first karate lesson, which didn't quite play out as well as his mom and I had hoped it would. Bubs 1's mom and I hoped that karate would be an activity that he instantly liked. We had read a blurb on how karate helped kids with high-functioning autism participate successfully with neurotypical kids their age. Here it is:

As Bubs 1's parents, his mom and I were likely looking for a seemless transition, but perhaps our expectations were too high. In order to 'warm him up' to the idea of taking karate lessons, we began planting the seeds a couple of days before hand. It seemed to work. The bubs soon adopted our idea that he try karate. He even began demonstrating some quasi-karate moves and kicks. Where did he learn this? We don't know, but he did show interest and this was all that we needed to see.

I wasn't at the karate lesson, because I was at work. His mom took him. I just heard about it after. When his mom explained "how it went" she likened her experience to our experience when Bubs 1 took gymnastics, about a year ago. That painted a clear picture in my mind. Bubs 1's mom shared more.

She said that he was doing well in some areas, but struggling in others. For example, he excitedly  and willingly performed many of the running exercises, but when the karate instructors wanted the bubs to simply make a fist and punch, he had trouble following their request. His mom said that this is when Bubs 1 started to get frustrated. She and I know that when he gets frustrated that he sometimes turns to "odd" behavior. He also becomes rigid. I put the term odd in quotes, because it is obvious and typically goes against the grain. Then the mind games begin when we begin assuming that we know why the other parents are staring, when the reality is that we do not. Other people's stares could be simply empathy and not harsh judgement. However, we sometimes move with the indoctrination of our assumptions and associate their stares with the latter. So when the bub's mom was informing me of some of his odd behavior, i.e. making spitting noises and hitting his head with his new Gi belt, it led me to thinking about the negative thoughts.

The karate instructors were warm, understanding and patient with the bubs. Bubs 1's mom even told me how the other kids, the bub's peers, were even helpful to him. They would help verbally guide him through some of the exercises and simply shrug when he didn't follow their directions. It just seems like a good place for the bubs to be as he learns about the world around him. It is also hard to watch and hear about, because I wish he didn't have to experience struggle (but that's a worry that all parents deal with). The karate instructors convinced Bubs 1's mom that they wanted the bubs back for a second lesson. They said that they're even willing to work with him one-on-one.

We don't want to give in to our fears and allow the bubs to give up. However, we also don't want to scar(e) the bubs. If I've learned anything from my own life thus far, it is knowing that the many bridges in our lives may allow us to cross them for free on one side, but will also likely tax us traveling the other side.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bubs 2 and his Food

Bubs 2 eats with the appetite of three bubs.

He'll eat anything. He'll even demand some of my food if it is different than what he is already snacking on.

He owns the kitchen. He acts like he knows where all the food is located in the kitchen too. Although his words are garbled (usually because he has a mouth full of food), I inherently understand what he trying to say as he spits fire at me, with his hand pointing. He just points to the counter top assuming that there is something good there. It doesn't matter what it is.

He just wants to eat it.

Today, he screamed at me as he tried to reach for some uncooked potatoes. I was dicing them up for dinner. I knew he wouldn't like them, but I gave him a piece anyway. I felt like a serving wench at Medieval Times restaurant. He ate the raw potato after I tossed it onto his high chair table. He gave me a look and then he smiled. I couldn't believe it. I was also dicing up some raw onion, but I stopped myself. I didn't want to put him through the agony, because I knew that he'd eat the onion too. When he just about 10 months old, he ate an entire meatball sub at his cousin's marching band performance. This kid's going to be an animal.

In saying this, I should also say that I completely understand. I have always had a big appetite myself. I remember eating two Burger King Whoppers when I was over my aunt and uncle's house. I was ten years old. My aunt exclaimed, "Wow, that's some appetite." I then proceeded to down my large fries too.

I still have a big appetite. My wife has to hide her favorite foods around the kitchen so that I won't devour it all. Bubs 2 must be watching me eat. I'm his role model right now. Luckily I'm eating smarter than I did when I was a kid. I haven't had two Whoppers, in one sitting, since that time. However, I did continue to eat a whole lot of other junk. I'm into salads now, but haven't thought to give Bubs 2 any. I'm not sure why, I guess I am assuming that he won't like lettuce. Maybe I'm thinking that it is too much of a choking hazard for him? I've already had to pull food from his mouth on a few occasions, because he packs it until his cheeks bulge.

All this writing about food has gotten me hungry. I think I'll see what's in the fridge. The bubs is asleep now. That means the coast is clear.

The kitchen is mine again.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Good Questions. Keep Them Coming.

Bubs 1 asked, ''Does the sun sleep in the clouds?'' That's a good question.

I am always wondering what the bubs is thinking. He doesn't share his thoughts all that often, but when he does, he asks some damn good questions. I do my best to be an active listener, because there was a period of his life when he wasn't saying a thing. As I look back, especially now that Bubs 2 is here, I'm beginning to realize that Bubs 1 was also quiet in other areas of his life. Bubs 1 didn't have the bounce, that his little brother has, when he was Bubs 2's age. Their mom and I understand that siblings can be different, but this isn't that.

It was at his second-year checkup, when his pediatrician asked his mom and me, ''How many words is he saying?'' Bubs 1's mom and I starred at each other. We wanted to quickly say that he knows over 60 words in sign language, but that wasn't the question. Bubs 1 was only saying two or three words at that stage, but the bench mark called from many more.

His pediatrician offered us the phone number to Birth to Three so that we could have the bubs assessed for developmental issues. A week later we learned that he had a speech delay, which can be an indicator of autism. Sure enough, one year later there was a diagnosis of borderline PDD-NOS.

His mom dived in and called everybody. She accessed, and continues to access, all the resources available for Bubs 1. Not too long after working with him, Bubs 1's ''talking'' began to increase leaps and bounds. My guess is that he was struggling to get the words out, but couldn't. We had to push him to do it. The help we found taught the bubs, and his mom and me, how to encourage his talking - even demand it.

I've likely said the phrase, ''Use your words'' to Bubs 1 a hundred billion times, over the past two years.  He finally did. I feel lucky. Bubs 1 is filling his gaps successfully and gaining ground on his peers. He impresses his pre-school teachers with his clever vocabulary. He is expanding on his imagination. He will pretend too.

I remember watching Bubs 1 on a local playground. He must have been two and a half. He was standing with other kids on the play scape. I watched him struggle to communicate with the other kids. He didn't have the words. Instead, he yelled. The other kids just starred at him. Bubs 1 was acting "different." That's why his mom and I didn't question his ASD diagnosis that, which we learned a few months later.

A few weekends ago, and nearly two years later, we found ourselves on another playground. I clicked a picture, which captured me. It holds all the words written on this blog post. It's one of my favorites, because it shows how well Bubs 1 is progressing. He gives Bubs 2 all the attention that his little brother demands, including pushing him on the swing. It helps Bubs 1 to have Bubs 2 around. Bubs 1 is currently teaching his little brother about "sight words" and colors, on the Amazon Kindle. What better way is there to understand something than to simply apply what you've learned? Their mom wanted to have Bubs 2, because she wanted Bubs 1 to have a best friend.

I think it worked.
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