Tracy - posted on 02/07/2010 ( 4 moms have responded )
Hi all, I know the frustrations of we moms who try everything, often to little or no avail. I had a lot of success helping my son move past many of his symptoms in his first years. We still have issues, don't get me wrong, but I honestly believe that Noah would not be the talkative, engaged funny and delightful child that he is today if it weren't for a few things. So I'd like to share them and who knows maybe it can help another child too.
Our first issue with Noah in his first 6 months was trouble getting him to sleep, he would start to drift off and then force his little eyes open, it took hours sometimes.. until I discovered that spinning him slowly in the computer chair worked wonders! Ofcourse, I had no clue that Noah was autistic, in fact we only recently received a diagnosis and now that I consume every book and article on the subject it has shed SO much ligght on our situation and trully helped us understand him a lot better!
Next was little eye contact, he would turn his head when we tried to engage with him. He loved when we spun toys over his head and has always loved being tickled softly. So we spent a lot of time doing things he liked, whether weird, or not, because it helped us bond.
We discovered at about 3 months that he loved the Baby Einstein videos. He would practically shake with excitement at the brighty colored objects floating across the screen to classical music. He would have watched them all day if I let him- I didn't, but he definitely logged quite a few hours in front of them. But they were educational, and often the only thing that comforted him. Now I know that he was probably being over-stimulated by them. I think this could in part be why he can handle stimulation very well these days. He has only mild issues with noise, bright lighhts and things like that. So it may have helped de-sensitize him at an early age, imo.
Next there was no pointing, I started getting worried when mile stones kept being met a few months late, but or pediatrician said he wsa fine, fine, fine! He told me to read to him, A LOT. And I did.. A LOT an hour or two a day, and I would ask him to point to shapes, colors and letters and such, ofcourse he didn't point so this was tricky. I would point and have him nod yes or no and he usually got them all right! Soon I used his hand to point and pretty soon he did it all by himself. He knew all of his colors, shapes, letters, numbers and even animal sounds by age 1.. but no talking, or walking, mile stones were not being met. Most he met a few to several months late, not drastically, but I was terrifed of the "A" word, I admit it. I worked extra hard to make sure he wouldn't be deemed as autistic, I thought I could teach him out of it. A wrong attitude for sure, but I knew nothing about it, didn't want to, just wanted to avoid it. I guess in the back of my mind I thought I could do more, try harder, I wasn't doing enough, it was all my fault and I thought if I taught him enough he would be "normal". That was wrong of me, I lost time that he could have been in interventions and treatment because of it and my pediatrician was supporting my belief that he was just unique all the way.
I wasn't sitting idle either, we practiced making faces, how does mommy look sad, happy.. all that good stuff. Lots of flash cards and role polaying with stuffed animals and honestly LOTS of TV! I would often watch with him and explain social situations, facial expressions, all of it, we still do. We are a TV loving kind of family, lol, but I really believe that his ability to joke, a bit awkwardly, be incredibly expressive (this kid is a laugh riot) and even pretend has a lot to do with lots of TV and explanation from us.
We also spent tons of time playing on the floor with him. My hubby is a great guy and still spends several hours a day sitting and building robots and things (Noah is an inventor), and I did too, although for me it was to teach, Daddy gets to play. Another thing we did was spoil him rotten, lol. He was my first, I had a hard time having him (3 miscarriages previous) and bought a lot o' stuff. His first "special interest" was fans. Loved fans. I said he was going to grow up to be a ceiling fan. He spent hours rocking back and forth under them. So I bought fans, lots of em. I let him play with them, took off the guards, I immersed him in fans. Next he had a fascination for pin wheels, I bought tons. It seemed like once I began submerging him in his interest he was able to move onto new ones and we still have lots of luck with this. Some may call it spoiling, but eh, with ASD kids, they really break all the parenting rules. I used to feel guilty that I gave in to certain things, but not anymore.
Another thing that helped, we enjoyed Noah immensely, we were lucky to have him when we were older, because our worls revolved around him. We were never short on smiles, there wsa no yelling in our house (well on occasion I yelled, mostly when he was about to do something dangerous). Noah was a bvery happy baby and kid for the most part. We were silly, we sang a lot and if we found something that made him laugh we emulated it.
Although he was happy, he was not affectionate, he constantly pushed away when we held him, he showed no interest in visitors (or us, but we didn't give him a choice on that one). Finally at age 3.5 we had a HUGE breakthru. We had my nephews over for a visit and I taught them to play "hot-lava" an imagination game I think most kids play in some form or anothe, where the ground is lava and you have to jump on pillows or the couch as safe spots. We threw pretend water balloons at pretend alligators and were having a great time. At first Noah watched and seemed pretty amazed by it, next he wsa playing with us!! He was SO into it!! And voila' his imagination was born! Soon he wsa pretending to be a cat, then a skunk, then I was mommy the skunk for awhile and we were throwing tomato bombs.. I felt pretty silly! I was a robot for a whole month at one point.. but this opened the door for us, it trully did. I was finally able to bond with my son. By age 4 I was constantly explaining affection and reminding him to say I love you back and currently he is extremely loving, says I love you out of the blue, tells me I'm beautiful, only down side, I have trouble leaving the house with out him, but I'll take it, because we are best friends and he trully loves us and it shows!
He still has trouble answering questions promptly and he is now often so stauck in "imagination land" it's hard to get him out of it.. but it's easy to get in there with him. It's also a great tool to teach him things. If we are in the middle of pretend play, he's cooperative and a ready learner. My biggest suggestion to any parent of an ASD kid is to try to find that way in. Teach them to use their imagination if you can, through role playing, making his toys talk in funny ways and thru lots and lots of explanation,. Watch TONS of appropriate movies, sing dance and smother your child with love, even if they can't give it back.
Now these worked for me, but my son has a mild form of autism and I can't honestly say if he would have been any different then he is today without these things, but I think it's a big part of what worked for us, and if it can work for someone else, I just had to share!
Good luck Moms, stay strong!! And I just wanted to say I watched Temple Grandin on HBO yesterday and it was AWESOME nad totally inspiring, a must see for sure!!