Friday, August 27, 2010

I know I'm Cool, But Really...

I have seen some amazing progress since Tallie started school less than 2 weeks ago. I feel like she is a "new woman"! She is doing new things and saying new things every day. Yesterday she said her name for the first time! It was HUGE! I was so excited! I am so so happy with her progress so far, however all this has also come with quite a bit of a challenging transition period for Tallie. She has had some major meltdowns. Now meltdowns aren’t anything new for Tallie but these are BAD! I even teared up the other night watching her go through one. I feel so bad for her. I have no idea what is wrong and the way she is screaming and looking at me, you'd think she was in serious pain. I would do anything to know what was wrong so I could just fix it for her. Instead I have to just wait it out. Let me just clarify too that this is not your average two year old tantrum, this is something I have never seen before and I can't even explain it, you'd have to witness it for yourself. I think part of it is adjusting to school and a new routine, I think the other part is being tired. I'm sure it wears her out to go to school every day and she's too stubborn most days to take a nap. Tallie has also been going through severe separation anxiety, especially from me. I honestly can't even leave the room without her going into complete meltdown mode. I am finding myself taking her with me to the bathroom just so I don't have to listen to the screaming and crying that I know will happen if I leave the room. So as I titled this, I know I'm cool, but really Tallie I'm just leaving the room for a second. I'll be right back. I wish I could just sit her down and explain this to her. I know she'll start to understand eventually but for the time being I guess we'll just be joined at the hip a lot. :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Miss Independent!

So Tallie goes to preschool for two days and decides that she is now miss independent! Today I found her in her room undressed and jumping up and down in front of the mirror. I said, "you silly girl did you take your dress off" and helped her put it back on. She right away took it off again and jumped up and down all excited and proud of her self. This repeated itself a few times. This is the very first time I have seen Tallie undress herself! When I started fixing dinner tonight Tallie saw me and instead of whining and pulling on my clothes like she usually does when she wants her dinner and wants it now, she went and grabbed a chair and pushed it over to the counter and climbed up to see what I was doing. She has seen her sister do this a million times so I guess she decided it was her turn to help with dinner. It was so cute. I took her hand and showed her I wanted to put some apple pieces on each plate and she helped me do it! Then at dinner I gave her a sippy cup of milk and she got up and grabbed a cup and gave it to me. So I poured her milk into the cup and she drank it. She has drank out of a cup several times, but she has never shown me that she preferred a cup over a sippy cup. What a big girl! These three things are big steps for Tallie and I am so proud of her. Can't wait to see what else the school year brings!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

1st Day of Pre-School

I have been dreading this day for a long time. I'm just not ready to send my baby to school yet. I thought I'd have another year with her at home. On the flip side a part of me is excited because I know that this is what Tallie really needs. I think that the consistency alone that she will get from being at school five days a week will be incredible. Her teacher seems very nice and experienced. I have heard nothing but good things about her and she won the Buffet award last year, so really what more could I ask for! There are a total of 12 kids in her class, 6 boys and 6 girls. There is only 1 other child that has Autism. There are 2 peer models that have excellent communication and social skills. The rest of the kids have some form of language delay or disability or both. There are also two teacher's aides that are in the classroom the whole time. And today, one of the speech pathologist that had been working with Tallie also was at school to help Tallie transition her first day.
I thought for sure I would cry when I dropped Tallie off this morning, but somehow I managed not to. Tallie didn't cry either and that completely surprised me, in a good way. We took her things and put them in her locker and then went into the classroom, grabbed a puzzle and found Tallie's mat. Her symbol is a heart, kind of like at TAP class her color was pink. Her symbol is on her locker, her mat, her place setting and her chair so she always knows where to go. As soon as we sat down Tallie started working on her puzzle. There were two other girls having a much harder time than Tallie was. One was having a little meltdown on the floor and the other was jumping up and down screaming. I had been fully prepared that Tallie would be the one in meltdown mode so although I felt bad for those girls, I was happy that Tallie seemed to be transitioning okay. I also realized that she may very well be the one doing the screaming tomorrow or the next day or the next day or even right after I left. You just never know what the day is going to bring with a two year old and that goes for any two year old! So Tallie was working on her puzzle and the teacher came over and started working on it with her so I gave her a kiss goodbye and left.
When I came and picked her up when class was over they said that she did great! She didn't cry when I left, but she did a little towards the end. They thought she was just getting a little tired. The teacher said they had gone outside for a little while and Tallie rolled the ball back and forth to her a few times. She said that we could meet again in a few weeks and talk about some of the goals that we have for Tallie. I got a little teary eyed on the way home, I think just because I was so proud of her. She really amazes me every day. I love her so much! My little preschooler! All in all it was a pretty good day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Graduating from TAP

Tallie graduated from her TAP class last week and I am so proud of her! I will miss taking her. I feel like she got so much out of the class and so did I. I didn’t realize how much I relied on going every week until it was over. I gained so much knowledge and had someone right there to answer my questions. Not only that, but I was essentially going to a support group twice a week. Sitting with all the other moms and talking about our kids helped so much! I will really miss all of them. I have become extremely close to a few of the moms however and I know we will stay in touch and hopefully still have playdates together every once in awhile.
Although I am very excited for Tallie to start the next chapter in her life, I have been left worried that we are missing something. I keep wondering if there is more that we should be doing for Tallie. We did recently start her on Probiotics twice a day which is supposed to help her digestive system and yeast overgrowth. I really do feel that this has helped. Without getting too graphic, her stools are a lot more normal now and the constant diaper rash she seemed to have has drastically decreased. There were a few days I forgot to give it to her and the diaper rash showed up right away. So I am happy with the results of the probiotics, however I have been wondering if we should be giving her more therapy in addition to going to a special education preschool class.
Right when I was really starting to lose my mind over this I got an email from Tallie’s old Speech Therapist that used to come out to our house every week. Let me just say how lucky I am to have her in our lives! Here are a few inserts from our email conversations:

Subject: Thinking of you
To: Karen

I thought of you sending Tallie to preschool next Th. I hope you feel good about Tallie being in school. She has a phenomenal teacher and staff who will work with her..She is going to make even more progress than she has been-that's exciting! I miss you guys. Keep me posted on how things go and know that Tallie and all of you are one of those families I will always have a special place for in my heart .

Karen Sachs wrote:

So great to hear from you! We miss you too! I feel like I am on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster right now. I am excited for Tallie to start school and I know that it will be so great for her but I am also sad. I feel a little bit robbed of having time alone with her while Morgan's at school. I'm also feeling anxious and unsure that I am doing everything I need to be doing. I feel like I am missing something. I keep wondering about if I should look into a special diet, if I should get her tested for high mercury and yeast levels. I've thought about additional therapy, just all kinds of stuff. I've seen such great progress with Tallie, but her language is not where I thought it would be at this point and she seems to be having more melt downs lately especially in public. It's probably just this in between time from TAP to preschool that's got me all worked up so I'm trying to keep that in mind. We do go meet with her teacher tomorrow for a conference so I bet that will answer a lot of my questions. We went and visited the classroom and met Faith last week and it seemed great. I was really impressed with the school and liked that they had a lot of similar things that TAP has. I guess my concerns are that this class is not specifically for children with Autism, so I think that's what's leaving me worried that we should be doing something else in addition to this.
Sorry to write you a novel! I guess you can say you wrote me at a good time and I kind of needed someone to talk to about this! :)
Thank you so much for writing and I'll make sure to send you some first day at school pics of Tallie!

Subject: Thinking of you
To: Karen

You may voice your worries/concerns to me ANYTIME!!! Know this-you are a great mom and follow your gut with Tallie. I think you are right about why you are so emotional now. I totally get the "feeling robbed" part. Do remember that now Tallie will be with kids who have stronger communication skills - especially the peer models. I feel it's a great opportunity for Tallie to be with a wider variety of peers. At TAP all she had to model from were other kids on the spectrum. It's a great program but I really think you will appreciate Tallie having a more "typical" preschool experience. You are doing so much for Tallie now by following through with things at home and most of all by loving Tallie for who she is. I look forward to any pictures you take of her first day and again, stay in touch and you can even call if you ever need to talk.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Celebrating The Little Moments

There is a quote about Autism that goes something like this... "If you've met one child with've met one child with Autism." This is soooo true. I have now met several children with Autism and talked to their moms about their struggles and their abilities and one thing is consistent...that they are all very different. Some kids have severe sensory issues, some hardly like to eat anything except for a few differnt types of foods, some do not liked to be touched, some have health problems and some have troubles sleeping. I'm very fortunate to say that Tallie does not seem to struggle in any of these areas.

Tallie's main struggles are language delay, having a hard time controlling her emotions, lack of eye contact, lack of joint attention and possibly a few minor digestive issues. Tallie also engages in activites that are not considered "normal" in society. Some of these are hand flapping, making hand puppets, spinning in circles, holding matching objects in each hand, talking to herself and obsessively looking at herself in not just a mirror but anywhere she can find her reflection (the TV, the stove, the dishwasher, ect.). To me, most of these things are pretty cute. I mean a 2 year old spinning around in circles really is not that weird and making little hand puppets and having them talk to each other is kinda cute. The thing is that if she is still doing this at age 5 and at age 10 they are going to become less and less cute and more and more "abnormal". That's why intervention is so important and getting her help this young is so important for her success in life.

As her mom, I worry almost constantly about Tallie. I am trying very hard to take it one day at a time and not to think to far into the future. I have no idea what to expect and sometimes it's really scary to think what the reality could be. I am however extremely hopeful. I think as long as we keep getting Tallie help and working with her at home, the sky is the limit for her. I am learning to really focus on just celebrating all the little moments in her life. She is such an amazing little girl!

Tasks and Picture Schedule

Tallie has tasks that she works on every week. They are made out of pop flats, Tupperware containers and toys. The purpose of these tasks is to help Tallie follow direction, to get used to a classroom structure and to learn new skills. These tasks are not Tallie strong point. She struggles with wanting to do what she wants to do with the toys and not what we are trying to teach her to do. It can get a little frustrating working with her. She gets pretty mad when she doesn't get to do what she wants and she is very persistent. It's also hard to get her to focus and to "teach" her what she is supposed to do. We are making this a focus these days and are really trying to work on it.

We also just recently started using a picture schedule in our home. Basically it's a list of all the things that Tallie is going to do during her day, just in picture form. Some of the things on her schedule are: take a nap, car ride, go outside, pool, snack time, play time and so on. This is meant to help Tallie understand what is going on and what's coming next. The idea is to help ease with transitions. It's hard for kids to stop doing something they like especially if they have no warning and if they don't know what's coming next. My older daughter Morgan has problems with this and it helps to say, "Okay we have 5 more minutes outside and then we have to go inside and eat dinner". Since Tallie would not understand that, we are going to start using pictures in place of that. I am hopeful that this will help to cut down on the tantrums that she has. Since she can't express what she wants or how she is feeling she doesn't know what else to do, but to break down and cry. This will help to reduce that frustration.

Tallie's Special Gift

Many children with Autism have a special gift. The first thing I think of is in Rain man when he can count cards or the number of matches that spilled on the ground. Tallie I believe has a special gift when it comes to music. Before she could barely say a word she was singing her ABC's just as well as her older sister could. She sings "Twinkle twinkle little star", "the goodbye song" she sings in her TAP class, she sings "Patty Cake", "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes", and now she is singing a song from the movie Happy Feet.

It completely amazes me that she can remember and sing these songs when she struggles with communicating by just talking. We are trying to play off of this talent and have now started making up songs for every little thing that we do. We have a good morning song, a potty song and pretty much make up a song for anything we are doing. I truly believe that someday Tallie is going to be an amazing musician in some form and is going to completely blow our minds with her talent!