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!

Amazing Progress

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote on this blog. Tallie now has a baby brother which is the biggest reason why I have not had time to take a minute to collect my thoughts and write them down these days.

Tallie has completely amazed us over the last few months and continues to every single day. When I last wrote about what Tallie was going through she had just started going to TAP. She is now almost done and will soon start going to school 5 days a week at Standing Bear elementary.

TAP has done amazing things for Tallie. To start her eye contact has increased dramatically. It used to be a struggle to get Tallie to look at me even for a second, now she will look at me for minutes at a time. She responds to her name a lot more these days, she also is a lot more aware of her environment. She will go to look and see who just walked in the front door when someone comes over; a few months ago she would barely even notice that someone else had walked in the room. When she walks out of class and sees me she gets a big smile on her face, just a month ago I would have to work to get her attention and then I would rarely get a smile or a reaction that showed me that she was happy to see me. Her joint attention has improved a lot as well. She has begun to say several words. Now a days it seems like she says a new word almost every day! She said her first full sentence... "I wanna drink it" when she really wanted a juice box! It was a huge moment in our lives. She has pointed to her brother and said "baby", she said "hi momma", “daddy”, "more", “jump”, "swing" and so many more words I can hardly remember them all. She has made so many improvements, it amazes me to sit here and think about it.