10 Week Recap
Hi there, Nate is Great fans! Sorry to have abandoned you for a bit there. Life got the best of us. In addition to staying home with Nate and doing his therapy with him, I’m a freelance grantwriter for arts organizations. The past two weeks have brought an intense amount of deadlines. (Happy to report that all proposals are happily submitted to their funders!) Once I surfaced from writing, I got slammed by the Norovirus aka the stomach flu. Since Nate was born, I’ve never had more than twenty minutes of peace and quiet. With the Norovirus, I was granted a seventy-two hour stay, courtesy of my darling husband, Chad, who became Mr. Mom. Unfortunately, Nate got quite attached to Mr. Mom during that time and was none too pleased to learn that regularly scheduled programming would return once Mom stopped throwing up. Nate + Dad = Best Friends Forever.
There are so many things I want to catch everyone up on but I thought it best to stop for a minute and look at what Nate’s accomplished in the ten full weeks that he’s been in therapy. (I planned to do this two weeks ago, as “eight weeks” seemed like a nice place to start. Oh well….) Therapy is the only proven strategy to help people with autism improve and Nate is thriving in it. He loves all six of his ladies, especially his newest therapist, Miss Katy, who is his occupational therapist. Miss Katy does fun things like bouncing and stretching and work on a yoga ball. Miss Katy also gives Nate awesome bear hugs and intense tickling sessions.
Therapy has made Nate blossom and thrive. We see it most intensely at school. Within two weeks of therapy, he went from sobbing hysterically when I dropped him off to running out of my arms to go play with toys. His teacher, Miss Carrie, said it best: it’s almost like Nate had been asking for help all along. Now that he got it, he’s relieved that he was heard and he can just start being himself. Therapy has helped Nate learn things, identify things he needs to work on, and taught us about Nate, too. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of what we’ve all learned in the past ten weeks.
Things Nate Has Learned
Nate can sit and attend to an activity until it is completed, even if it’s an activity he doesn’t particularly like. At the start of therapy, it was a struggle to get him to put two puzzle pieces in their proper spot. Yesterday, he did an entire puzzle (with help).
Nate can do a series of activities without taking a break. At the start of therapy, he needed a four or five minute break between each activity (i.e. shape sorter, puzzle, ring stacker) to process what the heck just happened. He’s now politely sits in his chair and waits for the next task.
Nate has learned how to use a picture schedule and it really helps to set his expectations. At the start of each session, his therapists set up a schedule to show him what four activities we’ll be doing and in what order. Sometimes, a break is scheduled. Nate points to each activity and we talk about it. Then we start with the first one. When we’re done, he puts that activity card away. Putting the card away has helped Chad and I end many difficult-to-end activities with grace and ease. It is, in a nutshell, a miracle.
Nate can now sign and say “eat.” He will only say it when signing it. He will do it when asked “Do you want to eat?” and also does it spontaneously. It is Nate’s only consistent sign and word and we celebrate it.
Nate knows what a bubble wand does. When finding one, he will give it to Dad (and only Dad) and say, “Ba ba.” It is also the one picture card that he consistently uses. Bubbles are one of Nate’s favorite activities. For Valentine’s Day, we bought him thirty bubble wands, a gallon of soap, and a wee little bubble machine. Our boy was in heaven!
Nate can sit in a toddler sized chair and eat a meal on a plate without picking the plate up and throwing it. In fact, he will politely sit in the chair until he’s eaten everything on his plate. He’s good like that!
At school, Nate is consistently sitting in his spot during circle time. His therapist, Miss Lisa, reports that she’s often chasing other kids to get them to sit while Nate is being a perfect angel.
When locked in the living room by baby gates, Nate has learned to “call” Mommy and Daddy by pushing a doorbell. I’m going to do a future entry on this one because it’s so stinking neat!
Nate’s headbanging has significantly diminished. He now asks for help by pulling me or Chad over to the item he wants (i.e. his water cup) or rings the doorbell to get access to a person.
Thanks to our BCBA‘s brilliance, Nate is sleeping through the night again. It is heavenly. Oh sweet sleep, how I love you so!!!
Last but not least, Nate has “mastered” the high five! He has literally mastered it! I’ll write more about how I know he mastered it in a future entry.
Things Nate is Working On
Nate continues to work on requesting things with his picture cards. The only thing he’s consistently requesting–by picture card, word, or by showing us the wand–is bubbles. Everything else is still a bit hit or miss, especially if the activity is not highly motivating. Sometimes he gets stuck playing with the Velcro on the back of the card. Sometimes he throws the card. My most favorite response of all, when he doesn’t like the activity, he does his darndest to put the card inside of his picture schedule, which is the signal that the activity is “all done.”
Nate’s working on paying attention when being read to. He *loved* books when he was a wee peanut. Once he learned he could turn the pages, he stopped wanting to be read to and, instead, would read to himself. That’s fine and lovely….if Nate could actually read. Lately, I’ve been reading the same book to Nate at lunchtime while he’s held captive in his high chair. It seems to be working well. He is also practicing reading with his therapists and at school.
Nate’s still learning motions to three songs: Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle Twinkle, and If You’re Happy and You Know It. He does pretty well with Wheels on the Bus, but not consistently. He doesn’t seem to be a fan of Twinkle Twinkle, but we don’t care – he will learn the choreography. And Happy and You Know It? Well, Nate seems to look at me and the therapists like we’re goofy ladies whenever we do the dance. Regardless, it warms my heart when Nate’s wee bus goes “all through the town,” the wheels spin, the doors open, and the people go up and down. It’s damn cute.
Nate’s working very hard on establishing and maintaining good eye contact with all of us, especially during therapy. He seems to make great eye contact with Chad and me during free play but he becomes very avoidant during structured therapy. One caveat: we think he’s blinded by Miss Alison’s beauty. Miss Alison is getting married next month. Our big joke is that Nate’s working on saying “I object!” before the big day. Miss Alison burst Nate’s bubble by telling him she took that part out of the ceremony….
Nate knows who Mom, Dad, and Nate are! We got photographs of the three of us. Showing two of the photos to Nate, his therapists ask him, “Where’s Mommy?” He points to Mommy! Same when asked to identify Nate and Daddy!!! He blazed through the test so quickly that we’ve now added all six of his therapists. That’s made it a little more complicated. Last week, he only got Daddy and Miss Katy right. (He didn’t get Mom right!!!) It’s a very exciting window into what he knows.
Nate needs to be prepared for things. The picture schedule really helps. We also talk about his therapist du jour for at least ten minutes before she arrives so that he’s prepared. Same with going to school. We must talk about school, his teachers, and the therapist he’ll work with there. Without that preparation, we enter meltdown city, and that’s never a nice place to visit.
Things We Have Learned About Nate
I anecdotally ask Nate’s therapists about their boy to girl ratio on their case loads. Two of Nate’s therapists only have one autistic girl in their group; all the rest are boys. I still wrestle with why this autism thing is tipped so heavily to the boys but I thank my lucky stars every night for such a wonderful therapy team to help my boy through it! I plan to do these updates about every eight weeks so we can all see how much Nate’s been affected by the wonders of therapy and his therapists. Stay tuned….more blog entries shortly!
Hugs and Kisses to our entire Autism Army!