My turn! Dzintars Cers turned the tables and interviewed me about our journey with the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Enjoy!
A few weeks ago, I was having a tough day so I asked people who Like my Facebook Page to share some good news. Kim shared that her son had gone on his first overnight trip with his class. Fantastic! I asked if she would be willing to share how she and her son’s Developmental Learning team prepared everything so he could participate and enjoy the 3 day, 2 night trip. Below is her story. Thanks for sharing Kim!
The day I found out about Liam’s Outdoor Ed trip I did not panic. I went into Autism mommy mode instead. I started running scenarios through my head. With questions right alongside. Should he go? Would he enjoy it? Can they accommodate his needs? Would he panic? Would I end up driving to get him in the middle of the night?
Liam wanted to go. His friend Craig* (name changed) had made it sound like fun. He wanted to be with his friends. Liam wanted to do what his friends were doing. Liam had no idea what he was in for. Without having a prior experience with mental pictures to draw from…he simply had no idea.
Thankfully I have a great communication system with his Developmental Learning (DL) teacher. I sent her a note the next morning letting her know I wanted to get together to discuss the trip. She of course was all for it. We set up a time for about a week later due to March Break starting. In the meantime, she began asking the staff involved for information which included a basic breakdown of the typical day at the centre. It also included a diagram of the dorm rooms. She spoke with the school principal about accommodations for Liam’s needs.
Sitting down to talk with Liam’s DL teacher we went through and listed what his regular morning and evening routines generally were. We discussed what foods he likes and doesn’t like; and how his food can’t touch on his plate. We discussed some of the chores he is able to be responsible for at home (taking out the recyclables after school, putting out napkins for dinner, making his bed). We made lists of special items he would be allowed to bring, and what different things he should bring. We came up with a contact plan in case of homesickness.
The Outdoor Ed centre did their part too. They were able to give his teacher a basic run down of what meals were generally served. They sent tons of outdoor and indoor pictures from the centre to give Liam visuals to see before the trip. They explained what sort of helping chores the kids would be expected to participate in.
The biggest accommodation to Liam’s needs was in his sleeping quarters. Usually all the boys share one large bunk bed room; and the girls another large bunk bed room. There are also separate rooms where the teachers and parent volunteers would sleep. Liam and one friend were given a room in this area to reduce the noise and commotion triggers for him. With just the two of them it was a quiet place to go.
Prior to the trip story booklets were made up. One for each day that included a schedule with picture references to keep Liam on track and to help him see “what’s coming next”. Not being to know what is coming up later creates a lot of anxiety for him. He also a story booklet about homesickness.
We packed according to the list the centre provided (clothing, bedding). We also packed a digital clock (knowing what time it is at all times is important for him), his ear muffs (to block noise), his mealtime vitamins (can’t break dinner routine!), a rest toy (a stuffy of choice to sleep with), his chapstick and hand cream that he can’t seem to live without. He had a separate backpack with books, toys, and such for keeping busy during quiet time. He was allowed to bring his DS, but that was in the control of the E.A. that was along. Electronics are not allowed (except cameras) but as his iPad wasn’t allowed, this was as a reward system if needed. He never used it!
The other E.A. on the trip also was given my cell phone number to use as a message system before bed each night (3 day/2 night trip). In the case of mid-day homesickness Liam would have the option of texting me if needed. Only heard from him at night! This E.A. sent texts to his teacher on how he was doing during the day, which she then passed on to me.
All in all, he did fantastic! He loved it, he enjoyed it, he PARTICIPATED! One of the teachers on the trip took pictures and Liam was in quite a number of them doing fun things. Reports from the teachers, the E.A.’s and some of the other students (I work with some of his classmates parents) was that he had a great time, it showed, and he was just a regular kid.
With lots of preparation by everyone this trip was a success. No meltdowns or tantrums, he interacted and participated with a group, he tried new things, he always found foods he liked to eat, he wasn’t lonely or left out, he was helpful to others doing meal cleanup, he actually slept – away from home, with no family member. We are all so proud of him.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words……pictures from this adventure could write a novel.
Kim is a married mother of three boys, and works fulltime outside the home. Her middle son (Liam) has diagnosis of “Autism – Pervasive Disorder” and was diagnosed near the end of grade four at 10 years old. Initially, he had been incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD and medicated with Adderal XL until almost a year ago. Since the corrected Autism diagnosis, he is no longer on medication. He is now placed in a Developmental Learning class while integrated in three of eight classes with his mainstream grade 6 class. He is now catching up with social skills, his reading skills have improved, and his speech and language workers continue to work with him as well.
It’s been an exciting day! Before 10:30am, we had already supported World Autism Awareness Day in so many ways.
- My son is wearing one of his Autism t-shirts.
- My daughter is wearing a ribbon I made for her.
- I’m wearing all Autism “bling”‘ I own, and of course my own Autism t-shirt.
- My son’s seatmate on his bus wished me a “happy blue day!”.
- My son’s bus driver was wearing her Autism t-shirt (which is the same as mine). She found out about WAAD yesterday and was happy that there is one, saying “it’s such an important cause”. How much do I ❤ her?!!
- the grand-daughter and daughter of one of my neighbours knocked on our door to show that they were wearing blue in support of World Autism Awareness Day. Sssssoooo cute!
I also attended the flag-raising at City Hall this morning. Small group as it’s a new thing this year.
As it turns out, my friend who works at keeping everything running inside and outside the building, actually changed all the bulbs to blue yesterday. So, City Hall will be lit up blue and the Autism flag will be flying for the whole month of April! I know that there’s a lot of talk in the Autism blogosphere this year, recognizing that blue is actually the corporate colour for Autism Speaks, whereas the coloured puzzle piece is actually for Autism. I recognize that as well…but if the general public recognizes “light it up blue” as being Autism, then I think that’s a great start. But I digress… 😉
I also asked my lovely “Likers” on my Facebook Page and friends on my personal Facebook if they would be interested in sharing photos of their children with Autism. Here’s the resulting 2014 World Autism Awareness Day photo montage:
How have you been recognizing/celebrating World Autism Awareness Day?
My kids were at their dad’s for March Break this year…so, what does one do when they find themselves childless for a week? Go to their parents’ place, of course! 😉 And in my true form, I started my March Break with a Starbucks chai for the drive to the farm.
When I got to their farm, I needed to study and work on an assignment due that night at 11pm. Easy, right? Tried getting online in their office…nope. Went into the house where I know my laptop connects to the wireless internet (yup, a farm that has wireless internet…cool!)…and nope. Not working. We tried rebooting the router and doing all the magical stuff we knew of to make it work. It was another 2 days before it worked! I was shaking…thank goodness for my Blackberry so I could still access the internet, otherwise, I’m sure I would have been going through complete withdrawal.
But then there was a big problem…I still had an assignment due for my ONLINE course by 11pm that night. Plus, I’m in Small Town, ON where everything closes at 6pm at the latest. Sigh. No worries, I was going to Medium-Sized City, ON that evening to tape the 2nd episode of the Many Faces of Autism so I figured I could go to a Starbucks and submit the assignment as long as I had everything done before I have to leave. So, I finished all research required and wrote up the assignment, got ready to be videotaped (eek!) and headed to the family’s home (thanks Vimi and family!). We taped the episode (Vimi did AWESOME!) and, while we were waiting for our tech guru to do his magic on his end, I was able to submit my assignment while my laptop was connected to her wireless internet – yay! Got an A on that assignment too…so double yay!
The next day, I got to cross off something from my “bucket list”…take my parents’ four-wheeler in for service. I know, you all have it on your bucket list too. 😉 Who knew that taking it in for service meant taking it to a Honda dealerships…where the showroom was filled with beautiful motorcycles. I’ll take them all! 😉 Spent some time with my dad though, so it’s all good. Later that night, my mom needed to sew some things so I FINALLY sewed on a button on my jacket that has been on the verge of falling off for most of the winter (silly, I know but I have a sewing repair kit around here somewhere…).
Have I mentioned that my parents’ live in the snowbelt? And that my dad uses a tractor to clear the snow? This is a picture taken BEFORE the snowstorm hit on the day I was supposed to leave. Reminder: I’m 5’10”!
Then the storm hit. We didn’t get too much snow, but it was whipping around horizontally and the wind was really strong so it wasn’t safe to drive anywhere…but a lovely girlfriend of mine (who has snowtires on her car…alas, I do not) made her way to the farm for a tea before the storm really hit. She even brought tea biscuits that had bacon in them. A woman after my own heart!
I stayed an extra day because of the weather…but it was all good because the internet repair guy also made it out before the snowstorm really hit that day and was able to fix the internet. So, I was back online and able to continue working on my assignments and write an exam while we were snowed in. Insert happy dance here!
Thank you so much to Vimi for sharing her story of her family, which includes herself, her husband, and three children. Her middle child (her son) has Autism.
Quick promo for Episode 2 (I love that her baby squealed during this promo!):
Thank you Vimi and her family!
It’s amazing what I can find to do while my daughter is having a playdate here, and my son has started his “circuits” around our home. Started listing them off at a Facebook status but frankly, it was getting too long so I figured I would change it to a blog post.
So, here’s the list of things I’ve found to do today when I *should* have been doing school work (I have an assignment due TOMORROW!):
- decluttering, specifically starting to find my front hall because that has pretty much disappeared. It’s just a start. Still more to do but at least there’s space for us (and my daughter’s playdate’s parents to pick her up tonight!)
- folding laundry to finish packing everything for the kids because they are going to their dad’s for March Break
- putting away (most) of the laundry
- watching organizing videos on Youtube while doing laundry (seemed appropriate)…which leads me to wonder, should I start doing vlogs…? Would anyone be interested? Bueller? Bueller? 😉
- More wondering: Would I actually be able to figure out the technology to do vlogs? I always have lots to talk about so content wouldn’t be a problem. 😉 Do I want to be on camera more often than the Many Faces of Autism? I chatted with the production assistant for the Many Faces of Autism on Friday. She and I came up with a number of interviews for me to chat about…should we do those as actual interviews, or me just vlogging? Can I just use my cell phone as a video camera for vlogging. Hmm…
- started categorizing my Youtube channel…just in case I start vlogging… 😉
Back to the list…
- put out the garbage, recycling and compost
- started my checklist to pack myself because I’m going to my parents’ for a few days. I’ll be childless and what am I doing? Going to my parents’ farm…and I still have meetings in person and via Skype so basically, I’ll be doing my normal stuff, with a different view and fresh air.
- unload and loaded the dishwasher
- decluttered the table beside my side of the couch…yet another space that got “lost” in the last couple of weeks. What can I say? Life gets busy. (I took a “before” picture…may turn into a blog post, if I’m brave enough to share that photo)
- cleaned and reorganized my cutlery drawer because, well, there was a weird battery explosion that just made NO SENSE!
- Facebook chatted with the next mom who is kind enough to share her family’s Autism journey on the Many Faces of Autism.
- writing this blog post 😉
And now, I need to get started on dinner, so clearly my school work is not happening until later this evening. Sigh.
So happy to introduce you to my brilliant and wonderful stepdaughter: Rebecca. I’m so proud of her for wanting to share her journey with her diagnoses of Asperger’s and Misophonia. Drum roll please… 😉