Monday, January 31, 2011

Are you skinnier and more organized yet?

It's the last day of January. How many New Year's resolutions did you make and break? My record is perfect - zero made, zero broken. But, I've made changes! The following is a re-post of an entry I did earlier this month on my local support group's blog. I thought I'd recycle this one for the Caffeinated Autism Mom crowd. Find out why I don't make resolutions anymore. Enjoy! 

Well, here we are. It's 2011. Once again, it’s time to plan how we will fill the blank pages of a new year. I went out to shop some of the after Christmas sales and found that a majority of the stores already had made the move from Santa’s red and green Wonderland to the Pepto-Bismol pink glow of Valentine’s Day. Besides the change in holidays, I repeatedly saw items related to fitness and organization. There were stacks and rows of plastic storage tubs and boxes, wicker baskets, yoga mats, water bottles, heart rate monitors and more. Does everyone in the US resolve to the do same thing year after year? Get fit! Get organized!  Are we that predictable? 

I think so. I was one of those people. Every year I would resolve to be healthier, among other lofty and unattainable goals. Inevitably, I would disappoint myself. My resolutions were typically busted by the second week of January. What can I say? Willpower is not my forte.

Things changed for me about 5 years ago when my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. For his 30th birthday, the gift he got was recuperation from surgery and the anticipation of chemotherapy and radiation. Needless to say, it was not a banner year for us. However, something happened to me that changed me forever. In my quest to help my husband, I opened my eyes, ears, and mind to things I never gave a second thought to before.

It was this forced awakening about things like toxic load that prepared me to make significant changes when we received the diagnosis for our boys. In learning about autism and changes I might need to make for our kids, I realized I’d done this before. It wasn’t as overwhelming the second time around. Yes, it sucks and it’s really hard, but I’m a combat veteran from cancer. I got this! At least I hoped I did.

Where to begin? Clean up your environment. What do you eat? What do you drink? What do you put on your body? What do you allow into your home? Changes are needed in droves! Cue the resolutions!

As I mentioned before, resolutions and I don’t usually get along. So instead of resolutions, I now make an agreement with my husband about what issue we want to take on over the course of a year. Then we set out to do the things necessary related to that issue. You know, accountability. Two heads are better than one. That kind of thing. And, these ideas are permanent changes that we incorporate into our lifestyle. Resolutions don’t work for us, but tangible planning in unison does. What does this look like in action, you ask? Well…

Three years ago we dealt with the air we breathe. We installed a hospital-grade whole house air filtration system. We also bought in-room air ionizers and several Himalayan salt lamps.

Two years ago, we tackled food and chemicals. We had already made the switch to mostly organic produce the year before, but then I made a newly concerted effort to buy exclusively organic products whenever possible. We’re talking organic grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, free-range organic poultry and eggs, replacing all of my spices with organic ones (which aren’t irradiated!), etc. We switched out all of our cleaning products, detergents, beauty products, etc., to ones that are plant-based, non-toxic and non-chemical. I even went so far as to carry the new standards over to my lawn and yard care products. Chemicals be gone!

Last year we focused on water. We installed charcoal filters on our shower heads to filter out the chlorine that our body was exposed to both topically and as a gas when we took a shower. We had already made the switch from tap water (chock full of fluoride and chlorine!) to spring water with naturally occurring minerals and a pH just a hair on the alkaline side of neutral. We used spring water for drinking and cooking, and typically went through a gallon a day, sometimes more. That gets expensive, especially when the government enacts a water tax on every ounce of bottled water you buy. As a result of the tax, something we’d talked about before as a “wouldn’t it be great?” item for the house became much more reasonable to entertain. We ran the numbers and decided to buy an atmospheric water generator. Yes folks, we make our own water from the air. It’s filtered in a multi-step process (reverse osmosis, UV, etc.), it adds minerals back in, and it has instant cold and instant hot spigots that you can set to whatever temperatures your heart desires. No more tea kettle for me! Now I water my plants with this water, we cook with it, we drink it, and not only is it good, we know it’s safe.

Now, we’re here at the dawn of 2011. What’s the plan for this year? We’re changing how we cook. I just bought some frying pans that don’t release PTFE when heated. The old non-stick pans are gone! I already acquired some cast iron and stainless steel pans over the past few years, and we’ve switched our daily usage containers from plastic to glass. We also took a big risk to our sense of convenience, and unplugged the microwave. I bought a toaster oven that has convection, and will use it to replace my dying toaster and my food-destroying microwave. It’s also large enough to replace my oven on most things (which will save energy). There will definitely be a learning curve here, as we’ve come to rely on the ease of tossing something into the microwave at the last minute. This change will require a little bit more planning and time, but we agree that it’s a good change and we’re willing to take the plunge.

The kinds of changes we’ve made at our house are much too intense to take on all at one time. By breaking things down into steps we can manage, we continue to better our household without incurring major sticker shock. It’s much easier and less overwhelming that way. I wonder what we’ll change for 2012? Who knows? I’ve got a whole year to think about it, and besides, I need to become an expert with my new style of cooking first.

Here’s to resolving to make permanent changes! Happy New Year!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Laughter is the best medicine

What rates 10 out of 10 on the cute scale? How about fuzzy kittens purring, a newborn baby’s feet, or adorable puppies playing? Indeed, these are all saccharin sweet. Want to know one of my personal favorites in cuteness? That would be Prince Charming caught in a fit of laughter. It is so cute, it makes your cheeks ache from all the smiling you find yourself doing when he’s being so gosh darn adorable. One thing we do almost every day that gets his laugh track going is the simple act of playing “kick.” It’s a refreshing change of pace from the Grumpy Badger we see brooding around the house many other moments during the day.
Prince Charming and Monkey like to play soccer. When the weather is too cold or wet, we bring our game of kick inside. They can get kind of wild, so in order to not destroy my house and all the things in it, we have a small inflatable ball that we use for this game. It’s like a mini beach ball, and it can catch some crazy air when kicked with force. But, that’s the best part, you see. When you kick the ball as hard as you can, it shoots off in some bizarre direction with a vicious spin, harmlessly ricocheting off a painting or a lampshade. Prince Charming will then burst into fits of laughter and both boys jump excitedly as they watch it careen to its unintended destination. And, they keep score!
I got smart a few weeks ago and initiated a new play zone for kick in the hallway. We shut the doors to the bedrooms so that when they play, it’s kind of like bowling with the bumpers up. You kick the ball and it can bounce off the wall or a doorknob, all while continuing toward the designated goal. There is still a ton of laughter and jumping, but it allows the game to stay confined in one area of the house.
The other day I woke up with a headache. It was fairly slight, but present. As the morning progressed, it had become more uncomfortable and I no longer wanted to leave the lazy comfort of my recliner. By the time Prince Charming got home from school, my headache had blossomed and wasn’t responding to the traditional first line of medicinal defense.  He came in the house and promptly ran off to go play with his trains while I remained in my chair. Twenty minutes passed and he came bounding back out of his room, asking me politely if I would like to play kick with him. At first I declined and told him I wasn’t feeling very good. Then, I got to thinking about it and decided I’ve give it a try for a few minutes. He was ecstatic.
I told him I’d play for 10 minutes, and then I would need to go back to my chair and rest. We started playing and right away his laughter came bubbling out. I couldn’t help but smile. He’s so cute when he’s happy. I found myself smiling and laughing those 10 minutes, and the time passed quickly. When the time was up, I realized I was feeling a little bit better. So, I told him we could keep playing for a few more minutes. When we finally stopped our game, we’d been playing for about 30 minutes. The longer I smiled and laughed with him, the less my headache bothered me. The pain wasn’t gone, but it was markedly better.
Let’s be honest. Some of my headaches are caused, in part or whole, by the kids. It comes with the territory of being a mom. However, I learned something new. Laughter from Prince Charming can work better than Tylenol and Advil in relieving headache pain. Now, if only I could bottle it!              

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bad mommy

I had an uh-oh moment this morning while rushing my oldest son through his morning routine. About 5 minutes before he’s supposed to get on the bus, he tells me he doesn’t have any pants to wear. In a panic, I dash into his room to double-check that this is, in fact, the case. There’s nothing. Not even sweat pants that he wears as pajamas. What to do?
Then I remember that on a whim I did a load of laundry last night, which I promptly forgot about. I got distracted with my boys and never put the clothes in the dryer. Feeling nauseous, I check the washing machine. The clothes aren’t there! I swing open the dryer door and realize that my husband remembered and did it for me. What a guy! We were saved!
I reach in to pull out a pair of pants and I get a sinking feeling. The clothes are damp. Oh, crap. Monkey has tactile defensiveness and can’t handle simple things like touching anything wet with his fingers. How will he handle this? I hurriedly instruct him to get ready to go (except for putting on pants), while I flip the switch to high heat on the dryer. I do a little prayer as I’m standing next to the dryer, watching the clock and tapping my feet impatiently.
Three minutes later, Monkey’s got about 90 seconds left before he has to dash out the door to head to the bus stop. He’s happily sitting on the floor in his room, waiting. This is a surprise because he’s typically anxious about the time, and watches the clock like a hawk. Thank God today he chose not to care. This could be a good sign.
I fling open the dryer, praying to find that the thinnest pair of pants feels somewhat dry. I pull them out and feel some dampness around the waistband, but the pockets seem alright and the legs are dry. We might be able to work a miracle here. I’m explaining to Monkey that I’m sorry that his pants are not perfectly dry, but it’s as good as I can do. I try to hurriedly help him get into the pants, and he winces from the heat of the clothing. I’m batting a thousand this morning. Temperature is another sensitivity he has, and I forget to quickly “air” the pants out before giving them to him. I reassure him that he’ll be okay, and that he shouldn’t worry about the damp waistband either. You know what he says to me? “It’s OK. They’ll be dry by reading time,” referencing his morning classroom schedule.
My worry immediately disappears and my heart swells up with pride. There seems to be a parting of the clouds in our hectic morning as he runs off to the bus stop. My little Monkey will be fine. He and his body are learning how to deal with the sensitivities. Maybe it won’t always be such a finely choreographed life. Maybe I won’t have to worry so much. Well, at least about damp pants.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A sensory-friendly bedroom makeover

Last spring we chose to overhaul our boys’ bedrooms. We were having issues with them seeking sensory input in unsafe ways, and we needed them to be able to jump and crash safely. Also, due to the mood swings of my youngest, it was critical to provide built-in calming strategies. We decided to do a complete sensory-friendly bedroom makeover!
First we started with the color of the walls. We explored the psychology of color so that we could attempt to mirror the color with the outcome we were seeking. For Monkey we chose a medium blue, resembling the color of Thomas the Tank Engine. Blue is thought to be a color of serenity and calm. When Monkey isn’t in some sort of electronic toy-based coma, he tends to be on the hyper side of life, making it difficult for him to fall asleep. For Prince Charming we chose a medium green. It’s somewhere between Kermit the Frog and turquoise. Green is thought to relieve stress and promote harmony. Since our little Prince Charming can turn into a Grumpy Badger in a mere 2 seconds flat, this was a good thing to introduce into his room. Green is also thought to aid with reading ability. Prince Charming has had a rough road with learning to read and write, and we figured every little bit helps.
The most important feature of the room was centered on the idea of calming the sensory system. My boys always seem to immediately calm down when their Occupational Therapist would have them get into a Lycra swing to organize their bodies before an activity. How in the world could we get this magical swing into their rooms? We began looking for inspiration, trekking to places like Ikea. They had some really neat ideas, but nothing really clicked in the same way as hanging a homemade fabric swing. Then, we discovered how the whole room would take shape with one focal point – a loft bed.

A loft bed would address several things. First, it would give a sense of enclosure. In the past, I’ve seen Prince Charming playing quietly as he’s flat on his belly under his bed. Or, I’d see Monkey asleep on the floor, huddled in his blanket in the narrow space between his wall and the bed. They both craved the peaceful feeling of enclosure. With the raised side rails on the bed and its closeness to the ceiling, this would create a virtual tent for the boys. Also, the area underneath the bed is like a big fort, enclosed by support rails on 3 sides. We knew it would be a big hit for playtime. Second, the bed’s location close to the ceiling would help get the boys to sleep faster. It would no longer be an ideal place for play and would better serve its role as a place of relaxation and sleep. No jumping on the bed means sleep comes faster! Third, it served as the perfect solution for housing the Lycra swing, which could easily be suspended off the main support beams underneath the mattress.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Me, me, me, Monday!

It’s Monday. Blah. How can I make today’s entry more interesting? I guess it would be easier for me to write about something light - nothing too serious. Let’s make it something personal. Whatever pops into my head first. Now, give me a minute to think about that… I need coffee. Where’s my coffee?
Well, I think this would be a great time to define my intentions for this blog and formally introduce you to my family. So, violà! We have a topic! Shall we begin?
I guess I haven’t really thought long and hard about why I am here doing this blog at this moment. In a way, it just kind of happened. If you don’t know me personally, then you have no idea that I run a support group for families with special needs children. For the past couple of years I have sporadically blogged on a site dedicated to my group, as well as for a non-profit special needs foundation I volunteered with. I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of wonderful people, become acquainted with many more through mediums like Facebook, and I’ve had the privilege to read some really great blogs along the way. All of these experiences have been rich, rewarding, and inspiring. I’ve thought off and on about starting a new blog but never did anything about it. C’mon now, does the world really need another blog? Besides, I wasn’t sure I could make another commitment that would take up my time and energy, which is already in exceedingly short supply.
In the past few months, three key moments got me thinking more about this crazy blog idea. I had a speaking engagement where I was given an opportunity to share some of my personal moments from our family’s journey with autism. That experience was literally the most fabulous time I’ve ever had speaking in public. It was honest, emotional, and fulfilling. Soon after, I had another chance to share some of my family’s key moments, both in pictures and in writing. Once again, even though it was an emotional process to get everything on paper, it was truly rewarding. Then, a few weeks ago I had to submit a personalized cover letter for a job I was applying for. The letter was supposed to showcase my writing style. I allowed myself to be open and humorous with the letter, and it was actually a fun exercise in seeking employment. In total, all three of those moments helped reconfirm that I like to write, I like to share, and I actually have a lot to say that could be helpful to others.
This brings us to two weeks ago. I injured my back. Don’t ask me how, because I don’t really know. Needless to say, I’ve been stuck in a chair, or in bed, mostly immobile and bored out of my skull. Since I’m a busy-body multi-tasker, I can’t just sit in a chair all day. It drives me insane. My husband offered to give me lessons in laziness, since according to him, he’s an expert. Whatever. My laptop soon became another appendage during those days, and out of my painful boredom, I birthed a baby blog. And that’s how it happened. So, here I am. And, in case you wanted to know, my back is finally starting to feel better. Hooray for that!
I’ve had the blog up and running for almost a week now. And, you know what I realized? This is something I enjoy. I have friends who blog professionally. Heck, if I get to be really good at it, there’s actually a chance of making some money doing something I enjoy. Wouldn’t that be great? We could certainly use a little help in that department! And, the added bonus, no more looking for a job! I know this won’t happen overnight, but I can dream.  
To my beloved reader, I will make a commitment. I will do my best to provide several entries a week, if not daily, Monday through Friday. However, my life is fairly insane and I’ve learned that I have to roll with the punches sometimes. That means you might not hear from me every day because things got a little nuts. I’ll do what I can, without driving myself to drink (alcohol, that is). Well, maybe a little…
I know I’m not the best writer in the world, but I hope there’s stuff in here you like to read. I want to write about things you’re interested in. Input from your comments can help me generate new topics. Feel free to leave me your feedback!
Now, I would not be here without my family. I’d love to tell you about the wonderful men in my life! First, a disclaimer. Since I intend this blog to reach a larger audience than I’ve written for previously, I am going to give my family members fake names. Who knows? I might change my mind and end up spilling the beans at some point, but for now we’ll try this out. If you are one of my friends on Facebook or you live in the Pacific Northwest and know me personally, then please respect my desire to help maintain anonymity for my family, and do not refer to anyone by their actual name in a posted comment. Thanks for your cooperation!
First is my most amazing husband, Titan. Yes, as you can tell by the name, he’s a tall drink of water, and he’s the best guy any girl could ever want. Seriously! We’ve been married for over 12 years. I couldn’t do what I do for my boys without his help. He fully supports me in everything I do: my support group, speaking engagements, community events, advocacy, mentoring, and now this blog. I’m going to turn myself into a big ball of moosh talking about him, and I’m sure you’d rather not pair your coffee with nausea. Moving on…
Next is my first-born, Monkey. He is 8 years old, and he’s as skinny as they come. As you can tell by the name, he’s likes to climb. He can also contort his body into various pretzel-like forms, and he’s all knees and elbows. Not only is he handsome, he is very intelligent. He’s my electronics junkie. We’re talking Wii, DS, laptop, everything! Besides toys that require electricity, he loves books.
And then there’s my youngest, Grumpy Badger. Or, on a good day, Prince Charming. Depending on his mood, you might see either name. He is a hot and cold kid, and when he’s on, he is the most social and amazing little boy you’ve ever met. He has a smile that makes people melt. Well, mostly women. When he’s grumpy, boy you better watch out. His favorite things are trains, cars, and Legos.  
Now, there’s one more person that needs to be included. Her name is Miss C. She is a super-duper friend of mine that will drop everything and come running when you need her. We don’t have much in the way of local family, and on-demand babysitters don’t exactly grow on trees. Miss C is one of very few people I trust implicitly to watch over and care for my children in my absence. She is the other reason why I am able to do as much as I do, and I am thankful to count her as my friend.  
So, there you have it. My family and my intentions.  
Happy Monday to you! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Strategies for managing challenging behaviors

In my last post I shared some tips on how to get your child to take their vitamins. At the end of that post, I alluded to some strategies for managing behaviors by setting up a supportive structure and reward system.  I know it wasn’t very nice of me to leave you hanging like that, but I am now ready to extend a hand and get you off the cliff you’re hanging from. Without further adieu, let’s discuss some great ways to manage challenging behaviors.    
If we didn’t have rules in our house, I think I would explode from all of the chaos. Most kids on the autism spectrum respond in some way to rules and boundaries. In fact, this can be an easy way to manage your household when you have a child who is strictly rule-bound. Setting clear rules of expected behavior is a first line of defense in keeping everyone in your household sane. Coming up with a list of rules to be enforced will differ depending on the age and development of the child. For the younger set, you might choose to designate one rule at a time, or make up a few rules with pictures that express the idea of the rule. For older children, you can involve them much more in the process. They can help make the list by writing rules on a piece of paper, decorating the paper with artwork, or even collaborating on ideas for what rules should be created.
When my kids were younger, I listed rules in very simple terms (3 words or less) and then added pictures for the benefit of my younger son who couldn’t read the words. For example, there was one that said, “Quiet voice” colored in green to indicate this was a desired behavior. Next to the words I placed a clip art picture of a smiley face with his index finger up to his lips as if he was saying, “Shhhh.” Then, below the green desired behavior I listed the undesired behavior, “No yelling” in red letters with a clip art picture of an angry face that appeared to be yelling. I went through this process for several behaviors that we were having problems with in our house. Another rule we had was, “Calm body” with its counterpart, “No hitting.” Now that my boys are a little bit older, we try to involve them more in the rule-making process. My husband and I always choose the first rule, which is whatever we deem as the most critical area of concern at the time. Then, each boy gets to choose several rules out of a list so that they feel like they have some control over their own daily destiny. Although some of the basic rules of the house apply to both boys, additional rules are customized for each child since they have different issues.  
Rules can be literally anything you need to work on with your child, from simple things like eating at least one bite of dinner, to more complex behavioral problems specific to your child. What I have learned about kids on the spectrum is that you can tell them what NOT to do all day long, but they won’t know how to comply because you haven’t told them what they CAN do. By focusing the rules on the positive angle of what behaviors you expect, it’s easier for them to make the connection. Keep in mind, rules are never stagnant. They should change and grow with your children. Issues will come and go, and so should the rules. Be prepared to teach the rules consistently, but then also be willing to change them if they no longer fit the situation.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A sneaky parent’s guide to getting your child to take their vitamins

For those of us parents that take the biomedical path in treating our kids with autism, we are often completely stymied as to how to get all of those expensive vitamins and supplements down the gullet of our ever-moving children. This is made even more complex if you have a child who is too young to understand how to swallow pills, or if you have kids like mine that lack the motor coordination to get their tongue to cooperate in the pill-swallowing process. Some day they’ll figure it out. I hope. Sooner than later. Please.
Since I’ve agonized over the vitamin dilemma, I am going to give you some free advice based on the successes I’ve had with this issue. But unlike most free advice, mine is actually good. Trust me.
Things to Consider
1.       Does your child eat anything you put in front of them, no matter the color/temperature/texture/taste?
Okay, so this is sort of a trick question to see if you’re paying attention. I imagine that your answer is a resounding “NO!” Most moms struggle with picky eaters at some point, and that includes moms of neurotypical kiddos. If your answer is no, then welcome to the club. Be prepared to change your game plan as often as necessary. We’re going with the flow here, or at least, we’re trying to make a good effort while our teeth are gritted behind a Stepford-like smile.
2.       Does your child have difficulty swallowing or do they have a strong gag reflex? 
If your answer is yes to either part of this question, then teaching your child to swallow pills should probably wait until they are older or have learned to better overcome their motor/sensory issues. Feeding therapy might be a good idea to aid what you’re already doing at home. If you, like me, do not enjoy your child making the face and sound of a cat coughing up a hairball (rendering any vitamins in their mouth into a slobbery and unusable mess), then just wait to cross this bridge. But, don’t fret! There are things you can do to help your child take their vitamins. More on this in a moment.
3.       Can your child only palate certain textures?
If your child can only tolerate certain textures in their mouth, then giving them the wrong thing could cause a tantrum, hunger strike, flying food, or other ghastly calamity that us worn out parents don’t have time or energy to deal with. You might want to stick with what you already know. There’s actually a lot that can be done with different textures, so hooray for that! And yes, I know you’re still waiting. Patience is a virtue, people.
4.       Does your child respond to rules, a picture schedule, or rewards for positive behavior?
If your answer is yes, then we’ve got even more to work with here. Do not despair! We have options. Let’s check them out now, shall we?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The GFCF diet: To use oats or not to use oats?

We’ve been doing the GFCF diet at our house for about 3 years now. I resisted the diet. A lot. I practically acted like a 2-year old having a tantrum. Picture a grown woman with a whiny voice saying things like, “I don’t wanna! It will be too haaaard!” Well, I may not have said those exact things out loud, but I certainly thought them loudly in my head!
Fast forward to the present and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, the diet made a HUGE and very positive impact on my kiddos. My youngest son is now talking as a result of getting rid of foods that were inflammatory to his little body. He’s a different person, and I have the diet to thank. I did the diet change cold turkey at our house, which I don’t always recommend. It was hard. Hellish, in fact. However, if you are thinking that your kid might benefit from the diet, it’s worth a try. If nothing else, it can’t hurt. 
Let me tell you, it can be a challenge to create meals without things like: gluten (wheat, rye, barley, etc.), casein (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.), soy (the go-to milk substitute), egg (almost always necessary in the absence of gluten), and other pesky things like citrus, banana, pineapple, and nuts. These were the things we were told to avoid. My husband and I decided the best way to help the boys was to make our home allergy-free. That means we eat what they eat!
Well, not always. Confession time… Sometimes my hubby and I wait until certain little boys are in their beds for the night, and then we cheat with forbidden things like real dairy ice cream or pizza with a regular crust and regular cheese. Shhh! It’s our little secret, K?
Anyway, over the past 3 years I’ve gotten pretty darn good at allergy-free cooking. There have been some seriously tasty delights that have come out of my kitchen. When you have a husband who is vocal about how he cannot tolerate the idea of fake cheese and such, it’s always rewarding when he can hardly wait to get his second helping of something you put on the table. The boys, however, are not always as enthused. They get stuck in food ruts and don’t prefer a diverse menu. They would rather eat the same thing every day. To be honest, it can be easier to give in to their preferences when you know they will eat heartily without complaint.  
These food ruts bring me to the question I have today. To use oats or not? This is actually a common debate for folks on a gluten-free diet. What I have learned through all of my research on the topic is that unless you have a true oat allergy, oats should be okay for you to digest. However, those oats must be certified as gluten-free. In the typical scenario, oats are grown close in proximity to wheat. Then, they are often processed in the same factory as wheat. Both of these situations cause contamination of the oats, rendering them unsafe to a person with celiac disease or who is allergic/intolerant to gluten.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Special Needs and Gifted?

I have two amazing boys diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  As if that isn’t already enough to deal with on a day-by-day basis, one of them might actually be considered twice exceptional.  What the heck do I mean by “twice exceptional?” Well, what happens if your special needs child also exhibits traits of being academically gifted? You get twice exceptional. I don’t know about you, but simply getting a solid IEP in place that helps my kids get through every day is a big enough task. How could I make things even more complicated for his education? I suppose I could apply for my son to enter the highly capable program!
I’m doing this right now for my oldest son, but getting to this decision has not been easy. If he didn’t have the social and communication deficits that come with autism, applying for the program would be a no-brainer. He’s uber smart! This kid basically taught himself to read without any help from me or his dad. He has been finding patterns in numbers for a very long time and has a keen ability to memorize.  Based upon these traits, I suspect that he’ll either find a career in banking, computer code writing, or perhaps card counting!
My hesitation comes from the areas where he continues to struggle. Not only do we worry about his social and communication skills, he also has difficulty with abstract thought and creativity. But, in a specialized setting like the program our school district offers, maybe he can be challenged in a positive way so that his thought process can be stretched. Kids on the spectrum can be so rigid at times, and often they cannot see something from another person’s point of view. Any improvement in this area would be welcomed.
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