Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cooking with Liam

Liam has started to want to cook with me. Cooking with Liam is much harder and takes much longer. I wouldn't have it any other way. It is so worth a delayed dinner to do something constructive WITH him rather than keeping him occupied while I do it without him. I'm thrilled to be able to involve him in my favorite hobby. "We" even won the chili cook-off at my office!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

One Year In...

We have hard days. I still struggle on a regular basis with my thoughts about the whys and the hows of autism and what the future holds. I have a hard time taking one day at a time, one challenge at a time.

Then there are the good days. The days when I can see Liam breaking out of his shell. The days when I can see him interacting with his world and the people in it. The days when I can see how far he has come. The days when I get to see other people love on my child.

Liam has been attending the ABA therapy center for a year. He is now asking questions and making eye contact and generally trying to be involved with things that I was pretty certain he was completely oblivious to a year ago. People who don't see him often tell me they can see improvement with each visit. My most recent meeting with his program coordinator was fantastic. She said that she has a hard time with his program because he is currently acquiring skills so quickly. We attribute much of this to his current therapist. She has been with Liam since earlier this summer, and he has made drastic strides since then. This to me is such an amazing testament to having the right people involved.

The sweet man who drives the van had our family over for dinner. It turned out to be a little birthday party for Liam which included his therapist and a couple of other people from the center. They had spent their whole day working with Liam and other kiddos like him, and then spent their evening with us. It was heartwarming to witness the genuine love that these people who were previously strangers have for our son. I couldn't believe it. Liam's village is expanding to include such a fantastic group of people and I can't help but smile.

We had a birthday party for Liam too. We really haven't attempted that the past few years because Liam usually doesn't deal well with that sort of event. We decided to give it a try this year for his SIXTH birthday, but we did it Liam style. No organized unwrapping of gifts, no forcing everyone in the same room together for singing and cake. We invited family, and a few friends - all of Liam's people. I had so much fun preparing and Liam had a blast. We let him do his own thing, going inside or outside, everyone ate when they wanted and got their cupcakes when they wanted. We had a fire and a hayride. It was a perfect fall day and a very easy and peaceful night. It felt really good to have a  party for our son, who truly seemed to "get" for the first time that it was his special day, and his special party. I think maybe this is what this is supposed to feel like.

I intend to put in a concerted effort to focus on the good things instead of dwelling on the scary things. Instead of obsessing over the bad days, I will be thankful for the good days and keep looking forward to the next one.

Happy birthday to my sweet Liam! 

He Has His Momma's Eyes

We had another appointment. This one was for Liam's eyes. When he was one, we made a visit to a pediatric opthomologist because one of his eyes appeared to be turning in. At that time, it was determined that we would keep watching it, but that he should grow out of it. We followed up once several months later, but everything looked good, so that was that. At Liam's last appointment with his neurologist, she suggested that we go back just to verify that everything is still okay since he was beginning to focus more on reading and writing. Also, I am severely nearsighted, and my hubby is nearsighted as well. I've had glasses since I was six, so that had been on my radar as well.

Off we went. Liam did great, even with having to get his eyes dilated. His eyes are physically fine. To no ones surprise, however, he is definitely nearsighted! I guess he has my eyes not only in color, but in this way too. Poor kid!

I was worried that he wouldn't keep them on his face since we have never been able to get him to leave sunglasses on. He struggled for the first couple of days. At some point, though, I think he realized that he can see better with them on. He just keeps taking these things into his stride and keeps going. What a great kid!

Summer is Over?

I can't believe there are Christmas decorations out in stores..its only August...oh wait. It's November. The 11th of November. Yikes. Here are a few pics from our fun summer. Which is apparently over. 

For starters...we got a new puppy. A yellow (although closer to white) lab who we named Milo. This makes three, and Liam is in heaven. 

Liam started riding horses. This is him on Sheba, though he is now mostly riding a lovely fella named Spice.

 Did I mention we got a puppy? 
He makes Sherpa / Mommy happy too! He is currently seven moths old and 70 pounds...

Liam rode his bike in a race. He didn't win, but had FUN!               

Liam discovered waterslides on our vacation to Yellowstone. Six hotels in eight days and he was a trooper!! 

Happy / Sad

Liam is learning about emotions and how do determine how people feel based on their facial expression. He was upset about something the other day and said, "Mommy, I'm SAD." Then he made this face:

Of course I began laughing and couldn't stop.

I asked him to show me happy and I got this:  
This isn't what he looks like when he is actually happy, but it was fun to see his interpretation!

These are things I never anticipated having to teach my child. Nevertheless, it is rewarding to see him learning and growing every day!!

The Dreaded Appointment

(Re: July 2011)

Pediatric dentists want to see babies when the first tooth appears, but the first visit is not  to be completed by the first birthday. They will make sure everything is developing properly and quiz the parents about whether the child is put to bed with his bottle. It also begins to establish a familiarity with the process. Most people, including my dentist, recommend taking a child to the dentist for the first time around age three, because by then he has all of his teeth.

I scheduled an appointment for Liam shortly after his third birthday. We didn’t go. Liam had been sick and was a crank, and I didn’t think that would be the greatest timing. I scheduled another appointment shortly after Liam’s fourth birthday. I had to cancel that one because it was the same day as his early intervention evaluation. Then I was just plain terrified. I was certain that Liam would melt down at the dentist. All of the smells, sounds, lights, tools, and hygienists talking in their best “kid voices” who mean well, but in would freak out my kid in their attempts at being “fun”.

Liam’s fifth birthday went by, and six months of ABA therapy went by. We’ve all learned a lot about sensory inputs and how Liam responds. We’ve had some success desensitizing him in some cases. Fro instance, I can cut his hair in one sitting instead of three. He still doesn’t like it, but he lets me get the job done. I still don’t think I could take him somewhere, but probably wouldn’t anyway!

No five year old should go without a visit to the dentist, especially one whose mother has HORRIBLE teeth. I located a dentist who has experience with autism, and more important, will tailor their approach to make every kid comfortable. I filled out all of the paperwork and told all of Liam’s secrets. I scheduled another appointment – this one we were keeping. No matter what.

I started preparing.

I bought books to read to Liam. We talked about going to the dentist and what would happen. We Googled pictures of people at the dentist so he wouldn’t expect everything to be exactly like Dora’s or Spongebob’s accounts. We practiced opening wide and counting his teeth. We talked about the big chair that moves, the light, the sink, the tools, the sounds, and the new toothbrush at the end. A month later, Liam was excited. We were as ready as possible.

When the long anticipated day finally arrived, we went in and were greeted by a welcoming d├ęcor – part tiki hut, part tropical rainforest. We waited only a few minutes and were called back. They led us to a private exam room. Liam explored everything. He pointed to things and told us what everything was and what it was for. The hygienist smiled at me and said, “You’ve been getting ready for this for a while, yes?” Yes. You have no idea. Yes.

Once Liam had adequately checked everything out, the hygienist asked him to climb into the chair. He hopped right up. She moved Liam up and down a few times, then leaned him back. She turned the light on and of and gently angled it so as not to shine it in his eyes. She let him taste the toothpaste and see the spinning toothbrush. She turned on the toothbrush and touched it. He touched it. She didn’t think it was weird that he rubbed his cheek on it. Then she began. She was perfect. She let him call all of the shots, stopping when he needed a break, giggling at how his tongue kept getting in the way. The dentist came in and was equally perfect with Liam.

I was impressed at the ability of the entire staff to be so accommodating, I was certain that this would be a horrible experience and was ready for the daddy of all meltdowns. I was SO relieved that this went so well.

And Liam. LIAM. He was so awesome. I learned that with enough of the right preparation, we can get through anything.