Tag Archives: autism

Spelling

My autistic 7 year old has been surprising all of us lately with his perfect handwriting and the spelling and reading of really big words – especially for a kiddo his age who just became fully potty-trained two weeks ago.  Here’s a sample:

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Sorry about the quality, but you can see his perfect, tiny letters.  I don’t know adults who can write that well!

His favorite game is to write words on paper after paper, then ask, “What does (fill in the blank) start with?”  He already knows, but if you know about autism, you probably also know that a lot of questions are ones to which they already know the answer.  It’s a form of mimicking a behavior that is safe, if that makes sense?  Anyway, the “game” evolves into, “how do you spell (fill in the blank).”

The funny thing is, this game does not usually work in reverse.  Meaning, if I go up to him and ask him to spell a word, more often than not, he will tell me no.  Or, he won’t answer the question, but will instead throw one back of his own.

Last week during dinner, his nearly 17 year old stepsister asked, “Isaac, how do you spell Isaac?”

Isaac, “Um…. no.”

Stepsister, “Isaac, how do you spell Isaac?”

Isaac, “No.”

Stepsister, “Isaac, how do you spell Isaac?”

Isaac, “How do you spell no?”

Of course, we were roaring with laughter.  And he was not even trying to be funny, making these games of his that much more entertaining.

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Sigh… And Cry…

As I begin to write this, I am sitting in the car with my 5 year old autistic son. It’s the 4th of July, which means fireworks and panic for this sweet boy. Three of my boys are with their dad, or who knows… the heartache of divorce… 

I’m okay sitting in the car with my little boy.

I’m coming to terms with a failed marriage (twice attempted, twice failed, with the same person).

What should matter is my children, my relationship with them and moving forward. And what should not matter is the negative flurry of slander, hate and anger behind me. 

But it does. 

It hurts. It hurts real bad. And I hate giving power to that pain by acknowledging it… But I guess healing comes with acceptance of pain and failure. 

I have seven children. Two of my boys are autistic, my 16 and 5 year old. The oldest has grown to be such a delightful young man. He is smart, humble, quiet, gentle and kind. My 5 year old is still struggling through his emotions and anxieties, and this is also a great struggle for me. It’s hard to reach him at times and even harder to calm him in the midst of his “moments.”

What’s also hard is the backlash I have received from those closest to me.  My family seems to only be able to tolerate the older children in doses, and the youngest three scarcely at all. They are quick to point out my short comings as a parent… even quicker to jump on the backs of these three for simply being children. 

And then there is my ex husband’s side of the family… although only his parents have ever come to visit – and no more than a week a year, at most – there certainly wasn’t a shortage of pure evil, hateful messages from the siblings (who have NEVER visited in 16 years and never met the younger FIVE children). Thankfully, I’ve been able to keep a mostly loving and positive communication with his parents. As for the others, I should be strong enough to dismiss their unfounded judgment and just focus on the beautiful, innocent faces in front of me. 

But it’s hard. Real hard. 

I wonder… do my parents, his parents, [some of] my siblings and his siblings, random acquaintances, etc, ever stop to remove the log from their own eyes? Do they really think that through their actions they are lifting up a woman and her children? Or worse, are they trying to bring her to her breaking point?

I may be weak. They may hurt me a lot. But they will not break me. Let me be clear on that. They can block my messages and not make eye contact in church. They may say all manner of things behind my back – deserved or undeserved. They may try to turn my own children against me with their poison. Yes, they can do all this and more, while pretending to be righteous, saying their morning and evening prayers daily…

Meanwhile, I struggle to pray, struggle to bring my children to church. I wake up daily and make my kids food adherent to a diet for those on the spectrum. I cry and work through the tantrums of the little ones. I struggled for 8 years to home educate because I felt it was best for my kids. I try to help a very moody and emotional, freshly-minted teenager navigate through his complex emotions and new life changes. All the while, trying very hard not to let myself succumb to the negativity and hatred from those I love the most, outside my children.

Sigh… And cry…

Life is always a struggle. One beautiful struggle after another. And if I can come out of one, I trust that God will carry me and mine through the next battle. 

And when I cannot pray because in that moment my faith is lost, I hope that God sees me through those moments as well. 

And when I want to hate in return those who have hurt me over and over again, I beg that God give me the patience and love not to do so. 

After all, none of us are in any place to judge another. My struggles may be unbearable for many, but for sure, there are so many families in the world who face much worse. 

We are all broken. And those of us brave enough to admit that are just trying to find our footing each day. 

At the moment, it’s sitting in the car with my sweet boy so he feels safe with me from the noise of the fireworks… tomorrow I don’t know. 


Car Washes and Scared Kids – a How To

I distinctly remember being terrified of the car wash. Everything about those spinning whips that pounded and rocked the car seemed wrong.  I don’t recall, however, if I cried or attempted a protest or hyperventilated.

My kids – all seven – have done one or all of these.

Some of the kids hyperventilated so terribly that I removed them from their car seats and rocked them through the terrifying ordeal. I’ve tried turning up the music to drown out the sound of my car’s beating. I’ve even neglected washes all together for quite awhile. But eventually, I get sick of the doodles all over the dirt and decide a wash is necessary.

For my four year old, the best remedy is to simply let him out of the car with my oldest. He actually goes into hysteria otherwise.  It’s like torture. So out he goes…

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The little two year old devised his own plan called: “I just won’t look…”

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Then I tried to tell them the car wash is cool. “Hey kids, look at all the psychedelic colors!”

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It almost worked!  Little two was brave enough to steal a peek:

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As for baby, the ones remaining can still distract her 😉


The Purpose Behind the Struggle

As you readers know, I took a small leave of absence from blogging. I’m not sure what I had hoped to gain from the time away, if anything, but I know that I was quite overwhelmed when I made the decision to leave.

Not much has changed since then. I’m still overwhelmed most days. I still homeschool my oldest four and chase the younger three. As my husband has moved jobs several hours from us, I have spent the last few months as the sole adult in the home. I collapse into bed with my four year old, who is afraid to sleep alone, no earlier than 11pm every night. I wake up exhausted and burnt out. I struggle to find joy and purpose in all things now. Life is in limbo…

But this afternoon I went to a graduation. Before yesterday, I didn’t even know about it. The girl is the fifth of six homeschooled children to graduate. I’ve known the family since I was in elementary school, but only recently have we reconnected. The girl’s mother has been a blessing to us this past year, so when I found the invitation in the mail yesterday, there was no question as to whether or not I would be going.

The speaker,  Tim Lambert of the Texas Homeschool Coalition , was inspiring. The fact that I was able to listen to him address the parents, graduates and guests, was a blessing, as I usually can’t focus on anything other than three toddlers. But as he spoke words of encouragement for us all, I felt a sense of peace in my struggle.

I may wake up many more times throughout the next 16-18 years questioning myself, and that’s normal. Taking on the raising of children, no matter how many you are entrusted with, is a HUGE job. Overseeing their education is also no small feat. I know that I will meet certain challenges because of my kids with special needs, family issues, and life in general.  But I also know that each day I must get up and continue. It’s the most worthy of endeavors. Our children are the future.

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In Your Mind…

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My beautiful, angelic four year old son. Brilliant, cuddly, inquisitive, autistic. He cannot communicate well, yet he constantly babbles and tries to communicate with and like us. At times he is calm. He will sit quietly by our side, watching and sucking his thumb. At other times, he is goofy, making faces in the mirror and dancing around. And other times still, impossible to reach and beside himself with frustration.

Lately, something’s been going on in his beautiful mind that I cannot figure out. His diet (gluten free and NO sugar) must be strict or he is like a person frantically trying to break out of prison chains. But his diet has been good – no bad foods for at least two weeks. Maybe it’s a growth spurt? Regardless of the trigger, he’s been different. And dare I admit, difficult. He has been easily agitated and frustrated. He throws things and actually looks for messes to make and things to take apart. Every place we’ve been, church, a store, the farm, park, family’s house… He has been upset. He acts frightened. Or frustrated. He cannot be calmed. I want so badly to know what’s going on inside him. I want to help him. I don’t know what’s triggering this elevated mood and it’s hard as the parent to feel so helpless. I want to scoop him up and hold him, but he won’t let me. I look into his eyes and he into mine… I know there is an understanding there that we will get through this. It’s just one day at a time…


Before the Day Begins… Breathe Part III

Less than ten hours ago, my little three year old had been having a very rough day. They happen here and there, and oftentimes, I cannot figure out the initial source of the problem, so to speak. Maybe for the small, autistic child, the trigger can be as simple as not enough sleep, or as big as a series of frustrating,  unvocalized events.

But for now, my sweet little one is sleeping peacefully in my bed. I think all children have the countenance of angels when asleep, but his face seems more at peace than my others.

Yesterday was just a frustrating day for him. I also made the mistake of taking him to Michael’s craft store before lunch and naptime. I put him in the cart and all was well… until we got to the checkout line. It was there that he fixated on some giant letters and had to have them. I had forgotten to buckle him into the cart, and suddenly found myself scrambling to keep him from a nasty fall. He saw the letters and had to have them…

With a baby strapped to me, I tried to wrangle my very strong, and now determined child.  Getting him back into the cart was impossible at this point. And keeping him upright quickly became impossible too. He threw himself to the floor while I held to his arm. He screamed as if someone was hurting him. The line around me was awkwardly silent. Only The little boy in front of us spoke – he told his mommy that my child was being a very bad boy.

I should have just left. I’ve done it many times before… stores, appointments, other places… but selfishly, I was also determined to make my purchase. And I did, with much difficulty and more awkwardness from the lady checking me out.

We made it out of the store, but getting him into the car seat was another battle. This child is strong. Once he was in, he sat there sucking his thumb, his breathing heavy and labored. I put the baby in and helped my daughter in, then I sat down. To collect myself. To breathe. I was shook up as much as the child in the seat behind me.

But when I looked back at him, there was something that makes me cry as I write this and as I look at him still sleeping peacefully… his eyes were calm, not wild as one may assume after such a struggle.  In fact, it was through those beautiful, calm and peaceful eyes that he spoke to me without saying a word. I can’t really describe it… maybe another mommy out there has experienced something similar. But it was almost a look of relief. He wanted out of that store as much as I wanted to disappear from it. He was safe and calm in our car now, despite his fight to get there.

We sat a few more minutes, just looking at each other without me saying a word. He kept perfect eye contact. And when he finally turned away to look out the window, I knew he had “said” enough, and we could drive away.


“Are all Your Children from the Same Father?” and Other Stupid Questions!

From this morning’s show. It was a pleasure talking with Rene today!

Heaven Sent...and...Bent

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Laura Young has a gaiety to her voice that you wouldn’t expect from a mother of seven children. Yes, I don’t stutter, I said SEVEN! The oldest is fourteen so you do the math! What is even more remarkable though is that two of those kiddos have been diagnosed with Autism.

Laura continued working off and on after her little guy was born. She recorded normal progression until he was about eighteen months. It was then that a day care provider hinted that he might have Autism. This story is repeated a gazillion times in the Autism world. The denial, disbelief, fear, disappointment and finally the call to action. Laura already had baby number two when all of the testing and the evaluations were complete.

It was a challenge that Laura and her husband were willing to take on, conquer, accept and live with. He was their bright light and…

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Parenting/Teaching the Special Needs Child

Also posted on my other site: Homeschooling the Minds of Tomorrow

I have seven children, two of whom are autistic: my 14 year old and my 3.5 year old. My homeschooling journey actually began with my oldest and my lack of confidence in the public school system to meet his needs and protect him. I found that as a family, those needs and protection were better met. Of course we struggled, but I never regretted the choice of having him/them home. We all schooled together, through the good and bad and all the changes of life.

My greatest challenge is finding a math program and reading comprehension program that is not to overwhelming. He can read and understand quite well; it’s how he spends all his free time! But to extract that knowledge in written question and answer form is a struggle for him. So I have him do what he can math wise (we use Teaching Textbooks). He reads alone and we discuss what he’s read together, using the given questions as more of a guide for me rather than a worksheet for him.

My 3 year old is not necessarily school age yet, although he would qualify because of his autism for part time preschool, should I choose to place him. Regardless of how rigorous his schoolwork or learning time is, he does need something to keep him little mind active.

He is very sweet and also quite gentle with his 7 week old sister. But with other children, he wants to play and doesn’t know how. He pushes and hits in excitement and in what he believes is play. But it’s not and other kids are quickly turned off and don’t want him around. It breaks my heart to see this and to scold him when another child is hurt. He simply doesn’t understand. And because communication is at a very minimum, I cannot effectively tell him he’s not playing, but hurting.

Autistic children oftentimes seem stronger because they cannot gauge their own strength and lack control of how much force or ease they must use. For this child of mine, the best thing is to remove him completely from the other kids for a bit. He’s having fun but they are not. So until the adrenaline of my son and the frustration from the others wears off, separation is best. I hate doing this. But it’s also for everyone’s safety, unfortunately.

Another thing that helps is to have activities for him. He likes lining up number cards. God forbid, however, someone disrupts the line! He also likes books in a quiet, safe space. He enjoys letters the most. Being outside where he can run wild without injury to himself or others is vital. But sometimes a walk in the fresh air is all he needs. Adequate sleep, a proper nap schedule, use of essential oils, and avoidance of certain foods also help. And as much safe hands on activities as possible. Yes, this can all be very draining. But it’s what he needs now. And as his parent, I know this better than any teacher or therapist because it is I who am with him throughout all times of the day and different scenarios. I’m not perfect and I do lose patience, but I’m learning to take each day at a time.

Matthew 6:34 – Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


Prepared – A First for Me

Today is my last doctor appointment before baby arrives. If you’ve read any of my previous posts about office visits, store trips, etc., you know my struggle!

This morning I was a little early for my appointment (another first), so I ran into Target to see what I could grab to hopefully hold the attention and keep the peace while waiting for the doctor this morning. Here’s hoping my loot from the dollar section (of which I’ve also previously blogged my great love for) helps!

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Breathe…

Also posted on my other site: Homeschooling the Minds of Tomorrow

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I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office today with my 38 week belly, my five, three and one year old. A little boy and his brother sat at the coloring table where my five and three year old took a seat also. The little boy was the same age: three and a half, and his little brother was maybe six months older than my 16 month old. The little boy chatted politely to my three year old, asking him questions, etc. He asked his little brother if he could have a crayon, and the little tot nodded.  I wished so badly at that moment that my little boy could respond to his peer, or to his siblings or me. I felt a pain in me as he suddenly jumped up from the table and began to wander about, seemingly oblivious to anyone else in the room. The other little boy seemed upset that my son wasn’t responding, so I just said to him,  “You talk so well and you’re so sweet with your little brother!” After a long day of tantrums and meltdowns, I sat at the table to color. I needed to just breathe and unwind. Little boy sat quietly with me, as though he needed the same.

My three year old can be very sweet and gentle at times. He sleeps snuggled up against me almost every night. He tries so hard to communicate in his own complicated babble. He repeats the only thing he knows we both understand: his alphabet. He can say a few phrases, but letters, and to a lesser degree, numbers, is what he feels is his connection with us. But he gets frustrated very fast. He throws things, throws himself, screams, head butts and hits me. And it doesn’t matter what I say or do at that point…

I was telling a family member about how sweet he is and yet how difficult it can be, and that nearly every day I have to keep myself from bursting into tears. He asked if it was because he drove me  crazy and made me happy all at the same time. I said, “No.  Because I can’t reach him and he can’t reach me.”

Sometimes I let him play an alphabet game on my iPad. I have to be watchful and careful because he can easily get upset and throw it. But today I heard the craziest thing! He sat looking at a book and saw the letter “A.” He said to himself “A, a, a.” Then made the short a sound three times. Followed by, “Apple, alligator, ant.  An alligator has an apple. An ant eats the apple.” Word for word, from the alphabet app on my iPad. I had never heard him say this many coherent words together before. He had memorized many of the letter ditties from the game and sat saying them to himself.

I have a relative with a non verbal autistic 9 year old who uses an iPad like device to communicate with her parents and care givers. I also have come across others who use them for their children as well. However, they are all much older than mine. I would give anything to be able to communicate with my son and ease his frustrations. My only concern is, would such a device at this age hinder him from learning to speak?

I know my son is very smart. I can see the gears turning in his head. I cannot imagine how frustrating it is to not be understood, except I know how frustrating it is as the parent to not be able to reach your child.

I would love to hear from others who have experience with these devices!