Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where Does Quirkiness End and the Spectrum Begin?

Asperger's, autism, obsessions, school, sensory integration disorder, sensory issues, special needs, quirks, ADHD, stimming, difference

Last summer I read a book called Kids, Parents and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. While I don't typically read a lot of parenting books, this one stuck with me. Kurcinka talks a bit about temperament and personality types, and what I found most interesting was that some of the extreme manifestations of different types of behavior came very close to mild manifestations of behavior that you might see in a child on the minor end of the autism spectrum. For example, some traits that she discusses in her book are persistence, sensitivity and activity. There's a scale to measure if your child exhibits these traits at a high level or a low level. I remember reading and thinking that there seemed to be a pretty thin line between a highly persistent child and one on the spectrum who might be mildly obsessive. From her description of the sensitivity trait, I wondered where the separation was between a highly sensitive child and a child with mild Sensory Integration Disorder. It occurs to me that these distinctions are purely subjective. I have to wonder if this subjectivity, coupled with a culture that strikes me as obsessed with conformity and sameness, might be a factor in what often appears to be a sudden rise in autism diagnoses.

Years ago when I was in elementary school, I got straight A's, but I rarely paid attention, I often daydreamed, I sometimes got out of my seat for no good reason (one spring I used to sit on top of my desk trying to sun-bleach my hair), and I was often disruptive but not overly active. If I were the same student today, I might be diagnosed with ADD, but back then no one felt the need to classify me as anything. I was just a really smart kid who was probably bored and talked a lot. When Gus was about 18 months old, I noticed that he always seemed to isolate himself from the other kids in his daycare class, but being that I had a deep appreciation for solitude and little experience with 'typical' behavior for a child his age, I wasn't inclined to think of his behavior as problematic. My bigger issue was with his teachers who never seemed to be aware that he was at the opposite end of the play yard all alone.

The more I learn about the autism spectrum, the more similarities I notice between my son and myself, the more I question the validity of some of the things that have been labeled as 'dysfunctional.' I rock side-to-side; if Gus did that he'd be stimming. My friend had a lot to say and a doctor asked her if she had ADHD. Why couldn't it just be a simple case of her having a lot to get off her chest? When did every little difference become such a big issue?

I'm not suggesting that individuals on the autism spectrum don't need extra support because often they do. What they don't need is the stigma of being damaged in some way because of their differences. Maybe instead of trying to force these individuals to perform in a way that is unnatural for them, perhaps the world needs to do a little adapting to the fact that we are not all carbon copies of each other, nor should we be.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Busy Weekend

Asperger's, autism, crowds, outings, school, sensory issues, sleep, social events, special needs, spring, noise sensitivity
image by: Ian Britton via Freefoto.com

I've been MIA for a few days because the weekend was just incredibly busy. I was very excited that Gus had an exceptional time in terms of his behavior.

Saturday, the kids spent the day with DH and with their grandfather while Grandmother and I were at a bridal shower. Thankfully it was a magnificent day, so they got to go to the park for a good 3 hours. It always amazes me how much good the outdoors can do for Gus. If only it was nice out all the time and he could have all his classes outdoors. He didn't wander off at all, but all reports, which is huge for him. When everyone came back in, he was much more mellow than he had been on his last visit. He slept almost the whole way home but still slept through the night. Sunday morning, he was still in his calm space.

Sunday afternoon, we went to his little cousin's birthday party. There were a lot more children than I anticipated, and he tried to leave a few times, but all in all, he handled the party well. He held it together when they sang happy birthday (just had his hands over his ears and looked like he wanted to bolt, but didn't). And there was one very surprising and nice aspect of the day. The birthday boy's older brother is also on the spectrum, so he and Gus generally sort of orbit around each other without interacting much. Well yesterday, they actually 'hung out' for a while - Gus watching his cousin play a video game. There were words exchanged! They stayed up there together until Gus wanted a turn to play. His cousin got mad when he was made to share and that was the end of the bonding. But it's a start!

Gus woke up a couple of times last night, but he was still pretty chilled out this morning, so hopefully it was a good day at school as well.

How did your early-spring weekend go?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness

annual review, Asperger's, autism, IEP, nice kids, related service providers, school, thankfulness, painting
I'm a little late today, but two more walls have been given two fresh coats of paint, so please forgive me! Today's thankfulness:

1. I am thankful that Gus will be getting the appropriate and needed services in a great environment next year. Our annual review went better than I'd hoped because I was expecting a real fight on our hands.

2. I am thankful for the wonderful support from Gus's teachers, aides, therapists, counselor, and peers. Knowing that he's in a good place makes it easier to feel hopeful about his future.

3. I am thankful that I only have one small wall and the foyer left to paint, and I give kudos to people who do this for a living. I never knew how difficult a job painting a living room could be. However, as tough as it is right now, I'm going to feel damned good about myself when it's done!

What are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Annual Review: Win!

annual review, Asperger's, autism, IEP, mean kids, medication, nice kids, related service providers, safety, school
Today was Gus's ever-stressful, anxiety-provoking annual review. I've been mentally preparing myself for weeks now, preparing for an epic battle. I anticipated that there would be fists banging on tables and possibly threats to call lawyers or to remove Gus from the school system. (Okay, so my imagination can get a little overactive, and I'm a sucker for a worst case scenario.)

DH took the day off to attend the meeting, and just prior to the meeting we made our last pre-battle preparations: We stopped at Dunkin' Donuts for a sugar and caffeine boost (French vanilla with extra sugar). If I've learned nothing else today, I've learned that a non-coffee drinker should never drink coffee before a meeting that will last more than 5 minutes.

So there we were, ready for the smackdown, doing mental calisthenics, readying our arguments and rebuttal. The smackdown. Never. Came.

Not that I'm complaining.

Gus will remain in his program next year with the same services (OT reduced by half an hour, but I'm okay with that). Since state testing starts next year, he will have a multitude of accommodations: word processor availability, extra time, separate room, redirection prompts, reading of directions...there may have been more, but I lost count. Summer services are in the package as well. If our luck holds, he may even be able to stay in this program (barring any drastic changes) until the end when he transitions to middle school, but I won't count my chickens just yet. A win all around.

There were some annoying moments, or maybe it was just my caffeine enhanced scrappiness. The minute I was asked about my visit to the other school that had been suggested, I started throwing around the word 'safety.' But there was no rebuttal. The chairperson agreed that it wasn't as appropriate as she thought. I got a little miffed that she mentioned that we might want to eventually consider medication for Gus (that always gets me bristling, even if we happen to be thinking about it). I let DH handle that topic, which he did very tactfully. The psychologist irked me a little when he wondered if Gus was really getting all that he could academically. My response was something along the lines of, "He's performing at grade level or higher; how much more do we need him to get right now?" Low expectations? No. I just don't feel the need to pressure Gus to be a super-genius.

There was one nice moment when the physical therapist gave her recommendations. She mentioned that Gus often runs into the middle of kickball games because he lacks safety awareness. Apparently, the kids know him now, and when they see him coming, they just wait until he's in a safe place and then resume their games. I found that to be sweet, especially when contrasted against the neighborhood kid who was giving him funny looks at the bowling alley. They haven't teased him or been mean - what a nice thing to hear!

I'll admit, I was having a really hard time behaving at the meeting this year. I'm sure the coffee had something to do with it. Maybe it had something to do with knowing that the chairperson had lied in the past regarding my son. She did get a little closer to my good side once I saw that she was being at least somewhat sincere about how much she likes Gus. A few sarcastic comments escaped, but I bit my tongue when standardized testing came up. (Because of course that's an accurate measure of what a kid can do - we all know that. Don't get me started on that one.) When the psychologist asked me to sign a permission form for something, I very nearly said, "no," just to see what he would do, but I controlled myself. However, the guy sitting next to me didn't escape my mischievous streak. He loaned me a pen and when he asked for it back, I said, "What would you do if I said no?" He didn't seem amused by that. The next time he loaned me the pen, I said I wasn't giving it back. No reaction. And they say my son is robotic. Pfft.

By the end of the meeting I was really antsy, but fortunately we had to run out of there or we'd miss the school bus. So that was our day - we were very lucky. I'm very glad to be working with the same team next year. I'll also be very glad when this caffeine buzz wears off - there's a good reason I drink tea.

So fess up, have you ever been tempted to misbehave in one of those meetings for any reason? They're long; they're stressful. It's hard not to crack under the pressure! C'mon, share your story!

P.S. I know at least one teacher friend who really ought to weigh in on the whole question of standardized testing. I threw that in just for you!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Manic Monday: Wet

Asperger's, autism, homework, meltdowns, mistakes, stress, Manic Monday, memes, blogsprompt by Mo of Manic Monday - check it out!

So yesterday, we (meaning I) started painting the downstairs. Gus had asked if he could help, which I was happy to oblige. So he got to put some of the primer on a small section of the wall. He wasn't all that pleased when he got some wet paint from the roller on his hands. The project went pretty well. Here's three colors: the old color on the left, white primer in the middle, and the new color on the right.

It took pretty much all day to do the dining area, even with MM's help (Gus gave up after the primer). So after all that work, I'm a little...territorial about the walls, especially since the rest of the downstairs isn't finished yet. I certainly don't want nicks in the walls one day later. So maybe I should have put up some 'wet paint' tape across the area or something. It probably wasn't a wise decision to let Gus over there, especially during a homework semi-meltdown. And possibly, the metal chairs with the sharp corners will have to go. Yup; nice little nick in the wall already.

The trim, by the way is chocolate brown, not black. It looks warmer in person. It even looks sort of nice over there. The irony here is that I'm pushing myself to get the place painted and looking nice before his birthday because I thought it would be nice to invite a couple of his school friends over for a mini-party. I know he didn't mean any harm and probably didn't even notice the chair scraping the wall. I know he probably has no concept of what it is taking for me to get this painting done, or why it has to be done, or even that there's any connection between the painting and his 'party'. And yet, intellectually knowing all this, something as small as an almost imperceptible nick in a new paint job really got under my skin. Big things I can cope with. Why are the little things such destroyers of my sanity?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Something He Might be Good At

Asperger's, autism, crowds, outings, siblings, social events, special needs, sports, bowling
image by Peter de Wit - some rights reserved

The kids were invited to a birthday party today - a bowling party. We figured they'd have fun, but they truly exceeded all expectations.

Gus and MM ended up on a lane with 4 other kids. One little boy is a natural athlete: he plays baseball and almost has his black belt in karate - the kid is not even 8 yet. He doesn't typically play with Gus, and often makes derisive faces at him. Even when they first started playing, Gus was hopping up and down, so excited every time he knocked down some pins. HE was equally excited and cheering for anyone else who knocked down some pins. That earned him a couple of "weird" looks from the other boys playing.

That was until he pulled into the lead.

Yes, you read that right. Gus, the boy with poor coordination and low muscle tone, especially in his arms and hands, was beating Super Athlete for a frame or two! Go Gus! After that, Super Athlete wasn't exactly nice to him, but I could see a little glimmer of respect replace the condescension.

Gus came in 2nd place with a score of 78 - not bad for a kid who has only bowled one other time. And MM, bless her heart, came in a close third. She has patented a move she calls the "run slide." Picture bowling meets Flashdance. A couple more games, and my kids will be able to take on the president.

It was a fun party and an exhausting afternoon. Catch ya tomorrow!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness: It's Almost Spring!

Asperger's, autism, related service providers, thankfulness, Pokemon, spring, school, obsessions, homework
It's raining today, and I'm happy about that. Know why? Because it's not snowing! Spring is right around the corner and that's a good time to bask in some springtime gratitude!

1. I am thankful that tomorrow it will officially be spring! In honor of this, I've planned that Sunday I will take a vacation from my computer screen and do some spring cleaning. DH is going to a gaming convention for the day, so I will rally the troops to do massive overhauls of their bedrooms and we're going to start painting the living room. Gus has been asking to help and I figure if I let him help with the priming, it should be pretty harmless. I won't even let myself think about what could possibly be wrong with that theory.

2. I am thankful that I've had lots of work lately. the project I'm working on today is a little insane with a killer deadline, but the paycheck will be beautiful when I get it in my hands. However, I do apologize to all my social-networky pals. I haven't forgotten you and I'll be back soon!

3. I am thankful for my son's 'team.' I'll be going to talk with them tomorrow, and I even if they don't have anything new or spectacular to tell me, I love the fact that they have stuck with him for the past 2 years. Gus is a really good kid, but you have got to be on your toes at all times with him. He's fun and incredibly smart, but also can be exhausting. so, kudos and many thanks to Gus's staff - they rock like the Flintstones!

4. And an extra bit of gratitude because I'm that happy about the spring! I am thankful for Gus's obsession with Pokemon. Yes, I know it's probably not the healthiest thing in the world, but consider the mileage I get out of this fixation.

Getting dressed in the morning: "You can't battle any gym leaders until you get dressed."
Eating breakfast: "All the best Pokemon masters eat breakfast and they feed their Pokemon, too."
Homework: "If you have 3 Pokeballs and 7 Dark Pokemon to capture, how many more Pokeballs do you need?"

See? Everything can have an upside!

Please feel free to share your thoughts and gratitude below and have a great day!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Annual Review: Related Service Providers

annual review, Asperger's, autism, IEP, related service providers, special needs
image from Wikimedia Commons

I'm not sure if this applies to everyone, but in our district* (in New York State), if you want your child's related service providers (i.e. speech, occupational or physical therapists) present at his or her annual review, you have to inform the district and request that they be invited. I was unaware of this for our first annual review and was shocked when Gus's old speech teacher was recommending to end services (because she didn't think the district would approve them) but wasn't coming to the meeting to justify her recommendation. Fortunately, the meeting was taking place in the school building, so I was able to talk to the teacher quickly and figure out what was going on. Had we been in another location (like a district office) Gus probably would have lost his speech services.

I make it a point to keep the lines of communication open with anyone who interacts with Gus on a regular basis without breathing down their necks. Now I try to schedule a team meeting sometime prior to the annual review so that I don't get smacked with any surprises and so that everyone is on the same page going in. Hearing about a recommendation for a program change in the meeting doesn't allow you time to think and process the information, which can lead to a rushed and possibly bad decision. In my humble opinion, I think some administrators count on that element of surprise so that the parent will just go along with their plans. This is not to say that all CSE chairpeople are evil and want to harm the poor little special needs children; I'm not saying that at all. But realistically, everyone has their own agenda when they walk into that meeting, and you are probably the only one whose sole concern is your child.

To most administrators (and I say most because I have seen a few who have taken the time to at least put a face to the name on the reports) your child is a name and number on a piece of paper. This is one reason why having those service providers present can be so important. They are the ones who work with and know your child (at least in theory, but if they are clearly not in that category, simply don't invite them to the party). If you think that they will help you advocate for your child, make sure they will be present. Once you get the date for your review, contact your district chairperson and express your wishes for who will be in attendance. If you call, make sure you follow up with an email or letter.

That last bit is important. I just called our district and was told that I didn't need a letter. In the past I've been told something very different. I'll compromise and send an email. That way, no one can say I didn't follow the protocol.

Does your district have different rules for annual reviews? Are your child's service providers automatically included? It would be great to see how other states handle the process.

*edited in 3/18/2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Battle of the Bedroom (or When Sensory Issues Keep You Awake)

Asperger's, autism, siblings, sleep, sensory issues, sensory integration disorder, hearing, humor
Welcome, sports fans, to the 395,687,630 face-off between Gus and Andrea in a battle royale for the coveted Good Night's Sleep trophy!

In the red corner, Gus weighs in with several weeks of good sleep and a four day weekend, giving him the advantage over his mom. His weaknesses will be a sudden recurrence of his fear of the dark and his sensory issues, like supersonic hearing. If he wakes up in the middle of the night, he will have a very hard time getting back to sleep, especially if he can't control his leg-shaking Whispering Scritch power, which has special effectiveness against Andrea's hypersensitive ears. Will he be able to hold it together? Also on the red team is MM, who has the power to talk anyone into complete madness. A dangerous opponent, especially in the pre-dawn hours.

In the blue corner we have Andrea, chronically sleep deprived, running out of patience and still recovering from yesterday's crushing defeat by MM who woke Andrea at 4:30 a.m. But don't count Andrea out yet, folks! She still has the ability to transform into Crazy Cranky Mom when awoken, with her Whispering Menace ability that can instill pure terror in any school aged child unfortunate enough to be the one to wake her. She may be able to use Gus's Whispering Scritch against him, and if he's not careful she will further transform into Psycho Mom. The only one who can prevent Psycho Mom from raining Armageddon down on the planet is her blue partner, DH. While he is perfectly capable of sleeping through the Armageddon, he is susceptible to her kicking him out of bed. Who will triumph between these two fearsome foes? Stay tuned!

Round 1
Gus convinces Andrea to let him sleep in the extra bed in the blue room for the night because he's afraid of monsters. Pulling out his Pitiful Look ability, he quickly subdues Andrea, and she gives in. Gus gets to bed with no problems and sleeps through the blue team going to bed a few hours later. Although Gus was ahead in points at the beginning of the round, Andrea's Stealth Mode balances the score.

Round 2
Gus suddenly wakes up screaming and flies into the bathroom, shocking Andrea out of a peaceful snooze at 1 o'clock. She controls her transformation and kicks DH awake to get Gus back in bed. Point to Andrea. But when Gus gets back in bed, the leg-shaking kicks in. Whispering Scritch hits Andrea hard and fast! She transforms - Crazy Cranky Mom is on the loose, and she let's go with Whispering Menace - the mom ability to scream and whisper at the same time.

"Be still and go to sleep or you are going back to your own room."

And Gus is silenced! The round goes to the blue team!

Round 3
"What was that? I heard the door!" Gus is still awake at 2 a.m. and Crazy Cranky Mom is done in; the prior night's defeat takes its toll. She grows into a 20 foot, green hulking beast (at least in her own mind - in reality , she's still under 5 1/2 feet tall and brown-skinned) - Psycho Mom has entered the building! But she's still hanging onto her self-control.

"That wasn't the door. Go back to sleep."

Gus is persistent - he knows he's got her on the ropes now. "What was it?" And just for a little added zing, he throws in a Whiny Voice.

But wait! Psycho Mom digs deep and finds some inner reserve of strength! "It's the roof settling. Go. Back. To. Sleep."

In a last desperate attempt, Gus reverts to Whispering Scritch and the leg starts shaking again. Psycho Mom is undone.

"You either be still and go to sleep or go back to your own bed!" Of course her shriek never raises above the level of intimate conversation. But the menace in her voice is so terrible, Gus throws the cover over his head and lies frozen, or at least quiets down enough for Psycho Mom to go back to sleep. Round to the blue team.

Round 3
The red team is in bad shape, so they pull out their secret weapon: the alarm clock. It goes off at 5:30; DH doesn't move. There is no world destruction requiring his immediate attention. MM strikes. She very noisily goes to the bathroom and then comes into the blue team's corner, where Gus is still KO'd. With her most powerful, pitiful whine, she moans, "Mooommmm-meeeeee! I'm lonely over there! Everyone's over heeeeeere and I'm the only one over there all by myselllllllf!" Psycho Mom has lost all her fight and shrinks back (not literally, since she never really grew in size) into her weaker Andrea form. With a whimper she gives in, kicks DH out of the bed and let's MM climb in. MM, pressing the advantage, accepting nothing less than a complete victory, starts talking loudly. And the red team takes it - Knock Out!

Andrea grumbles about running away to Chile.

P.S. I can either make myself laugh or lay down and cry. Choosing to laugh it off today. :-) Have you ever had a really bad night that you were able to laugh about the next day? Share your story!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gus's EEG

Asperger's, autism, doctors, neurologist, EEG, brain development, tests
Gus went for an EEG (electroencephalogram) this morning. This test takes a basic measure of brainwaves and activity over a short period of time. It is often used to check for seizures, but can also give a broad picture of which parts of the brain are active under different conditions, can show which side of the brain is more dominant, or can provide other clues as to what's going on in the patient's noggin. When we went to the neurologist a couple of weeks ago, one of the first questions he asked was if Gus had ever had one. It was never done because our past specialists didn't think he's be able to stay still long enough to get a good reading. He did quite well this morning, despite a good deal of anxiety about wires being attached to his head.

The Preparation
I've learned the hard way that springing anything on a kid (particularly one on the autism spectrum) is a bad idea. But I don't always get my timing right - I told Gus last night instead of early this morning. He woke up a little nervous about the test. I told him that he would have some little wires placed on his head to check out his brain waves, and I attempted to make it sound as fun and cool as possible. He slept fine, but this morning the first thing out of his mouth was that he had a bad dream about wires in his head. He had questions and I answered them: no, it wouldn't hurt at all; all he had to do was stay still for a little while; no, there would be no zapping of his brain. The procedure was done in the doctor's office, which helped because he was familiar with the place. By the time we got there I had him pretty well distracted by talking to him about U.S. presidents; we spent some time trying to figure out who the 36th president was by counting backwards. When the usual distraction attempts fail, going to the subject of an Asperger's child's fixations can be a life saver.

The Test
The office was quiet and virtually empty at the time we arrived. When we were called, a technician, a lovely and calm older woman brought us in and explained to Gus what she was going to do. I thought he'd be able to sit in my lap, but he needed to lay down on a table, which he didn't much like, but complied. She took a bunch of little electrodes - mini half-castanets attached to a rainbow of wires - and stuck them to his head with a thick conductive cream. Then she placed 2 on his collarbone to monitor his pulse. I sat next to him to keep him calm and also to keep him from plucking the electrodes off (he kept wanting to touch his head and several times said he felt like Frankenstein). There was a portion of the test involving a strobe light that he was supposed to keep his eyes closed for. Aside from opening his eyes, he handled it fine, but I found it interesting that even with closed eyes, as the strobe sped up, he became more agitated. The next part of the test required him to do deep breathing for 3 minutes - he aced that section. The remainder of the time, we looked at a book about reptiles and amphibians and talked some more about the 36th president. (The technician went on Wikipedia and found the answer for us). All in all, it was harmless and mellow. When it was time to take the electrodes off, he got anxious again, this time just eager to be rid of them.

And now, Gus is perfectly fine and happy, as if he'd never had a Frankenstein moment today. While I doubt we'll find out anything spectacular from the test, I'm curious to see the results.

Has your child had to do an EEG test? If so, how did you prepare, and how did the test go?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

IEP Time Again

IDEA, IEP, annual review, special needs, LRE, Least Restrictive Environment, autism, Asperger's
Our annual review is fast approaching, and as usual around this time of year, I'm getting anxious - probably more so than in the past. The difference this year is that there are massive budget cuts being rumored throughout our district. From all the buzz, it doesn't seem like it will affect the special education budget that much, but I can't see how it won't. The CSE has been pushing a program for Gus that while not awful, isn't as good for him as his current program. He'd almost (99%) certainly regress and would be set back a year. Aside from that, we'd probably see an increase in his wandering and "eloping" behaviors: too large a class (I've already been told that they will be over their limit), too large a school, and not enough sensory support for him to be able to cope. So I'm anticipating a battle and not looking forward to it.

I talked to a friend whose son is also being recommended for this program, and it never ceases to amaze me how nasty these CSE chairpeople can be. And they often seem to work under the assumption that parents aren't doing their homework and that we won't see through the nonsense they shovel at us. They love to make parents feel like they have no choice but to accept what the district sees fit, and they love to throw around the term "Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)." As a matter of principle, I agree that a child should be in the least restrictive environment, but remember that the environment has to also be appropriate, and yes, as a parent, you do have the right to reject what the district feels is appropriate if you disagree.

I can't stress enough how important it is to know the IDEA rules and your state's special education procedures better than you know the back of your hand. Our state sends these in a packet when we are given the date of our annual review, and you should have free and easy access to the information in your hometown. Read it. Know your rights. Don't let yourself get bullied.

And someone please remind me of all these things before next week. Have a great day!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Goofed!

If anyone grabbed my button from the sidebar before this morning, the code was missing the link back to my blog! Oops! It's been fixed, so please, snag away & I apologize for any inconvenience!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gus Speaks

Gus had the day off today, so we got to spend some time hanging out. Then I got the brilliant idea to interview him. I always write about him, but he never gets the opportunity to represent himself. (After hearing this, you may decide that's been a wise move on my part). He was in a very silly mood by the time we got back.

Like he said, we went out for breakfast and then attempted to get a couple of pints of paint to test the colors. Apparently, the store doesn't sell small sizes and expects people to get at least a quart of a color they don't even know if they want. So we came home and did this little interview. I found it interesting that he was more focused on the conversation (as opposed to climbing on me) when we started talking about Pokemon, but not surprising. He's playing now. MM is a little mad that we went out without her, despite the fact that she often gets lunches out while Gus is at school. I'll take her out next week.

Have a great weekend!

Guest Post at General Hysteria

As promised, I wrote a guest post for General Hysteria and it is now up. Please stop by there and share your thoughts with us!

When One is an Aspie and the Other is Not

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness Remixed

thankfulness, meltdowns, social events, guest posts, siblings, relocation, crowds, independence

This is my first Thursday Thankfulness in my new digs!

  1. I am thankful for the support of certain friends and family that gave me the confidence to recreate my blog as an independent venture. I may fall flat on my face, but nothing tried, nothing gained, so here we are. In some ways (content, amount of posting) things are still the same, but the sense of freedom I'm feeling is kind of a rush right now.
  2. I am thankful that Gus has improved a little in being able to tolerate a crowded environment slightly better than in the past. We went to a friend's 5-Year-Cancer-Survivor celebration last night. Gus managed to escape the house before we even got through the door, and he was all over the house like a caged cheetah. But he didn't end up lost or in their lake, and while he teetered on the edge of a meltdown, it never really manifested. We were able to be there for about an hour until we had to call it quits. It's still hard to take him to that type of gathering, but he's gotten better. Good enough for me.
  3. I am thankful for the opportunity to guest post for my pal Mia of General Hysteria later this week (hopefully tomorrow or Saturday)! I've written about some of the pros and cons for siblings when one is on the spectrum and the other isn't. I hope you'll check it out and share your thoughts with us!

Please comment with your thankfulness today! Comments are moderated, so don't panic if you don't see yours right away. And if you subscribe to the comments, you can follow the discussion!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Considering a New Dentist

Shark Teeth image by DrMama from Creative Commons

We have had the worst luck with dentists. Because of Gus's Asperger's and MM's general skittishness about dentists we've been careful to make sure that we're seeing a pediatric dentist who has experience treating children with autism. Of course, when you call, everyone says, "Oh sure! Dr. So-and-so has loads of experience treating all kinds of children! Bring them in!" Then it turns out that Dr. So-and-so has the patience of a fruit fly or some other issue that makes him unacceptable.

The first dentist we went to…I should have known something was wrong because he smiled too much. There's happy, and then there's unnatural. He was definitely unnatural. As a matter of practice, he did not allow parents into the exam room. I shrugged and washed my hands of the whole situation – I know what my son is capable of. Within minutes he was all over the office and the dentist finally accepted that Gus would not allow an electric brush of any sort into his mouth. So basically, we took him to the dentist to have his teeth brushed. MM had an unpleasant experience getting her first cavity filled, and Dr. Impatient was not happy that the 'happy gas' didn't trick her into happiness for a moment. But the worst part of that whole experience was that he charged us two arms and a leg for the most basic of services. Silly me, I went to a dentist out of our network.

The next dentist – in our network – was amazing. He pulled 2 of Gus's teeth with no laughing gas and zero drama. Gus watched a video fish tank the whole time and was calmer than I'd ever seen him. He took pity on MM and even though she had a cavity, he put a sealant on it in the hopes that it wouldn't worsen too quickly. He could tell that she wasn't going to have an easy time with a filling. I thought we'd struck diamonds.

He left the practice. Didn't even bother to wait for a replacement. Bye-bye!

Last week we found ourselves again in search of a dentist – this time for MM's cavity, which started to hurt. Several dentists listed on our plan's website were no longer accepting the plan, but one referred us to someone who is supposed to be the best in the county. The assistant was very nice and managed to get MM to give her a couple of x-rays, but I could sense her getting a little irritated. Because, of course, a five-year-old who can barely fit the film in her mouth isn't going to move…or gag. I could totally see where she was coming from. We got through it, but I had a twinge of unease; if they were getting a little miffed with MM, Gus would likely have someone's head spinning. But I could have been over-reacting. So I thought we might stick with this doctor, even though he was out of our network. Then I saw the out-of-pocket estimate. Considering that MM has cavity prone teeth, and Gus has shark teeth, if we start spending that kind of money on dental work now, we'll be living in cardboard boxes before they hit adolescence. I kept looking.

Finally, there was someone in our network again, who seemed workable. MM went in today to have that tooth looked at; it needs a root canal now. That will be an adventure, but I'm not sure if Gus will be able to handle this particular office. It is huge! There are about 7 or 8 dentists, some for adults and some for kids. I nearly lost MM in the maze of rooms. The children's area was friendly enough, but I could just see him running into each and every room. The lights are very bright, and while it isn't loud, it also isn't very soothing. I really think he needs a much smaller office, one that's tailored to special needs children. So now the question is, do I at least try him with yet another dentist, or do I follow my instincts and keep looking?

How do you handle your special needs child's dental care?

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Sunday, March 1, 2009


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