Perfectly Quirky

Raising a Person with Autism

Baltimore County Public Schools are Failing our Special Needs Children

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S playing in the “beach pool”

When I first started to notice that S wasn’t developing as expected, it was pretty hard to get anyone to validate my concerns. I was brushed off by other parents, family members, daycare providers, doctors, and quite frankly- even myself.

But once the delays became so great, that people could not brush them off, I was surprised to find a great deal of help, support and intervention. Once my concerns were validated by S’s doctor, we were immediately referred to our county’s Infants & Toddler’s program. Within two months of my call to them, S started receiving in-home therapy, which quickly grew to include communication classes, at the local school, and a host of other early interventions. Baltimore County’s Infants & Toddlers program was absolutely fantastic. Our son was receiving weekly OT, speech, and special education in addition to spending another 4.5 hours inside of the classroom.  As parents, we are also provided with weekly parent meetings with a child psychologist and social worker. The program also introduced us to other programs, such as the ABC program as well as many research studies at Kennedy Krieger, where our son received a great deal of intervention.

As scary as it was to learn that our child has a life-long disorder, not to mention one that affects each person so differently, it was incredibly comforting to be greeted with so much help and support. It was a dark and scary time, and having such an incredible team of people to help our son and our family was absolutely astounding- and something for which I will forever be grateful.

What stuck out to me though, was all of the providers, teachers & special needs parents with older children, that I was in contact with, kept saying things to me like “keep fighting for your child”, “never back down; you have more power than you think” & “you know your son best, keep fighting for what he needs”.

At the time, I truly did not understand this. Every time our son showed a need, I asked for specific help, and it was received. After all, that is the law- every child is entitled to free and appropriate education. Many times I didn’t even see a need, but his providers would, and the appropriate help was immediately offered and provided to him.

And you know what? It worked. 

Our son responded amazingly to every intervention tossed his way. He progressed & closed gaps that left us absolutely in awe of his abilities. He went from a non-verbal child who was disappearing into himself at a rapid rate, to the happy, bubbly, talkative, playful little boy we have today. It was an incredible thing to witness and there are no words to express how grateful we are for the early intervention our child received, through Baltimore County.

Baltimore County Public Schools are Failing our Special Needs Children

 

But, like all good things, apparently, this must come to an end. Our son transitioned into the public school system at age 3, on an IEP. He had two years of special needs Pre-K, followed by a year of kindergarten in an ECLS-K program. The student to teacher ratio of this class was 3 children to 1 special educator and one supporting educator.

He thrived.

Half way through the year, the ECLS-K class merged with another typical kindergarten class, and he was then in a setting of 21 children to 1 special educator, one general educator and two supporting adults.

He struggled, but he did it.

But now that this year of kindergarten is over, our child is left hanging. According to the law, every child must be educated in the least restrictive environment. Baltimore County Public Schools no longer offers proper education, for children like my son. Either your child has significant challenges that puts them on track for a certificate (rather than a high school diploma) and they are in a very restrictive environment, like a FALS program, or they are simply tossed in with their typical peers to fend for themselves. There is no middle ground for people like my son.

Free? Yes. Appropriate? Not a fucking chance. 

Since our son has a July birthday (and therefore is chronologically younger than his peers) and is also socially behind his typical peers, we have decided to have him repeat kindergarten, in a typical classroom.

This means that our son will now need to be serviced in his homeschool, whether it is appropriate or not.

This means that our son will leave the school he has attended for the last 3 years- the one with familiar teachers, staff, bus route, peers, routines, smells, lunch room, and familiarity. It means that he will be trust into a new school, with new teachers and new peers. His home school has more than double the student population of his current school and it is anticipated that his class will have 29 TWENTY FUCKING NINE children to one teacher. 29:1. What?

We won’t get into the fact that the school is literally falling apart (think halls that smell like urine, falling ceiling tiles, broken water fountains and broken heat and air conditioning) or the fact that this school has pretty much zero parental support and a high rate of transient student population- meaning that S’s need for a “low distraction” learning environment simply will not be met. I also won’t mention that no less than 7 educators have come to me “off the record” and told me that I simply cannot allow our son to be routed to our home school. That while legally, the school “has” to service his IEP, that the truth is, they cannot.

And now I know why the parents before me kept warning “Keep fighting for your son”. Now I know.

Because now it is a fight.

I’ve spent countless hours, scouring over dozens of reports, streamlining information and compiling overwhelming data that shows that moving S from his home school will be at a detriment to him. But apparently all of those things, along with notes form his healthcare providers, don’t matter. Never mind his possible eating disorder. Never mind that moving him will force him into his SEVENTH school by the age of 6. Never mind that all the county needs to do (and his current principal for that matter) is sign a line and check a little box.

Baltimore County Public Schools are failing our special needs children. They do not care. At all. 

Our son is being forced to leave an environment where he is thriving to be sent to a school where he will no doubt struggle to make it. And it is so frustrating. He does not need anything special- he just needs to be able to continue in an environment that is serving him well.

BCPS, have you ever heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

Our son has no memory of a time before school. Do you remember your first day of school? I know I do. But since our son started school at age 1, he has no memory of that day. He has had to learn to transition into 5 schools already, at 5 years old. Summer school will bring him his 6th school, and if forced to attend his homeschool, he will enter his 7th.

And so, BCPS, I want you to know that this momma is not backing down. I will not allow you to undo 5 solid years of struggle, therapy & progress.

This Italian, autism mom from Dundalk WILL fight for her son. Gloves on, BCPS, GLOVES ON. 

 

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Sensory Progress | A Whole New World of Fun!

I’m Back | Sharing the Progress

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Image by S

I’m back!! (Well, hopefully anyway) I started this blog on S’s second birthday, and as we are quickly approaching his 6th (what????) I’ve been reflecting a good bit on the progress he has made, over the years. This, of course, led me back to my blog & I was surprised to log in and find so many comments, likes, re-blogs and shares. I’ve had several people message me to share their experience or thank me for sharing our story & so I felt it only fitting to get back into posting.

I’m Back | Sharing the Progress

When your child is young and you first start down the path of an autism diagnosis, it is a pretty scary time. It is filled with SO much uncertainty, as you have no idea what the new baseline of expectation is for your child.

You see, when you have a typical child, you have a reasonable expectation that they will potty train, talk  & grow up to graduate high school, find a career path, move out on their own and possibly start their own family one day. Of course, this is guaranteed to no one, but it is certainly a reasonable expectation.

Then, when your child is diagnosed with autism, that reasonable exception is completely re-set. Autism is short for “Autism Spectrum Disorder” or ASD. In short, it is a spectrum disorder and it is very difficult to assess what a child’s prognosis might be in their early years. Some children will make fantastic progress- learning to talk, use the restroom independently, go to school with typical children and lead relatively normal lives as they grow. And, for others, they may never do any of those things, while others fall somewhere in-between. It’s a pretty scary prospect for parents to read the “prognosis” and to have NO idea where their child may fall.

I know that for me, that was the most stressful part. Would I have a 15 year old in diapers? Will I ever hear him say “mommy” or “daddy”? Do we need to start planning for long term care, should our son never be able to live on his own? Who will care for him, once we have passed?

These are not fun things to think about, when you should be playing patty cake and making crafts with your little one. 

It’s been about 2 years or so, since I’ve last posted and I am BLOWN away at how much progress our son has made, in that time. I attribute this progress to the overwhelming amount of early intervention that was provided to our son. If you are early in this journey, take every ounce of therapy you can get for your child!

Since I last posted, our son went through two years of pre-school in a program designed for special needs children in the public classroom setting. This year, he started kindergarten in a fully contained classroom with two other children on the spectrum. Half way through the year, his class was merged with a typical classroom and the bursts of progress have been outstanding!

We are pleased to see that our son is a smart, funny, loving, kind, playful, active, attentive, engaged & affectionate little boy. He loves to learn, snuggle, explore & play. All. Day. Long.  Next year, he will repeat kindergarten in a fully included environment, with the support of a 1:1 aid and we just can’t wait to see where the year takes him.

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Image by S

Our almost 6 year old is a talkative, potty trained, pre-reader with a love of camping, science, kitty-cats, spider-man, video games, hiking , taking pictures (see above)  and running. Is he still autistic? Yep. Does he still have struggles? Absolutely.

Do I have any reservations about him growing up to be a healthy, happy, well functioning adult in society? NOPE. 

We are now in a place where I have NO doubt that he will grow up and lead a full and wonderful life. And while I know that he will have challenges, I feel better prepared to help him overcome them and continue to grow into the amazing person that we call our son.

So, if you are new in this journey, I know it is scary. I know that the bar of reasonable expectation has been completely reset for your child and I know what an awful feeling that can be. But don’t lose hope and don’t give up. Keep fighting for your child… getting your child early intervention and moving forward. When given the proper support, our kids can do amazing things!

 

Two Years After Diagnosis: The Gifts of Autism

Autism Gifts

It has been a while since I have written, which is a shame since S has made leaps and bounds since last summer. He started school and he rides the bus. He pretend plays with toys (though still limited). He has started to really interact with other children. And, I am pleased to say that, he has really turned a corner in regards to his behavior. We can now walk in the store or at the park without my constant hand on him and he is just, overall, a person with more self awareness and self control. It has been a wonderful transformation and I regret not sharing all of that here with you. The past few months have been such a blessing of growth.

Amazingly, this week marks two years since S received his diagnosis. A lot has changed, both for us as parents, and for S during this time. Autism no longer seems like a big scary boogie man and so, I thought it would be nice to share with you what I feel are the gifts in raising a special needs child. Two years ago,  I never could’ve imagined finding gifts with autism. And while we certainly have our struggles, I have found that there are a lot of blessings that come with being an autism parent.

  1. You learn to relate to other people better and have a stronger sense of empathy. I feel like I am better able to “meet people where they are”.   I am more patient with people who are slow at the checkout line, act differently than me, or seem rude or disconnected. I am just generally more accepting of others.
  2. You no longer judge others’ parenting. (Well, obviously this doesn’t apply to those really horrible parents that lock their children in closets and stuff). But no, I no longer judge the mom whose kid isn’t wearing a coat when cold or will only eat chips at the restaurant. I now know that it likely isn’t lazy parenting, but a parent doing the best they can with a child who may have sensory issues. It is very nice to be free of judgement.
  3. You never tire of hearing your child talk. When you have a child who you worry will never be able to talk, and they finally do, you never tire of their voice. I could listen to stories about skateboard jumps for six hours straight. His sweet little voice never gets old; I relish in every conversation.
  4. Friends. You don’t know true friends until you have made some autism mom friends. If you are new on this journey, I suggest that you make this a priority. STAT. Trust me, when you have a special needs child, your friendships change. People you thought would be your big supporters, are not. People you used to hang it with a lot, you now only see on social media. Friends with typical kids or no kids at all, may try to be supportive, but trust me, they don’t get it. My autism mom friends have been my saving grace. When I canceled plans with a friend because S decided to eat an orange- rather than be irritated, she celebrated with me. They get it. They know the highs and the lows. They are in you and your child’s corner, boxing gloves on and ready to go, as you are for them. Some of my closest friends now are people I may have never formed a relationship with, had it not been for autism. For that, I will always be grateful.
  5. Every day is a blessing. At the end of each day, when I tuck my child in bed, I am overwhelmed with joy and love for him and the day we have had together. He is such an amazing little guy and has brought so much joy to our lives. And while our days may often be filled with challenges and struggles, I am able to appreciate each day that much more.
  6. You don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, and when you do, you recover more quickly. Before autism, I may have been irritated that an order I placed didn’t arrive on time or that the store was out of an ingredient I needed for a recipe. So irritated, that I may have even allowed it to affect the better portion of my day. Well, no more. Autism has taught me that little stuff like that isn’t worth investing any energy.  Let that little shit go. Wake up in a bad mood? No worries, another hour is right around the corner. I no longer have good days and bad days, I have good hours and bad hours. I’d much rather have a bad hour, than a bad day. Right?
  7. You celebrate the small stuff (I know I just said that you don’t sweat the small stuff, but bear with me) Let me explain: You no longer seek perfection. Every step of progress is celebrated to the fullest- no matter how seemingly small it may seem to most. I bet most parents of typical kids don’t remember the first time their kid said ‘watch me’, asked a question or showed them something. Well, I do. And my heart swells with love and pride for my son every time he does those things, not just the first time. I notice and appreciate every interaction he has with someone, every toy he plays with and every time he tries something new. That my friends, is the best gift of all.

And so friends, if you are new to “Club Spectrum” and you are wondering what is in store for your child and your family over the next few years. Take solace in this… the next few years may have struggles, but they will also be filled with amazing gifts. Gifts you may have never known before autism. Cherish them.

What gifts has autism brought to you and your family?

Enrolling Your Autistic Child in Sports with Typical Children

S is coming up on turning 3 now, and like most moms, I was excited to enroll him in some sports. I have written before about how I felt that gymnastics would be great for him, and S expressed an interest in playing soccer. So, this summer, we signed S up for soccer and gymnastics through two of our local centers!

Now, one of S’s para-educators had suggested a special needs soccer and a special needs gymnastics class. The soccer she suggested never released a schedule and the SN gymnastics was close to $75 a session! Seriously, who can afford that? So, I signed S up for both with typical kids. My expectations were low… really, really low. And so, I really thought this would be a good fit.

Over the past year, I really feel that I have gotten a better grasp on what S can and can and cannot handle. For whatever reason, I really thought that after a few sessions of each, S would be running around with the other children, having a great time. Well, S is certainly running around and having a great time- just not WITH  the other children.

For soccer, one of his friends with autism also signed up. Its nice, because we ‘sit alone together’, if that makes sense. Out of all of the other 20 something 2-4 year olds- ours are the only two that are consistently not participating. When S does participate, he bolts in front of the other children- unable to wait his turn or even take his turn in a reasonable time. Luckily the coaches recognize that his desire to participate is more important than his need to wait his turn. They get it.

Last night, though, was particularly difficult, as S’s friend with autism didn’t make it to practice. There was a rather nasty storm, and so most of the kids didn’t attend. This was great- since this meant that less kids on the field meant more S on the field. And while he spent more time on the field (rather than jumping off the bleachers) he did not participate in one coach-led activity. Finally, we settled on the bleachers for some jumping, and we sat… alone, alone. I was doing fine- accepting that this is S and what he can handle- until all of the other kids huddled up, put their hands together and then shouted as they raised their hands in the air. There is NO way that S would do that- he wasn’t even aware that it happened. And, so sadness crept in again- why is it so hard for S? As a mom, its hard to go week after week and see how your kid stands out from the crowd. His social differences are becoming more and more apparent… the gap is widening.

On the way out, S saw a kid wearing a Puma shirt. He LOVES Puma. Rather than saying “I like your cool t-shirt” (something that S says to me about 50 times a day), he turned to the kid, touched his shirt and said “this shirt is for Wednesday” (an echolalic phrase, since he wears his soccer shirt on Wednesdays). The kid, maybe a year older than S, just looked at him like he had two heads and walked off.

My heart just broke.

Until now, most kids his age are too young to really be put off by his social delays. But not now… its starting now- KIDS are noticing that he is different and KIDS don’t want to acknowledge him. I know I need to get used to this, but quite frankly, I don’t want to. I don’t want my kid to struggle. I tried to let S know some things he could say next time, but I doubt it sunk in. He might remember the information, but I don’t think he quite has the ability to apply it when needed.

Gymnastics is going about the same- except with less supportive fellow parents. I may have been a bit harsh with one mom this past week. I’m sure to an outsider, my kid running crazy, cutting in line, crossing into other classes, etc- might be frustrating for those whose kids are patiently waiting their turn. And, while it may look like I just let my kid do whatever he wants- in reality, he is just doing what he can handle. The gymnastics instructors are great though, and have allowed me to enroll S in private lessons once every two weeks. He had his first lesson on Monday and did great! He was even doing some of his ‘new buhgymbastics tricks’ last night at soccer.

In all, I am glad that we signed S up for sports this year. He might not be participating the way the other kids are… or in some cases, at all… but he  IS having a great time, just in his own little way. He talks about the classes all through the week, and eagerly gets dressed to go on practice night. And so, while it might be really hard for me to have to go and watch S stand out from all of the other kids twice a week, and to have to chase him like a crazy person for the entire session- I know that it is good for HIM. So, I have to keep putting aside how hard it is for me and keep going. We have many years of this ahead, I better thicken my skin now so I can better help him when he starts noticing that he’s different.

He’s Eligible!!!!!

I haven’t been writing much this last month- we moved, I had an out of town wedding and most importantly, we have been enjoying the nicer weather around these parts.

I am pleased to inform you though, that earlier this month we had S’s eligibility meeting. It was my first IEP meeting and I was quite nervous. It extended almost 2 hours and S’s long time teacher even came to present a clear picture of S. Since he looks so great on paper, I was really glad that he had such great support from his providers! When the meeting was finally over, I wasn’t quite clear that S was eligible. My husband said that I clarified THREE times with the psychologist just to make sure. As soon as I got in the car I broke into tears- it was so hard to hold in for the entire meeting as my nerves had the better of me.

So, that is great news! Now we are just waiting for his placement meeting; which is on Tuesday. I have a very specific placement I want for him. I have a specific school, teacher and length that I, along with the rest of his current providers, feel would be the best fit for him. Luckily, we have already received his proposed IEP in the mail, and his teacher says it looks like a classroom placement. Let’s hope he gets the one he needs!

I will say, though, that enough people are pulling for him- and I hope that helps. Its amazing really, the amount of support he has. One person on the team has never even met him and has been jumping through hoops for him like crazy. I’m nervous to have to move on from his current team, but excited for the next step. He has come so far this past year and a half- I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

Determining Eligibility for Services: When Kids with Autism are Cognitively on Target

Since S is under age 3, he is currently enrolled in our county’s Infants and Toddler’s Program, with an IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan). He was initially evaluated at 17 months and accepted into the program because he presented with a >25% delay in expressive speech. The IFSP is a family plan that involves teachers and other service providers coming into the home and helping not only the child, but also the family, learn to address the child’s delays. However, before S turns 3, he needs to be re-evaluated to determine if he is still eligible to receive services. If he still qualifies, we can remain on the IFSP for another year, or we can move him to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). The IEP is a school-based service, where he would receive all of his intervention through the school. If eligible, Daddy J and I would be able to choose which way we want to go.

Here is where the kicker comes in… I am worried that he will no longer qualify for services. He just completed his evaluations and S has come so far, and made so many improvements, over the last 18 months that he is actually testing within his age range for speech, motor skills, cognitive abilities, etc. Now, this may sound fantastic, (and don’t get me wrong, I love the improvement) but don’t be fooled. Just because my kid can name his letters and count to 10, does not mean that he does not need services. Most of S’s delays are behavioral and social. He has trouble entering classrooms and transitioning from one activity to another. He does not repsond to his name. He does not know how to play with other kids.

He just completed all of his 3 year testing and I’ve received two of the 4 reports back. So far, S is testing within age range in speech and cognitive development. Luckily, all of his service providers feel that he would benefit best from further intervention- I mean, if you know S, that is pretty clear. I’ve read the two reports and I must say, that as a parent, they were painful to read. Because his test scores were so high, the providers were keen to focus their reports highlighting his areas of struggles. When you see it all in black and white… all of the things that your child struggles with… well, that is a very difficult read.

What is worse, is that I have been instructed to create my own ‘report’ of sorts, by making a bulleted list of all of the ways that S is not developing typically. Let me tell you, it sucks sitting down and making a list of things that aren’t ‘typical’ about your child. It weighs even heavier on the heart when that list is 3 pages… front and back.

So, now I guess we just wait. There are two more reports to be written and then his eligibility meeting is the first week of June. All I can do now is pray that even though he is not testing with a >25% delay, that he will be allowed to continue in the program.

While I am so grateful for all of the progress S has made in the last year, thanks to early intervention, he still has a long way to go. And, without further support and intervention, he is certain to backslide. So, fingers crossed everyone!!!

Nothing Without Preparation: Autism and Spontaneity Do Not Mix

It sure has been a while since I have written… I’ve put on a ridiculous amount of weight over the last six months, and I’ve been spending my mornings furiously trying to work it off (9 lbs down!!). So, I haven’t had much time to write. However, lots of big things are coming up within the next few weeks and months, and so I am taking this rest day to get caught up.

Just to give you an idea on what we are up against, within the next few months we will:

  1. Move
  2. Go on vacation to the Ocean
  3. Determine S’s eligibility for an IEP
  4. Start two sport activities with other children
  5. Have two new children start in his current class
  6. Celebrate S’s 3rd birthday
  7. Possibly switch all school and therapy programs or lose all services all together
  8. Possibly place S, alone, on a school bus to go to school.

That is quite the list for any family with typical children; for children who need a great deal of preparation just to walk in someone’s home, this is a massive list. This list sends my heart beating out of control. This list has sent me to the liquor store more than once. We are in a major prepping mode. We are preparing for battle.

I’ve started easy… preparing for our trip to the ocean. Heck, at least this change is fun and is something that I am looking forward to, sort of. For most families, prepping for this might involve telling your child that you plan to take a trip to the ocean, maybe reading a story about going to the beach and then simply packing your shit and heading out for a great time.

Well, it ain’t that kind of party at our house. I’ve been prepping for weeks.

I learned our lesson the last two years… S and the beach- namely sand- are NOT a good combo. The ocean is such a huge sensory experience- for anyone really. I think that is why so many people are drawn to the ocean. However, for kids on the spectrum, especially those with sensory issues, it can be a sensory nightmare.

So, I started with a mini sandbox in the back yard. It took over two hours, across two separate attempts, to get S to put his feet in the sand. This was a MAJOR breakthrough for someone with sensory issues with his feet. Had I just taken him to the beach, with its seemingly endless land of sand, there is NO way he would’ve adjusted. That’s what happened the last two years. He just shut down and then melted down. By taking it slow in our yard, with a small amount, on his time, we were able to get him comfortable with sand. (In fairness, I even prepped him for the sandbox- watching videos, talking about it and buying him special  ‘sand shoes’ (water shoes) before going to get our sandbox).

Yes folks, I had to prepare him to start preparing him. 

We then moved him to a big sandbox at the park. We went with a typical friend, so he could see how much fun it is with someone he knows and trusts. I had then planned to take him on a mini trip to one of the smaller beaches in the area, but they don’t open for another two weeks. So now, we are watching videos on YouTube. (I LOVE YouTube- its like moving social stories for everything in life.) We were able to find one of the beach we will be visiting- so he can see the actual boardwalk, ocean, landscape, etc. I even purchased, and set up, a beach tent in our living room so he could pretend being at the beach and be able to recognize something familiar when we finally get there.

He seems excited… so I hope he enjoys it… we spent WAY too much time in our room last year because it was just too much for him. With all of this preparation, I certainly hope for a few hours by the waves.

I have been preparing for this trip for a few weeks now (we don’t go until the end of the month) and I started preparing him for soccer this week as well (he starts that next month). And, with our great big list above, I have so many other things to prepare him for… much bigger things. Most kids just start soccer, or go on vacation… but not ASD kids. They need to know exactly what they are walking into at all times… and there is still no guarantee of success. Its overwhelming really, and something I hope he grows out of in time. But for now, we will watch videos of people we don’t know playing by the ocean.

And hopefully, if all of this hard work pays off, we will be able to make our own beach videos soon.

Potty Training and Autism

I decided to write a post about our experience in potty training our son with autism, in hopes that our experience can help others trying to do the same. S’s delays are more social in nature, and I will say that cognitively, as well as in gross motor, our son is right on target for his age. S will be 3 in 3 months. Since every child on the spectrum is different, I know that our strategy will not work for all. But, none the less, I will share what we did, in hopes that it will help others.

S has a hard time with transitions and new types of clothing. He has been scared of underwear for a while, so I knew that I had to take this delicately. I knew that just taking away diapers and giving him underwear was not going to work and I knew that we had to do away with diapers right away. There would be no ‘sometimes with diapers and sometimes not’ with him.

So, I decided to take a full 5 days to potty train. I armed myself with the following:

  • Books on potty training
  • Pull ups for nap/night time (NO more diapers)
  • Mini potty
  • Seat ring for big potty
  • Folding portable potty seat cover (for public potties)
  • Baby boxers (too stinking cute)
  • “Big boy” briefs
  • Candy
  • A Potty Chart
  • Lots of loose fitting shorts
  • Puppy training pads
  • Lots of towels and sheets
  • Post-It notes (for the public potty’s auto sensors)
  • A large bottle of Merlot (for me)

The first day, I made the mistake of leaving him in just shorts with no underwear. He urinated on himself, twice, and totally flipped out. I took it light that day, put him into a pull up and then took him out for the rest of the day. He did NOT want to put on the pull up, he wanted his diaper, but I was NOT going back. I had to bribe him with a piece of candy to get him in them… but it worked.

Day two, when he woke up, I took off his pull up and shorts and took him to the potty. I gave him a drink, and we sat there (singing songs and playing games) until he urinated. Then, I made a HUGE deal out his going in the potty. There was dancing, there was singing, there was candy, high fives and a check mark for his potty chart. He was thrilled.

I covered all of our couches with puppy training pads and sheets and then let him run loose all day with no bottoms on. (I turned the heat WAY up, since it was still chili here.) By running around bare bottom, he didn’t get as upset when he peed on himself, since he wasn’t soaking pants. I also think it helped remind him that there was nothing there to catch the pee. He would often ask for his pants, but I would just redirect without making a big deal of the issue.

I continued to offer lots of drinks and spent a lot of time sitting with him at the potty and making a huge deal anytime any pee made it inside. If he started to go while not on the potty, I would carry him to the potty and if ANY of it, even a drop, made it inside, we celebrated. If it was a full miss, I just said “These things happen. Let’s get you cleaned up, and next time, you can try to put your pee in the potty”. I made a point to never say ‘it’s okay’ or to have a negative reaction. I often encouraged him to help me clean it up, but in a positive way.

We don’t often give S candy- so jelly beans were a HUGE motivator for him. Sometimes I think he sat on the potty just praying he would pee so he could get one Yep, I bribed him with sugar. And you know what?, it worked, so I don’t care!

We stayed inside for the next 3 days, only leaving once for a 15 minute walk outside. We were always 10 feet from a potty and it was all potty, all day… for days.

On the 3rd full day, I set out some underwear and boxers on the table. I didn’t try to put any on him, but the next time he asked for pants, I just said that they were on the table and that he could go and pick out a pair. I know that if I had tried to put them on, he would’ve refused, but since I didn’t make a big deal out of it and just let him grab them, it went smoothly. He chose boxers.

I am very proud to say that the whole process only took about a week. He ‘got it’ the second day really, and just needed some refinement as the week went on. He had a few accidents, but most were really our fault (leaving the room for a minute, etc). By the 3rd day he was putting himself on the potty without asking- he just did it himself.

I purchased a portable potty seat cover, that folds up, to keep in my purse for public potties. I also keep a portable potty in the back of our car, just in case. I was sure to make our first trip to a public potty, one that he was very familiar with, and had seen me use multiple times. I wanted him to feel confortable in the environment.

He has done surprisingly well and he only has had one accident while out in public (our very first one). Now that he knows he can ask to go while we are out, he does, and we have done all sorts of things while out and about in his big boy underwear. He can even ‘hold it’ when he knows we are not near a potty, and let me know in time for us to get to one.

Most amazingly, he seems to be nap and night trained as well, only having had one wet pull up since we started. I’m still keeping him in the pull ups for a while though, since I don’t want any unnecessary anxiety around sleeping or underwear, should he wet himself in the night.

It is hard to believe that potty training was so easy for S. I think that mostly, he was just ‘ready’. I also think that for S, it was important that we handled things the way we did. No wishy washy back and forth with diapers, and no cold turkey ‘this is the way we are going to do it’ approach. While we did sort of do it ‘cold turkey’, I didn’t make a big deal out of no more diapers, so he didn’t really get that right away. I dedicated a full week to the potty- no outings, no errands… nothing but potty. I think this helped establish the new normal- his new routine.

In all, it went just fantastic! The first day I dropped him off at daycare in his underwear was a very proud day. He now wears underwear, and hasn’t had an accident in days.

Finally, something with autism that’s easy!

Spring Break and a Lapse in Autism Symptoms

For most families, a break from school means time to spend with family, a few fun day trips and maybe the completion of a few much needed projects around the house. For families living with autism, a break from school means loss of routine and all of the regression that comes with it. It took us almost 3 months to recover from winter break, and anyone who knows me well, knows that just the talk of spring break literally made my eyes well and my voice crack.

I was dreading spring break like a death row inmate dreads the electric chair.

After-all, there would be days with family, day trips and things that needed to be done around the house. The loss of routine was sure to send our sweet little man out of control again. Just at Easter alone, we would have to enter a house- full of people- and then find eggs in the lawn. These things with autism seemed too overwhelming… almost impossible.

You may remember my post about my suspicions about the full moon and  autism and then my next post about the difference a day could make. Little did I know that starting that Friday, I would have a ‘typical’ child for one whole week.

Friday started out awesome, and it continued into Saturday. We watched a few social stories on Easter egg hunts and we took him to one at the local hall. I watched in amazement as he entered the hall with no tantrum, ran around with the kids, did crafts and… hunted for easter eggs!!! It was so awesome, that I took him to another community egg hunt an hour or so later! We even went and had lunch, in a restaurant, where he sat with me and ate.

The next day was Easter and as I mentioned in a previous post, I had several reservations. Mostly, having to walk into a family member’s house. S did great though, and walked in just fine! I was shocked! I stood in amazement as I was able to talk with family and eat food rather than deal with an hour long meltdown and chase him from the stairs for hours on end. He spent most of his time playing with a gift the Easter bunny had brought him (a BMX finger bike) and sitting with my 80 something grandparents… but, he was there… and calm… and confident. He also looked for eggs during the family hunt, and even found the golden egg!

Things went so well over the weekend, that I decided to potty train! I knew this was our last break for a while, and had been bouncing the idea around in my head for a few weeks. I was hesitant, since sitting in the house can be too much for S and he gets really stir crazy. Since he is so sensory seeking, I usually try to keep him out an about as much as possible throughout the day. But, since he was doing so great, we bit the bullet; and it turns out… S is a potty prodigy! He took to it right away and I’m glad to say that we have been diaper-free since we started.

The entire week of spring break was just fantastic. We did all the ‘typical’ things that most families do on a holiday break… we visited family, we did holiday traditions, we took road trips, we ate out, we had play dates and we hung around and spent some time together. He even walked with me in a store!

There was a period of time there, where I actually began to question S’s diagnosis. He seemed so typical. Things were so easy. We had lazy mornings and conversations. Could he have grown out of autism? It was like his symptoms just totally disappeared. Most shockingly… he sang. For the first time, ever, I hear my almost 3 year old sing. It was an amazing moment!

But of course, as the week ended, many of his autistic behaviors resurfaced; though, to a much lesser degree. And while S still very much has autism, he has in many ways matured that week. It is certainly a week that I will remember and cherish forever. And now, now I am not dreading his 3 week break this summer. Hesitant… but not dreading.