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Oh you sneaky one!

April 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Earlier today, I heard my husband exclaiming loudly in the living room. He was sorting out the music CDs and discovered that many of them had the CDs missing. The missing CDs were all tucked away in Lucas‘ room amid his other children’s DVDs.

Lucas loves music of any kind.

He’d get into the car, buckle up, and ask for the radio to be turned on (if it wasn’t already).

Home from school, straight to room and the music player comes on.

When he watches TV, it’s perpetually tuned to MTV.

When Adam Lambert performed on American Idol (S8) and now James Durbin on Season 9, he’d run out from his room, clap and dance.

He can identify the song he wants to listen to (or not) by the first few notes, and he taught himself to play the first two bars of “Happy Birthday” on the keyboard by ear.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us that he would help himself to our music CDs. It’s how he does it.

Our CDs are kept in a drawer in the cabinet where the TV and other multimedia devices sit. There’s a portable fan that’s positioned in front of it. To open the drawer, you need to move the fan.

I first realised that Lucas was taking the CDs out when in the early mornings when he wakes up before we do, I could hear a slight squeak which is emitted when the fan is moved. Once I got out of bed to check, and Lucas was standing guiltily by the fan and pretending to turn on the TV! At first glance into the drawer, nothing appears missing. But I could tell when he has removed CDs by the different music he plays in his room, and also by the tell-tale signs of haphazard stacking of the covers. This doesn’t bother me; in fact I am rather pleased.

So, as my husband shook his head in resignation as he opened empty CD cover after empty CD cover (total of about 50), I couldn’t stop laughing!

Being sneaky is a high level functioning behaviour, I told him.

Anyway, we agreed to turn it into a learning task by having Lucas match CDs with their covers and returning them to the drawer. And he can do this every couple of months.

Categories: Autism, Family

My son’s upset with me & I’m happy about it!

April 10, 2011 Leave a comment

No, I’m not a mean person. I don’t relish in other people’s unhappiness.

But when you live with someone with autism, anything that deviates from the person’s ‘normal’ behaviour is a cause for examination, hope, and even, celebration. For sometimes, it means that there’s a form of breakthrough, and perhaps this is the one that would tip the scales in your/their favour from now on.

In general, Lucas is a happy boy, and he loves to travel. We are blessed as he’s very well behaved and it’s very easy for us to bring him overseas on vacation. He doesn’t complain about long plane rides or the waiting or the long queues (Mom is usually the one grumbling). He loves beach holidays and is happiest in the pool or walking on the sand along the beach.

He has come to associate certain things with holidays – luggages being the most obvious ‘clue’ to him. He would also watch us when we pack, to see what goes into the luggage. When I used to travel for work previously, Lucas would stay with his grandparents which he doesn’t mind.

Last week, my husband had to go on a short work trip, and I decided to accompany him. As Lucas had school, I decided not to bring him with us. So I explained to him earlier in the day that he would have to stay at his grandparents’ place for a couple of nights.

We took a cab to the departure centre, and enroute, dropped Lucas off at the grandparents’. Throughout the cab ride, Lucas sat staring out of the backseat window moodily. I knew he was upset as he was disinterested in the music playing in the background, and when I prodded him in the ribs (which usually cause him to chuckle), he merely ignored me. Not a smile could be seen.

When we reached my parents’ place, he reluctantly waved goodbye and walked off. I learned when I returned that he took a long time to settle down that evening for bed. Instead he kept pointing to pictures of me at home.

Fortunately, his moodiness didn’t last long and his teacher reported that he was his usual happy self the next day. And just as thankfully, when we returned two days later, he was thrilled to have us home and to be back in his own home.

Most parents out there would say that it’s usual for children to miss their parents when they are apart and that this is normal. And that is precisely why I’m pleased about it – because it is a normal. Previously, it would never have bothered Lucas when we travel without him. If he was bothered, he had never shown it.

Now I hope that one day soon, I’d have to actually call him each day that I’m away to tell him that ‘Mom is coming home soon’.

Categories: Autism

Love. Laugh. Listen. Three words to describe my parenting style.

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I first posted this on CooBabyTalk – a blog on my online store – www.coobabes.com – which I also write & edit. Thought I’d share this here as well.

February 4th, 2011

Love. Laugh. Listen.

In a recent tweet, I responded to a Parenting question to describe your parenting style in three words. My three words were: Love. Laugh. Listen.

Love.

This is almost a given. I mean, which parent, out of love, will not go out of his or her way to do what’s best, to provide the best, to make sure it’s the best for his/her child?

Recently, there was an article in the Straits Times in Singapore about how parents queued overnight to secure a place on the waiting list to enroll their pre-schoolers in a popular kindergarten. Apparently it also seems that one mother in a delivery suite even called the school to enquire about placing her about-to-be-born child on that said list.

In movies and books, we sometimes hear this phrase – a face that only a mother can love. Although meant usually to insult whoever ‘owns’ that face, it is true that to a mother, her child is the cutest, prettiest, most handsome and every other positive superlative you can imagine. Which reminds me of a Chinese proverb – “There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.”

Laugh.

We have to learn to enjoy parenthood and sometimes it means laughing off things that might otherwise upset you. You can’t fault a child for every mistake made.

Your son runs his dirty, sticky fingers through his hair? Hey, he’s just a little bloke. The dirt and grime comes off in the bath.

Your daughter raids your cosmetics and now has a clown-like face? Well, she’s just pretending to be like Mom and you know imitation is the greatest form of flattery. (It could also mean that Mom needs to touch up on her make-up application skills.)

Tearing pages off books? As long as it’s not a limited edition copy, give them unwanted magazines next time. And hey, it’s practice for scrapbooking in future.

When you laugh, your child will probably laugh with you, and who wouldn’t want a happy baby? At the end of the day, parenthood can be and is fun. How many times have your child done or said something that just made you laugh? Too many too count for most.

Listen.

Communication is two-way, and that means listening to what your child is telling (or not telling) you. Even with infants, parents can tell from the way they cry whether they need food, a diaper change, or just a good cuddle.

As babies learn to talk, it can be tough to make out their babble. Many times it is guesswork but when you listen carefully and you get it right, what a wonderful reinforcer it is.

Listening also shows you are engaged and interested in your child. All children want attention, and listening to them is a great way to give it to them and just one of the many ways to show you care.

As a parent of a non-verbal autistic teenager, listening may seem difficult but I listen with my eyes – what Lucas is trying to tell me through his gestures, his expressions, his behaviour. It’s a more active form of listening, but you hear volumes.

How would YOU describe your parenting style? I’d love to know.

~ Sharon

Categories: Autism, Coo, Family Tags:

Mommy’s out here!

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Lucas and I go out together pretty often. At 14, he’s almost a head taller than me (which is quite easy to achieve since I’m only 5ft barefooted.)

When he was much younger and needed to go to the toilet, I would find a relatively isolated ladies’ toilet and hustle him in to conduct his business. It’s quite a common sight where we live whereby mothers would bring their young sons into the toilets with them and any other women in the toilet would usually be quite forgiving.

But as a teenager, it is no longer appropriate. I would try and find a handicapped toilet located outside the restrooms but some places don’t have them. At these places, I would have no choice but to let him go to the men’s room on his own if he needs to pee.

Given his innocence, and the fact that if he was harrassed in the toilet by unsavoury characters, he would not be able to tell me, I worry very often when we’re out by ourselves and he needs the toilet.

Lucas can pee independently. He knows to use the urinal, flush and wash his hands when he’s done. So, when he uses the men’s room on his own, to deter any would-be predators, I would stand by the entrance of the toilet, and very loudly call out to him from the time he enters till he comes out.

It goes like this:
“Mommy will wait for you out here.”
“Don’t forget to flush the toilet.”
“Remember to wash your hands.”
“Mommy is here.”
“Use the hand dryer.”
And so on, until he comes out, often hands still wet from the wash!

He still needs help when taking a dump, so that’s a different story altogether.

What do other mothers do if their sons need help with toileting in public?

Categories: Autism, Uncategorized Tags: ,

Meet Lucas.

January 28, 2011 1 comment

 

Lucas with a toy computer his Uncle Shaun gave him during X'mas 2010.

Lucas turned 14 in December 2010.

I had a very easy pregnancy and childbirth, and Lucas was a very easy baby to care for. We did however notice that he seemed to develop a little slower than other babies his age. He wasn’t speaking and at age two, he wasn’t walking on his own.

Well-meaning friends and relatives would assure us that “boys tend to be slower. He’ll catch up.” Or “It’s because he doesn’t have older siblings to follow. You know, monkey see monkey do. He has no monkey to imitate.” Even our neighbourhood doctor, who although was a general practitioner, seemed to be popular with children, said that there was nothing to worry about, and that it’s just a ‘slight delay’. Well, guess what – the slight delay turned out to be real major!

Ultimately, I brought Lucas for a developmental assessment at the children’s hospital, and after several sessions with the paediatricians, child psychologists, therapists and social workers, they diagnosed him with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

I didn’t know anyone with autism before that day and I remembered very calmly leaving the hospital with Lucas and his diagnosis.

The next few months were the most difficult and emotionally tumultuous. I was reading every bit of information I could find about autism. My spirits would soar when I learn about a trait that Lucas did not seem to have – surely this must mean that there could have been a misdiagnosis? Only to have that high feeling come crashing down the next minute when I came across another trait that’s so typical of Lucas. For those few months, I cried myself to sleep every night.

By nature, I am optimistic yet practical. So my emotions settled down eventually. By then, we were shuttling between various therapies – at both government-subsidised centres and private therapists. We put him on the waiting list of several centers that offered early intervention programmes. We tried brushing (until his hair began to thin and fall out!). We put him on a Tomatis programme until it was pulled out. Even acupuncture recently.

Fast forward 11+ years, Lucas is still non-verbal. He gestures and uses some PECS to communicate. He loves music – from Barney to Black-Eyed Peas. He started walking shortly after his diagnosis and today, he still needs work on gross and fine motoring skills. He attends a special school for persons with autism, and his teachers have always praised him for being attentive, compliant and easy to work with. He loves swimming and his favourite holidays are at a beach resort. He is very obedient but still doesn’t understand traffic rules.

While I hope and pray that one day Lucas can be fully integrated into mainstream society, I do realise that he is likely to need life-long assistance. His teachers, therapists and I now work on goals that would lead to his independence – which is my final goal for him.

 

Categories: Autism Tags:

My son is not retarded. He has autism.

January 27, 2011 2 comments

Lucas is 14 and takes a private bus to a special school. The school is a mere 10 min drive from our condo, but the school transport picks him up 45 mins before school starts (which is better than the one hour they originally wanted which I fought against.)

This morning, the school bus arrived about 5 minutes early, and the driver wanted the security guard at our condo to call up to our apartment to notify us. Before the guard (who is relatively new) could do so, I’d already walked Lucas down to the waiting area. After making sure Lucas was safely buckled and watching the bus drive off, I started to return to my apartment whereby the guard came to inform me of the driver’s earlier request. I explained that the driver was early and in future, to just ask that he wait by the porch.

All of a sudden, the guard said, “Don’t be offended but it appears to me that your son is a little retarded.” He was quick to add though that my “son was not as bad as the other boy on the bus with him.”

“He is not retarded,” I told him rather shortly. “He has autism.” And I walked off.

Usually when I tell people of Lucas’ autism, I would elaborate on the disorder, what the signs and symptoms are, treatments available etc. But I wasn’t in the mood to do so this morning.

Somehow the word ‘retarded’ rubs me off the wrong way. I feel that it is such a derogatory term, and even if it wasn’t directed to me or a loved one , I tend to cringe when others hurl it as an insult to another (usually quite normal person).

Did I overact? Did I just miss out of an opportunity to educate someone about autism?

Categories: Autism Tags: