Wordless Wednesday: Trampoline Therapy with Sprinkler in July

the science behind spinning

Before Joel was diagnosed with Autism, we were often mystified by his behavior.  Why was he spinning all the time?  Why was he flapping his hands?  Why was he walking on his toes?  None of it really made much sense.  Of course, some of it was explainable.  Kids like to spin and move around a lot.  When I was a child, I liked to spin and cavort.  Granted, I had a threshold where I would become dizzy and fall down.  Joel, on the other hand, can spin and spin and it seems as though he never finds that threshold.

Now we know why Joel spins and flaps his hands and walks on his toes.  When he does these particular activities, his brain receives a level of stimuation required to keep him comfortable so that he can better focus on, and relate to, the environment around him.  We know this through scientific investigation, testing and research.  Here in our household we strongly support the scientific method to explain all of life’s mysteries.  It is a simple, yet sophisticated system that has given humankind the combustible engine, telephones, space travel and the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

Having said that, I do also have a love for whimsical notions.  I found this as a meme on Facebook last night while I was wasting time and it made me think of Joel and how he spins:

There are some days when it is fun to believe that maybe, just maybe, Joel is really on a mission to travel through time.  It’s really not all that hard to believe.  After all, there is speculation that Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton had Autism.  Take that information and add it to what Solodialogue posted recently on her blog about a possible connection between Autism and Evolution, and it really isn’t so hard to believe the amazing things people with Autism are, or could be, capable of.

Joel is limited every day by his own disability or by us in that we stop him from doing many things that he enjoys that are extremely dangerous.  Because of that, I don’t want to place limits on his potential or make grand statements like “He’ll never be able to do this or enjoy that.”  The boy is only five years old.  We have no idea just what he will be able to do in five more years, or ten or twenty.

(BTW, this meme is from a comic called xkcd which is now one of my new favorite things.)

Lord of the Fries: Our Afternoon Adventure at the McDonald’s Indoor Playhouse

You know that scene in Lord of the Rings when the Fellowship is being formed at Elf Central and they are discussing how to destroy the ring and Boromir says with his hand on his forehead like he’s talking to morons, “One does not simply walk into Mordor and destroy the ring.” ? I felt a little like Boromir yesterday as our family was getting rounded up to make a shopping trip in Tulsa and was informed that Husband and older son, Will, had made plans for us all to go to McDonald’s to play on their indoor playground.  My first reaction was “Um, no, Joel will have a huge meltdown when we leave and it will be a huge disaster.”  When you have a child with Autism and sensory issues, one does not “just go” to McDonalds for a little recreational playtime.

I thought we were decided on the issue, but as our trip progressed I could see that Husband didn’t quite want to give up on the idea.  After all, Joel would have a great time while he was playing and he isn’t overwhelmed by strangers or loud sounds.  It is also a recommended therapy for proprioceptive input.  The only thing we had to worry about was an exit strategy.  So, I said, “What the hell?  Let’s give it a try.”

We finished our shopping trip and located a McDonalds that also had an indoor playground.  Before exiting the car, we took a moment to find some mental clarity and worked out a plan.  James would go to the line and order us some french fries and ice cream while Maya, Will and I would go straight to the playground area.  Maya and I changed Joel’s pull-up in the family bathroom, washed his hands, removed his shoes and set him free to roam.  He took to that thing like a pro.  He climbed and slid down the slide and had a blast.  The other children ran around him and he barely paid them any mind.  He just did his thing.

Will, on the other hand, struck up a bit of friendship with a few vey rowdy boys his own age, whose parents/guardians seemed to be nowhere in sight.  It turned into a bit of a Lord of the Flies scenario and at one point, I could have sworn I heard someone shout, “Kill the pig!” but that was probably just my sometimes-overactive imagination at work.  Will was quite the protective brother and at one point, Husband and I overheard this exchange between him and one of the other boys:

Will: Hey, be careful of my little brother.  He is Autistic.

Other Boy: Yeah,my little brother is a little like that, too.

Husband and I got a little smile out of that.  Meanwhile, Joel came out on a couple of occassions to inspect the world “outside”.  He did try to get a little friendly with another family who was eating.  I pulled him away before he could grab anything and apologized.  The mom just smiled and said it wasn’t a problem.  I brought him back to our table and he sat down with James and ate some french fries and watched a video on his IPad.  We decided that that was probably a good time to try leaving the playground and we geared ourselves up for a meltdown.

James picked Joel up and carried him out the door to the car.  Maya and I gathered up our things and Joel’s shoes and we met up with Husband at the car.  Joel not only got into the car seat without a hitch, he even helped James buckle him up and gave him a kiss before James closed the door and got into the driver’s seat.  We completely avoided a meltdown…

…until we got home.  We pulled into the driveway of our house, Joel realized we were home and our trip was over and he began to cry.  His crying became a meltdown.

Once inside, James and I tried using weighted items to calm him.  That didn’t work.  We ran him a bath and he slowly started to calm down.  Then, Husband had the most brilliant idea yet.  He pulled out a can of cheap shaving cream and sprayed some on the shower wall.  Joel immediately stopped crying and was fascinated.  He squooshed it in his hands and had a blast.  James squeezed some directly onto Joel’s palm and Joel made it float on the water.  After that, the meltdown was over.

So, I’ve come away from this with a little perspective.  Sometimes, you have to take chances no matter what the expected outcome may be.  You just may be very pleasantly surprised.  I’m expecting we will be making this a regular-ish activity for our family, especially while the temperatures are as extreme as they are now.  (Temperatures in the 100’s here in our neck of the plains!)  I will also work on trusting others when they have an idea that I may think is crazy.  And, last but not least, I will be making sure we are fully stocked up on cheap shaving cream!

A Rather “Weighty” Topic

Look at me getting “punny” this morning.  Yep, I’m a dork.  If you think that was an embarrasing attempt at humor, please, keep reading.

This morning, I was standing in the kitchen with Husband and Maya making a cup of coffee (for the record, the Keurig thing is still MIA.)  when Joel came running into the kitchen mildly distressed.  We comforted him briefly, then he ran back to the living room and got quiet again.  I finished making my cup and wandered into the living room to make sure he was okay.  This is what I saw:

I made Husband and Maya come look.  We “oohed and awwed” his adorableness and then I announced I would be researching weighted blankets today.  Fun Fun.

First, I looked into purchasing one.  I found one website with some great information.  Actually, just looking at this site made me realize that this isn’t as simple as picking out a new toaster.  I also realized it is a lot more costly than a new toaster as well.  They do have some information about insurance, but unfortunately, my brain turns into pure mush when I read about topics like insurance, or real estate, or investment banking, etc.  I have thus relegated the insurance stuff to Husband whose brain is way less “mushy” in that regard.  (I’ll inform him as soon as he gets home, haha.)

Then I figured, “Hey, I’m pretty smart.  I can make a weighted blanket!”  So, I googled How to make a weighted blanket and found this really great blog with directions.  Of course, I actually read the directions and looked at the photos and came to my senses.  Seriously, I can barely even thread a needle.  I don’t even own a sewing machine.  I took Home Ec WAY back in the day and everyday class was over I was just thrilled I hadn’t set my little cooking station on fire or sewn my fingers together.  I have gotten better in the kitchen, but sewing and I have never reconciled our differences.

So, I’m back to the original idea of buying a weighted blanket or possibly having one made by an actual sewing professional.  I still need to measure Joel by size (wish me luck getting him to hold still while I pull out the tape measure!) and figure out how much weight is just right to make him comfortable.  I’m thinking we should probably also talk it over with his OT and get her opinion.  She did try a weighted vest on him during the school year, but he didn’t seem to like it.  He does, however, love blankets and being wrapped up in them, sometimes.  If anyone reading this has any experience with weighted blankets, I would appreciate your insight into them.

changing plans

It was a goal of ours to get Joel potty trained this summer.  After all, he has had a few successful attempts at “elimination” both at home and even at school.  And, let’s not kid ourselves here, pull-ups aren’t exactly cheap.  By the way, has anyone else noticed that the older/bigger the child gets, the fewer the amount of pull-ups per package while the price stays the same?  Can anyone else say “rip-off?”  Which, incidently, is part of the reason why we have to purchase them at such a rapid rate, because Joel will, if not wearing his special pajamas, rip them off and run through the house like a naked hippy.  I’m not kidding, that boy loves his naked time!  It doesn’t matter if the pull-up is wet or dry or poopy (yep, that too!), if he gets it in his mind that at that moment he simply must be naked, that pull-up is coming off.  You know that quote from Forrest Gump about “life being like a box of chocoates because you neva know what you gonna get?”  Yeah, that’s life at our house only that “box of chocolates” is a pull-up that could either be dry and just needs to be put back on, wet and easily thrown away and replaced with a new one, or it could be your worst nightmare.  Usually, it is the first two and that is okay.  We can handle that.  But, the third one, the nightmare one, that is very, VERY unpleasant.  Needless to say, if Joel is not wearing his previously-mentioned special pajamas, we watch him like a group of hawks circling the cutest little nudist hippy bunny you’ve ever seen.

Like I said, potty training was the intended goal, but things don’t always go the way we want.  Since the summer break began, Joel has had an increasing amount of meltdowns.  We were kind of expecting that at least until he got used to the summer routine, but things haven’t really smoothed out.  So, we’ve become proactive.  I’ve been doing my research and I came across some great ideas for children with sensory processiong disorders and have started implementing some of them.  One of my favorites is giving him a bear hug.  Who doesn’t love the idea of Bear Hug Therapy?  I’ve tried it a couple of times in a pinch when I see him getting worked up and it has been effective.  Not only does he tend to calm down after a few minutes of squeezing, I get a hug out of the deal.  That sure beats getting pinched and/or kicked.

Another thing that worked really well is homemade playdough.  I got the recipe for it here.  To keep it from drying out between uses, I wrap it in a moist kitchen towl and store it in a cupboard Joel can’t reach.  When I think he needs it, I get it out and we play together.

I’m happy to say that with just those two activities, Joel had no meltdowns yesterday.  It was wonderful.  One could even call it bliss.  And, who knows, if things continue to go as smoothly as they did yesterday, we can get back to the orignal plan.

One can hope, right?