Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Play dough: Make play dough at home and assist child in mixing, measuring and kneading dough to desired consistency. (Opt. Add Kool Aid for color and scent.) Use pegs or toothpicks to make designs. Use kid scissors (that is if you can find any; they always seem to disappear at my house!) to cut dough that is rolled into snakes. Use plastic knife to cut play dough (for extra fun use cookie cutter to make an imprint to cut around. Create a treasure hunt by hiding pennies, pegs, and beads in play dough.
Paper: Tear or cut newspaper/scrap paper into strips. Roll paper into a ball using one hand and repeat with the other hand. (Opt. Make a paste out of flour and water, dip paper strips in paste and put on an inflated balloon. Let strips dry, then paint or glue crate paper on the "sculpture." Keep as sculpture or turn it into a pinata.) Attach sheet of paper to wall, door or easel as drawing on a vertical surface is a helpful activity.
Household items and materials: Use a squirt bottle, plant sprayer, squirt guns to water plans or for outdoor squirting fun. Draw letters, shapes in shaving cream. Make building sculptures by poking toothpicks into marshmallows.
Tactile Games: Play in water, wet sand, salt, rice or goop (make goop by adding water to cornstarch until it is toothpaste consistency) Another option: buy a sand and water table. Spread cards, coins, buttons, or checkers out and then turn them over.
Toys: Memory game for visual scanning, puzzles, Legos (stacking blocks and building towers), Magna Doodle, beanbag toss (or water balloon toss), activity books that include coloring activities, mazes and connect the dots, Connect Four (dropping in checkers to make patterns rather than playing the game is a popular activity at my house. Drop pennies into a favorite piggy bank.
Monday, May 25, 2009
C1 (my ten year old with autism): "Lock Down my Ears! Lock Down my Ears!"
He was rocking back and forth a little, a sign of anxiety. We were at the ceremony that followed the Memorial Day parade in the quaint downtown of our small city. Watching the parade went smoothly and I felt like a typical American Family. (The typical feeling changed as soon as the ceremony started.)
Me: (thinking to myself): What?
C1: "Lock down My ears!"
Me: (thinking to myself again): Oh, he wants me to put my hands over his hands as he covers his ears.
So I handed my small flag (that was given out to parade goers by members of the VFW auxiliary), and my sunglasses to my husband and "locked down" my child's ears. It didn't help much. The anxiety heightened to the point it was becoming noticeable to the crowd around us, so we had to go on to our next planned activity. A picnic was next on our daily agenda. That part didn't go so well because ceremony moved on to the bridge parallel to our picnic spot where they spoke for several minutes before the squad performed another salute.
The lock down demand started as soon as my son saw all the people on the bridge. While my husband and other son, C2, ate chicken salad, potato salad, etc., I had my hands on C1's hands, which were over his ears, for ten minutes before all the speakers had their turn and the guns finally went off. This time it was evident the anxiety was worse than the actual event. I'm sure the light popping sound was a bit louder to him than it was to me, but I suspect that noise was tolerable. I'm thinking he just let his anxiety get the better of him.
Next Year: My son does love everything American. He is quite the little patriot as you can see in this photo from last year. We don't want to avoid our annual trip downtown to see the Memorial Day parade because C1 has difficulty with some of the traditions. Instead I will do my best (to remember to) accommodate his needs. I plan on (if I remember a year from now) having a social story about the three volley salute on hand. I'm also hoping to remember to bring ear plugs or head phones!
Monday, May 18, 2009
From Autism Society of America:
"Autism Treatment Acceleration Act (ATAA) Introduced in U.S. House
On May 14, the Co-Chairs of the Coalition on Autism Research and Education, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), along with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) introduced the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act of 2009 (ATAA). This is a companion to the bill of the same name introduced in the Senate in April. The Autism Society applauds this comprehensive autism legislation focused around enhancing the quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.
The Autism Society especially applauds the inclusion of support services for adults on the autism spectrum in this bill. Currently, the federal government provides for educational services until age 21; however, autism is a lifelong disorder, and when the school bus stops coming, individuals and families are often left to fend for themselves.
ATAA creates a demonstration project to provide an array of services to adults with autism spectrum disorders, including: postsecondary education; vocational and self-advocacy skills; employment; residential services, supports and housing; nutrition, health and wellness; recreational and social activities; and transportation and personal safety.
The legislation also would provide for the establishment of a national network in order to
strengthen linkages between research and service initiatives at the federal, regional, state and local levels, and facilitate the translation of research on autism into services and treatments that will improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families. A national data repository would be created to share emerging data, findings and treatment models."
Two other key aspects of the bill are:
1. setting up a national training initiative on autism and a technical assistance center to develop and expand training and education on autism spectrum disorders; and
2. requiring health insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, including Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, assistive communication devices and other effective treatments.
My thoughts: It is good news that bills addressing autism are being introduced at the state and national levels. I just now discovered that Colorado now has a great possibility of being the eleventh state to have legislation addressing autism and health insurance coverage. A bill is on the way to the governor's desk. Other good news is the state government in New Jersey is also working on similar legislation.
However, there are many such bills such as those in Michigan, that have not passed yet. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Here is a link to commentary that was written last month by State Senator Tupac Hunter regarding coverage in Michigan.
May 25 update: Here is a link to an article about legislation that just passed in Nevada.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Finally, according to this Detroit News article, Blue Cross Blue Shield is going to start paying for ABA for children between the ages of 2-5. This is great news for parents of young children as early intervention is found to be beneficial for most individuals. This is not so great news for everyone else who has children with autism older than the age of five.
As you will see if you click on the link above, the insurance company is under the threat of being sued. A seven-year-old autistic child's dad, Christopher Johns, filed suit in federal court in May 2008. According to the article he filed the law suit on behalf of "the more than 7,000 children" in Michigan who have autism.
One of the reasons insurance companies have declined to pay is because "long-term studies on autism educational therapies have been inconclusive and the treatments are experimental." Another reason is that although my state lawmakers are working on it, Michigan is not yet amongst the ten or eleven states in the U.S. where state law mandates coverage for therapies that parents seek out for their children with autism spectrum disorder.
I find it ironic that autism is classified as a health issue in the United States, yet it seems to be the school systems that help people the most. Unfortunately, even schools are limited in the amount of services they can provide due to budget restraints. Often, the special education division does not start the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) process until a diagnosis is issued from a physician.
This is a concern because physicians, especially general family practitioners, are still learning how to spot the symptoms of ASD. Sometimes, as in the case with my child, autism isn't diagnosed until the age of six. This may mean a missed opportunity for early intervention, and, now, coverage from insurance companies.
So you see, it may be awhile before people with ASD in Michigan have access to the (often very expensive) services that may help them. There could be years of fighting before things start to improve. I will be watching the lawsuit while also monitoring the progress of state lawmakers in Michigan while they contemplate passing legislation that will be helpful to this cause. I'm not holding my breath just yet...
Sunday, May 10, 2009
On Friday my son ten year old son's school bus driver handed my boy (who has autism) a purple paper sack before C1 stepped off the special education bus. (It had been given to the bus driver for safe keeping!!) Standing at my front door, I was curious. 'What is in that bag? ' I thought.
But C1 wouldn't let me look. "It's for Mother's Day," he said, tossing the bag into our coat closet. I knew he wouldn't be handing me the bag until Sunday. I also knew he wouldn't forget as he happens to love holidays--any holiday.
So, this morning, being the big day and all, the first thing my son did when he got up was to retrieve that lovely purple bag with a card, made by him, attached. I opened the bag and found a potted marigold inside. (It looked great despite the fact it was in a dark bag in a dark closet for a day and a half.) I noticed that C1 had decorated the terra cotta pot using his favorite color--green. What I didn't notice was the card attached. (I know, how rude of me, not looking at the card before the gift!!) Both my boys were up and C2, my youngest son, reminded me that there was a card.
"It's a book!" C1, the gift giver, said. So I picked the card up (oops, it was on the floor!! I really am like a kid sometimes...) and found a gift as beautiful as the orange and red flowers on the plant. It was a mother's day book--written (with prompts) and illustrated (no help necessary there) by my son. The cover had three (non-colored) hearts hand drawn with a #2 pencil. One heart had an arrow going through, one had ruffles drawn around it, and the third was just your standard issue heart. Each page started with a prompt and ended with my son's own words. I don't have the tech ability to put the drawings up, but below are the words--misspellings and all!
Title: mother's Day Story book by C...Prompt: Dear Mom,
C1's words: Happy mothers day i will Love you forever p.s. i know you'el love me for ever to.
C1: [wrote his name].
Prompt: If I could give my mom something special, it would be
C1: takeing my mom to red Lobster.
Prompt: My favorite thing about my mom is
C1: When she gets of the computer and Let's me on.
Prompt: I like being with my mother most when
C1: She takes me out. (he even drew a picture of our mini-van with him and I looking out our respective windows!)
Prompt: Things I've learned from my mother are
C1: that i have t be good.
Prompt: The funniest thing I remember about my mom is
C1: She teases when we do and she says i know (I'll often say "I know! You're teasing me!" He's pleased at his fairly new skill of teasing. However, he is still somewhat limited when it comes to the skill...)
Back cover page: A picture of C1 taken at school, with a box noting it was Mother's Day 2009.
Other gifts: Note: C2, 6, brought me a sheet of paper with his hand print and a poem about little hand prints--that I did get to see on Friday. Not to be outdone by his big brother this morning, C2 handed me a big chocolate bar (more than a 1,000 calories worth!!), and a handmade (by an older lady) card with pressed pansies on the front that his dad bought for him (actually both sons) to give. Their dad had brought me a dozen roses and gave them to me the previous evening before we went out on a dinner/movie date. Yep, I am one lucky lady.
I hope all moms out there are having a great Mother's Day!!!
P.S. There was a time, six years ago or so, when I thought he'd never be able to write so well or draw detailed pictures. But here we are! The day has arrived...