Friday, November 2, 2012

Piper Pretends


Apologizes for the quality of this photo. The light was "just right" so I couldn't avoid the glare, even with the blinds closed. I hope you get the idea.

Piper has been amusing us with her "imaginative play" abilities lately. This is a "picnic" she set up one day, all on her own. Please notice that her dolls are being served steak and cheese while Piper and I are eating cookies. Ha ha!! She carefully makes sure to feed each doll their food and tea.

This is novel to us because Morgan doesn't do a lot of this type of play. She will play along with Piper, but then the next time they play a similar scenario Morgan gets upset if it isn't done exactly the same way as before. Piper is good in that she tolerates Morgan's repetitiveness, but it's nice to see that in her own play she is able to be creative and spontaneous. Just the fact that Piper does this is a great example for Morgan. Her pretend play is emerging and has made much more progress since Piper started doing more. That's why we always say that Piper is the best thing to ever happen to Morgan. As a sort of "peer model" she challenges her in ways that David and I can't and that is an amazing blessing.

On the other hand, Piper can model some of the repetitive behavior that Morgan presents. It shouldn't be surprising that she does this, as she learns much more socially than Morgan does. For example, I hear Morgan ask many times a day "Mama, what is your favorite color?" She does the same to Piper. Then, Piper in turn asks the same thing...just because she thinks she's supposed to (we think). In the last few days we've had to call a "cease and desist" on talking about colors. We are encouraging conversation on anything else. We'll let you know how that goes... :-)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween!


Happy Halloween from the Monkey and her Banana! These are not photos from the actual day...we were so busy that day everyone forgot to take photos! Ah well, this captures them pretty well.


This photo just kills me!! It is sooo Piper! They had a little Halloween performance at their dance classes and there is Piper with three little girly-girls...then there is the banana! Love it!


And....same idea for Morgan. If you didn't know it, you'd think she there were two boys in this class, right? Though we hear a lot in our house about things that are for "boys" and things that are for "girls," Morgan has yet to "get" the whole princess idea. She loves the Disney Princess website and like to print out pictures of them, but she doesn't yet express that she wants to BE a princess. Piper is somewhat the same way (so far), she likes dressing up in her princess costumes, but that's as far as it goes. I suppose it's a blessing, right?

As for the actual Halloween, they LOVED it! We went with friends to their old neighborhood and all the kids ran from house to house. About halfway into it, we started seeing signs of tiredness. Piper would want to sit down and check out her loot and I'd have to carry her to catch up with the other kids. When their buckets of candy started getting heavier they at first would not let us help them carry their candy in between houses. Eventually they gave in. All said and done they collapsed into bed at around 9 pm, which I think is great for such and event!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A New (Ad)Venture

I know...it's been a while, but it was a crazy end to the summer and start of the school year for us. Now both Morgan and Piper are settled in their new preschool classes and I finally have a little time to think about this blog and start to make updates again.

I've also started a new "venture" myself! For a while I'd been feeling like I needed something new in my life. I know that sounds sort of vague and I don't even know to explain it, but I had been thinking and praying about whatever "feeling" this was for a while.

And...after that period of time I decided to do something I said I would never do...sell products at parties! Me...no way!! But, yes! I've done it and so far I'm having a blast!!

I've decided to become an independent consultant for Thirty-One Gifts (www.thirtyonegifts.com). It's a direct selling company (similar structure to Mary Kay, for example). In this case Thirty-One designs fabulous totes, purses, bags and organizing items for your home. I first heard of it something this spring via my online Mom's group. I had never heard of it at all before then. The company is based in Columbus, OH and is extremely well-known in the Midwest and east coast. It is really just starting to take off on the West Coast. I'm excited that I've chosen to do this now, since there may be potential for many opportunities moving forward. I also love this company since it really focuses on empowering women. It is a faith-based company, as the name comes from Proverbs 31, The Wife of Noble Character, or as some say The Virtuous Woman.  One of the company motto's is Celebrate Encourage Reward...I'm such a sucker for this kind of thing!

There are a lot of reasons I've decided to do this, and surprisingly money was not a huge reason. I've really needed something that is my own...aside from kids and not associated with autism. Over the past few years this has been our focus, and it will continue to be a major focus for Morgan as well as Piper's development and upbringing. I know that if I have something for myself I will do a better job at being a Mom as well. Even after just a few weeks into this venture I am feeling like I can do a better job at balancing everything. This also allows me great social time, especially with girlfriends. I can tend to be a homebody, but my soul needs friends and this allows me more time for that as well as all the networking I've been doing has reconnected me with a lot of friends I haven't communicated with in a while. I'm really excited about this adventure and I hope that you won't mind seeing a few "plugs" from time to time. The Thirty-One products are amazing, they simplify your life and let you look good doing it!

And...you knew this was coming... here's my website www.mythirtyone.com/megallendorf. Please let me know if you would like to purchase a product or if you have any questions about the company. I'll be so happy to share!




Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday Piper!


Here comes the cake!


Making a wish?


Blowing out the candle!!

Happy Birthday Baby Girl! We will probably always call you baby, though you are no longer a baby...except for the fact that you are refusing to use a potty in any form. You are our "pistol" and have been since day one. You are our silly girl who loves to dance and pretend. You also still like to snuggle and sing songs with Mama (and sometimes Daddy) before bedtime. Even though you are a pistol at home, out and about you can be shy and cautious. You went through a "fraidy-cat" stage this summer, but seem to be making your way out of that slowly. We love watching you interact with the kids you know as your social skills are starting to emerge. Two days of preschool a week starts soon and we can't wait to see what you can do! We love you so much and are so happy you've completed our family.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Parks and Picnics


We love our new park! Last Friday I packed a lunch for us and we headed over. We got a nice spot on the top of a little grassy hill. It was not too hot that day and we even had a little breeze. The girls love every part of this park to different extremes. Morgan could spend all day on the swings and slides and Piper could spend the whole time in the sand area or splash pad. There is something for everyone! The girls also love the idea of picnics now and yesterday pulled out every blanket we have, as well as toy food items, and played "picnic" in our living room.


Here is Piper taking a "nap." She is not really sleeping, but was having fun pretending to. I wish she was one of those kids who could nap anywhere, but alas, I did not get one of those. I do love her imagination and her ability to have fun anywhere. That's way better than the napping part!


Now, here is an example of "extreme." The sand area has rocks and a "apple core" sculpture that spout water when you push a button. The kids love to make rivers and lakes in it. It was just packed with kids that day too. Piper does not hesitate to jump right in. She was wearing her pretty blue swimsuit, but had managed to cover herself in sand from head to toe. I had already "swished" her through the sprays of water in the splash pad several times, but she kept going back for more. At this point I had already stripped her suit off because I thought she was finally done. Not so much. She went back again and again until that swim diaper was almost falling off her. I sent a text to David with this picture saying "this is YOUR daughter." He sent me a text back saying he was "not claiming that." What do you think Allendorfs?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chairs and Swings

We had a lovely visit with our RDI consultant Christine yesterday. We love it when we get to meet in person as it always gives us new motivation and energy to keep running our marathon. We have days with our RDI program that we just "don't feel like it" and those days are the ones where we need to remember that it is a long process, but if we are diligent we (and Morgan) will succeed.

Yesterday we had a great lesson in limit-setting. It was something that Christine was going to bring up that session, but just was we were getting started a perfect opportunity presented itself to us. As we were sitting down, I decided to give Morgan and Piper some cookies and milk before their "quiet time." As I placed the cookies on their small play table they both went for the same chair. Piper got there first, but Morgan tried to sit on it too and grabbed at Piper's cookies. Chaos ensued and somehow I was able to extract Morgan from the seat and give Piper her cookies back. Thus the major meltdown began. Morgan refused to sit on the other chair. I sat there and held her a bit and tried to get her to settle down, but she'd already passed the point of no return.

Christine jumped in and gave us some advice. She reminded us that Morgan was mad, but she was OK. She also told me not to coddle her as she needed to learn to "self-regulate" on her own. Children with autism do not do this easily. So, then I slowly backed off and let Morgan sit by herself on the floor. Meanwhile Piper finished her snack and David took her upstairs to her room. As happens when Morgan is upset, she also went upstairs to her room on her own. This is a kind of coping mechanism she uses. We had originally planned on keeping Morgan with us during the session, so once Piper was in bed, David coaxed Morgan back downstairs. Christine had started to review some material with us and I had placed myself in the chair that Piper had been sitting in. Morgan's snack was still there, so at that point she could choose to sit and eat...but she didn't. She saw me sitting there and got very upset again. She had not really calmed down upstairs, so it didn't take much to set her off. She went back and forth between trying to push me off the chair and just lying on the floor crying. Christine told us to leave her be. We could remind her at times that her snack was there, but she needed to try to calm down by herself.

Christine told us this was not about Piper, the cookies, or even the chair specifically... it was about control. I then realized that most times I give them cookies for snack Morgan does sit in that particular chair. Why? I don't know. It just is. There are plenty of times she sits on the other chair, but somehow she has it in her head that for eating cookies she must sit in that chair, on that particular side of the table. She was being unreasonably rigid about this. This is something kids with autism do. Certain things must be done certain ways...and if we let them, the rigidity will continue or possibly get worse. The fact that we held our ground with this threw her into a tailspin of uncertainty and anxiety. It was the unknown and it made her very upset. Now, most people can rationalize that it's just a chair and if you sit somewhere else, the world will not end...but Morgan cannot yet do this. Her brain short-circuits somehow and tells her that something is not right. Then she goes into fight or flight mode. Another important point is that at no point did we take away her cookies and milk. They were there for her if she chose to eat them, but she could not sit in the chair she wanted. After a period of time, and it was quite a while, as we continued to work with Christine on some other items and viewed some videos, Morgan eventually calmed down, sat in the (previously rejected) chair and ate her snack. Success!

This is something that we need to tackle now. Setting limits in these situations will help Morgan to slowly learn that doing things differently is OK. This is more of that "dynamic" intelligence we are working on. Morgan cannot live in her "static" world, she needs to become more flexible in her actions and her thinking to allow her to grow emotionally and socially. Christine shared an example of a thirteen year old boy she worked with who at that age was still very rigid in his thinking. There were circumstances at school where this very thing happened. He wanted a particular chair, and he physically pushed another child off it. At that point, being bigger and stronger, this is viewed as extremely aggressive and is not only unacceptable, it's stigmatizing for the child. Now is the time to work on this and help Morgan not only be less rigid, but when she gets into a meltdown mode, to help her to quickly "regulate" her thoughts and feelings so she doesn't react in a negative way.

We had another great example of this today at church. While playing on the playground after the service Morgan wanted me to push her on the swing. I did this for quite a long time, then switched with David when I had to use the restroom. When I came back Piper was taking a turn on a different swing (Morgan was still on hers) and she wanted me to push her. When I started to push Piper, Morgan got very upset and refused to let David push her. We told her that she could stay on the swing, but Mama was pushing Piper this time. Again, for whatever reason, she was trying to control the situation and we had to set the limit to not allow her to be so rigid. She sure stuck to her guns though and eventually David had to pick her up off the swing and carry her to the car to go home. She cried the whole time and even once we were heading home she kept asking to go back to the playground. She did calm down on the ride once she realized we were not giving in.

It is so easy to accommodate in many ways to keep everyone "happy", but we now realize for Morgan this is detrimental to her development. I know there are many times in the day that I ask Piper to do things that are really unfair to her to make Morgan happy. And sometimes I do the same thing for Piper. We will be working on better recognizing these opportunities for Morgan to learn to increase her flexibility. I think it's a benefit for Piper as well as she cannot get away with some of her two, almost three-year old behaviors just because we want to keep the peace. Christine said to expect it to get worse before it gets better, but if we are diligent we should see things get better after several weeks.

Please pray for us! :-)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Morgan's Sweet Teacher


This is Teacher Deanna. She was Morgan's lead teacher this last year as well as the summer school program. She'd hate it if she knew I was posting this picture. She wasn't feeling well that day, so she looks tired, but otherwise is just the cutest person!

Deanna truly cares about each child she works with. She is firm, but also very motivating for the kids. Morgan liked her a lot. As a parent, she was also great to work with and listened to all of our concerns as well as being open to suggestions we had. She also put up with my random emails and calls to school when I wanted to check in on how Morgan was doing or feeling.

She has younger twin brothers with severe autism, so obviously this inspired her desire to work with this population. It was such a blessing to be able to have her as Morgan's teacher this last year. We're sure we'll see her around school next year as she has promised to "stalk" Morgan in her new class and keep updated on how she's doing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Music Truck

We've been lying to our children for a few years. Really. On purpose.

During the summer we occasionally hear the fabled Ice Cream Truck on nearby streets. The girls will hear the lilting songs playing and will ask where it's coming from. David and I would look at each other and knowingly agree on our approach. He was the one who came up with the brilliant idea to call it the "Music Truck." He'd say something like, "Oh, its a truck that drives around playing music...isn't that cool?" The girls would smile and listen. We were lucky that it never actually came down our street, until two weeks ago.

David was outside playing with the girls one evening and I heard the melody of "Home on the Range" or whatever song they usually play. Then I thought "Uh oh", because the girls have never been outside when the truck came. At that point one of our neighbor's kids, an eight year old boy, came racing out of the house and down the street to flag the truck down. Well people...the jig was up. It was time for our girls to learn the truth.


David came in to get some cash...and admit defeat. Of course the girls were thrilled!! All the kids on our street came streaming out and that truck had a jackpot he never knew about. Funny though, he hasn't been back since, at least when we've been home. Spokane must be short on Ice Cream Trucks...he must have a lot of streets to cover.


The girls scored some cool missile pops and both of them ate every last bit. Morgan even exclaimed at one point, "The Music Truck has Ice Cream!" Hee, hee. I guess we'll have to start calling it the Ice Cream Truck now. At least now we know they don't come around often so we can feel free to let them have the treat when it happens. We were just in fear of having to disappoint them if we had to say no. Maybe next time I'll even have one too!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Advertising for Toddlers

I don't know who Apple is targeting...but it seems to be almost three year olds. While David was watching the Home Run Derby last night, Piper became enthralled with one of Apple's ads. When it was over she turned to me and said "I love iPad!"

Thanks Apple!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's all fun and games...

...until you run into your little sister with your new bike!



Piper's fine...just a few small scratches. Oops. But things we a little more successful later...


If you notice some odd behaviors or language in these videos, we are trying to help Morgan to learn to ride her bike using some RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) language. We're not great at it yet, but we are try to use much less "command" type language and a lot more non-verbal communication. This was our first try at this with the bike, so we found it was difficult to stay consistent when Morgan veered off course, or wouldn't stop...but we'll get there.

In the last video Morgan was upset because our neighbors just left to go out of town for a few days. She really wanted to play with her friend Mya. Our goal of this riding session was to get her to ride her bike from the sidewalk all the way across the street. This task was interrupted by her friend leaving. We wanted her to push through this upset state and complete the task (without sending her into a meltdown). One of the many goals of RDI is to help Morgan become more flexible and be able to regulate her emotions better. Also, note that she gets a little help along the way from Piper!

We thought it would be fun to show some progress of Morgan on her bike. We'll keep posting more as she gains confidence.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

One step forward and two steps back

Just when it seems Morgan makes some serious progress, we seem to get hit with a stumbling block. Morgan really has made some strides with her communication lately, but one specific issue keeps arising.

The last few months we've had trouble with Morgan tearing her books. This just boggles our minds because Morgan has always loved books. She loves to be read to and she likes to look at them on her own. With this tearing, she will pinch the bottom of a page with her fingers and tear upwards...every.single.page. We've continually told her this is not OK. A few books have not been salvageable. Some we've taped, but tonight took the cake.

We went to do story time and each girl chose a book. Piper chose Madeline, one of my favorites. As soon as I opened it, I knew we had a problem. At first I thought, oh, maybe it's just the title page, but no. Every page was torn. I got upset...not in a yelling way, but a desperate why-do-you-do-this-I-want-to-cry kind of way. Piper got very upset because I was upset. I then told Morgan it was time to get in bed, I turned out the light and left her room. As soon as I was done putting Piper to bed, I went back to Morgan's room.

I then pulled all the books from her shelf and started to go through them. Even books I had repaired were torn again. Then, she started handing me the books she had torn, even ones that I thought, at first, were OK. Even her storybook Bible. Ugh. There are probably ten of them.

When I ask her why, she really cannot answer me. I'm not sure she is understanding any of this at all. I ask her if she likes the sound it makes or how it feels when she tears it, she says yes. Then I asked her if she does it to make me angry...she says yes. I asked her if she does it to make Daddy angry, she said "No, he's not here." He's on a business trip tonight. It's sort of like talking to a wall.

I don't know what to do about this. The worse part is I worry that she has some cognitive issues that have not been addressed. Her teachers, therapists and RDI consultant seem to think she's at least of average intelligence and have not brought up any cognitive concerns. Still, something tells me there is something we are missing.

We are going to contact a few people to see if we can get some insight on this. I really hope we can get some good direction on it so she will stop this behavior.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RDI and Star Box


Last week we took a, somewhat impromptu, trip to the Tri-Cities to see our RDI Consultant, Christine. We had been on a bit of a "break" from our program when Christine had unexpected surgery. We kept our activities status quo for a bit and then got back in contact as she was feeling better.

Christine had planned on making a visit to our neck of the woods this time, but with some scheduling conflicts we decided a few days ahead of time to head down her way. Both Morgan and Piper LOVE visiting "the hotel" and sleeping in their peapods (mini tents). They were so excited to make the trip!

We have been in a phase of our program where Morgan, David and I were all assessed on our skills and current status of many things such as, our mental health, obstacles that may be in the way of making progress, as well as Morgan's areas of "deficit". I know that terms sounds odd, but this is something you hear a lot when kids with autism are evaluated. Common areas of deficit are social skills (can be a wide range), referencing, joint attention, etc. It is different for every kid. A bit of great news is that Christine didn't see any "outside" areas that needed to be addressed with additional therapies. Some kids need help from an Occupational Therapist or Speech Therapist for specific issues that can be obstacles to progress in RDI. Sometimes these things can show up along the way, but for new we are grateful to not have to consider this.

I also fully appreciate how this program really takes into consideration of the whole family, not just the child with autism. Since it is to be parent led, we need to be in a place where we are able to guide Morgan in the optimum way to help her make progress.

When we met with Christine she gave us a report that included her assessments in all these areas. We reviewed videos that had been previously recorded and discussed the positives and negatives. In the end we received our first three goals. We scheduled meetings through the end of July and are taking new steps forward. David and I have quite a bit of homework to do on our own in addition to working with Morgan. It's going to be busy summer in so many ways!

The picture above is on our scheduled stop at Starbucks on the way home from the Tri-Cities. Morgan refers to this lovely place as "Star Box." Usually the girls get a treat of pink donuts...but that day they didn't have them, so they chose to share a chocolate chunk cookie (see Piper's right hand). Happy girls, make happy car trips!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Promotion

Morgan has had a promotion, of sorts, for her preschool class next year! At the end of each school year the teachers get together to evaluate the progress and status of each student. It was previously thought that Morgan would stay with the same teachers for her integrated class as well as for her intervention class. Upon further discussion it has been decided that Morgan will have new teachers for both!

The teacher she had in her integrated class this year did not give a lot of time to the six students with IEPs, including Morgan. The lead teacher and aides from her intervention class were also involved in this class to keep the students on track and prompt them if needed in transitions and social situations. The teachers have decided that Morgan is ready for more independence and will do well in a class that will have less aide support. The new teacher for this class is more invested in the IEP students and can give her assistance as needed. There will also be aides in this class, but the lead AIM program teacher will not be available to be in this classroom as her teacher from this year.

They also made this decision based on the kids they have who are at a higher-functioning level socially. Morgan's intervention class currently will consist of herself and another little boy who joined her class recently. Oddly enough, this boy was in her first preschool class in Liberty Lake so she knows him already! He recently received an Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis, which is on the high end of the autism spectrum. It's so nice to hear that Morgan can be placed in a class with greater independence and they acknowledge that she is making progress with her social skills. Last year there were only two kids in her intervention class as well, but by Thanksgiving the class was full.

Her new classes will also be during the "afternoon" session which is from 11:15 am - 3:15 pm. This will require adjusting to a whole new schedule for our family. Previously with Piper in preschool next year for three mornings a week...I thought that I would get a little break while they were BOTH in school, but it is not to be. Instead I will be dropping Piper off at school, bringing Morgan home to meet the bus...then back to Piper's school to pick her up and then later in the afternoon, meeting Morgan's bus again. The positive side of it is that with Piper at school early I will get some good one on one time with Morgan to concentrate on our RDI goals...that did not exist previously as we always have Piper to contend with.

Overall we are so proud of what Morgan has accomplished this year in school and we loved the teachers and therapists we were able to work with! It is an amazing program and we are looking forward to getting to know our new team next year. Morgan does have five weeks of summer school with her current teachers...starting next week. It is a great bridge for the summer and retaining skills along the way.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Name Surprise

Morgan has been learning to write her name all school year. Each day she brings home a slip of paper where she has written her name over a light tracing of the letters the teacher has provided. At the beginning of the year her name was only slightly legible, but has improved vastly since. More recently she has been writing her name independently, as you see below. She has been doing this for a few months, so when she did this I did not take a picture of it on it's own. This particular day I randomly asked her if she could write Piper's name too...


Well, would you look at that!! She CAN write Piper's name! I was so surprised and proud of her. For a girl with challenges with her fine motor skills, I had no idea she could do this.


Here's my girl looking quite proud of herself. Sorry for the blurry pic...it was the only one where she didn't make her goofy smile.

Then, I decided to ask her if she could write my name, Mama. Well, of course she can! Look below the "Mo" in her name.

Finally, this one was more challenging for her. If you look just to the right of the tail of the "g" in her name, Morgan wrote "Daddy"...sort of. Close enough! What a superstar!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Piper's Sunglasses




Piper knows she's funny and clever. These pictures were taken over the last few months, you can also see evidence of the changing of our seasons. Both Piper and Morgan love the small collection of kids sunglasses we have and Piper likes to get creative with them. She actually asks me to pull over the car and take pictures of her now!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Creatures of Habit


Recently I have realized how much we are all creatures of habit. Morgan tends to do this in an obsessive way, but it is really not far off from what the rest of the family does. David likes to have his protein smoothies every morning and the girls help him make it the same way every day. I have my rituals in getting ready in the morning and preparing to go to bed at night. Being a "planner" by nature I have many routines and ways I like to plan out my days, weeks, etc. A little spontenaity is necessary too, but I definitely err towards the routine.

Yesterday was a perfect example of us being "creatures of habit." I decided spontaneously to take Piper to the mall in the morning. It was the first day in a while we didn't have any plans and I thought it might be fun to take her to the play area and then go "shopping." We also haven't been to the mall in quite a while, so it was a nice change of pace. When we go I always like to park in a certain area because of easy access to the escalators and play area. There is also a favorite coffee spot by this entrance, but since I had already had an iced coffe at home I wasn't planning on going there.

So...we went to the play area, then a ride on the kiddie ice cream truck. Then I coerced Piper into going for a "walk." She doesn't yet understand the concept of "shopping," but she might now after yesterday. I wanted to get a few hair accessories for Morgan. She recently has become more interested in (and tolerant to) wearing pretty things in her hair. I usually put her hair partially back with a ponytail holder, but lately she has allowed me to clip a pretty flower in it. She's worn one a few days to school and comes home still wearing it! So, I took Piper to Claire's and we had a fun time trying on hair accessories. She was surprisingly cooperative and even handed the sales associate our items to buy. It also helped that we bought some more "princess" stick-on earrings. She loves them and we recently ran out. I might have a little shopper on my hands!

On the way out of the mall I steered us back towards the exit close to our car. This also leads us back by the coffee place and when Piper spotted it, she pointed and said "Coffee and cookie, Mama!" Ahhh...she remembered the usual routine. She also remembered that sometimes that I would buy her a shortbread cookie when I got my coffee. She literally dragged me into the store. I'm surprised she didn't order the coffee herself! As soon as I did she pointed to the jar of cookies to make sure I got one and headed right to the spot we usually would sit. When I got the goodies and headed over to her I sat down across from her. She immediately pointed to the spot next to her and said "sit here Mama." I guess we know who was in charge at that moment! Though I wasn't intending on getting a coffee treat that day, it didn't take much for me to be persuaded by a cute little blond girl. Our routine won out that day, bit I didn't mind at all.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Morgan "isms"

Morgan's language takes leaps forward at times and at other times leaves us totally puzzled. We are grateful that she seems to be continually making progress, though not without her challenges. Many children with autism are non-verbal, so we feel very fortunate that Morgan communicates as well as she does. Here are a few anecdotes from the lest few days.

On Tuesdays our neighbor's daughter spends some time with us while her mom works. One of her first requests that morning was to watch Tinker Bell. She knows we have all the DVDs and looks forward to watching it at our house. This request came as I was getting Morgan ready to go meet to school bus. I decided to pop the DVD in so the "little" girls had something to watch while I finished with Morgan. As I put the disk in the DVD player the machine told me "disk is dirty". I was in a hurry, so I was annoyed with this. I pulled the disk out to clean it and Morgan came over to me. She put her hand on my shoulder and said "Oh Mama, I know it's frustrated." Of course, she meant "frustrating", but the fact that she was trying to actually console me was amazing! She's never said anything like this, so I was pretty shocked. David was still home at this point and we looked at each other, thinking "Did she really just say that?!" I gave her a hug and thanked her for trying to make me feel better.

The same night we were eating dinner and Morgan had finished her meal and was restless to get down. She absentmindedly started poking at the divider in the leaf table with her (metal) fork. We told her to stop and she told us "No, it's yummy!" Huh? She then tried to lick, or possibly chew on the table and we again told her to stop and that we don't bite the table. Annoyed she looked at David and said "No Daddy, it's yummy and I want to eat your chair, too!" Huh?! (again) Eat the chair? We suspect she was trying to talk back somehow, but the language she used really made no sense. On one hand it's good she is showing these developmentally appropriate reactions, but she struggles with being able to connect that emotion with appropriate language. Hey, one step at a time, right? In the meantime it makes for some funny commentary. Since then, David and I have been using the phrase "It's yummy, I want to eat your chair, too!" just for the funny factor.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Robot Doggie


Here's is our Piper and her friend "Robot Doggie." This is a cheap little pull toy I bought for Morgan ages ago when she began to walk. Morgan liked playing with it, but it went by the wayside with a bunch of other toys a while ago. In fact I tried to sell it to a consignment store and they rejected it on the basis that they had too many baby toys. I put the doggie and some other rejected toys in Morgan's closet with the thought in mind that if a friend with a baby comes over we'd have something for the baby to play with. I forgot about these toys until Piper found them. About a two weeks ago she appeared at bedtime with the doggie and said "Look, it's Robot Doggie!" Though, the way she pronounces it, it sounds more like "Robodoggie". So, that is it's name. We're not sure where this name comes from, but it makes sense as all the dog does is make a mechanical "arf" sound when you pull him by his leash (no batteries required either).


She loves to pull him around the house, feed him at meals and brush his teeth before bed. Even the first night we "met" him he had an unfortunate incident. Piper took him in the bathroom while Morgan was finishing her bath with David. She said "Uh oh, Robot Doggie's sick" and proceeded to lean him over the edge of the toilet, complete with barfing sounds. Morgan was so amused by this that she asks if Robot Doggie is sick almost every night. Most of the time Piper obliges and makes Robot Doggie "get sick" in the potty...and we all laugh. Hilarious.

Honestly Robot Doggie is currently getting a lot more love than any of the dolls/babies in our house. He sleeps in Piper's bed at night as well. We'll see how long the Robot Doggie obsession lasts, but in the meantime it's very entertaining.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Park Surprise

The area of Spokane Valley that we live in is known locally as "Greenacres". Yes, cue song from old TV show... it is a lot of old farm land. Some has been developed into small single-family homes, like ours, and some is still farmhouses on larger plots of land. When we first moved here we heard there was a group working together to build a neighborhood park. It was still in the funding/design stage. Last summer they had some of the roads around the designated plot of land repaved...but for some reason, besides the annoyance, I didn't give it much thought. I thought the potential park had gone by the wayside with the lovely economy.

Then, to our surprise, this weekend our neighbors told us the park was almost completed! What?! The plot of land happens to be off our main route home, and conveniently blocked from view by a few farmhouses. After church on Sunday we took a drive by and found this:


I can't even tell you how excited I am! My pictures do not do it justice at all and they are taken through a bunch of chain link fence as the park is not yet open.

There is a huge play structure (the barn), restrooms and a splash pad!!


View from the entrance, next to the restrooms. That guy in the foreground is "Ferdinand the Bull."


The lighting is all wrong, but on the post reads "Ferdinand's Farm." When I saw this I realized it is based on the book "The Story of Ferdinand." It is a book that is about a bull who does not want to fight in bull fights, he wants to smell the flowers. And, in the previous picture he is doing just that. We purchased this book for David's sister's kids for Christmas, but we don't have it ourselves. I think we need to find it soon and get the girls familiar before the park officially opens. So cute!


The farm play structure....there are cool "hay bales" on the other side to climb up. Morgan always loves a swirly slide!

And the best part...for Morgan....the swings! There is another small set with baby swings next to Ferdinand as well. So much fun!!

There is also a large plot of grassy field surround  the park, complete with a huge shelter for picnic tables as well as a disc golf course! We did this some when we lived in Eureka, so we're looking forward to getting our discs out soon! We are planning on spending a lot of time here this summer. It is just a bit over a mile from our house, so walkable....but we'll see how that goes when we have two tired girls wanting to get home after hours of playing in water, sand and climbing things. It is an exciting addition to our neighborhood, so I'm also hoping we'll meet more families who live close by.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Character

We have lots of names for our Piper girl... Biscuit, Miss Mess-a-mess, Baby, Pipie, the Piper Pooper...but lately she's just blossomed into what we can only call "a character."

She's basically confirming that she's definitely (so far) a "typical" child, known as "neuro-typical" or NT in the special needs world. But, for us she seems like she's just brilliant! We are amazed everyday at how she learns something new completely on her own or busts out with something amazing verbally.

As for the verbal dynamics, on Sunday we arrived at church and I took her to her Adventureland classroom. As we were getting close to our turn to check in she wanted me to put her down. As soon as I did this, she did a cute little "jig" and said "I so excited!!" Huh?! Cutest thing ever! Also, this coming from a kid who three months ago would cling to me terrified that I was leaving her in that class. I'd say she's adjusted well.

That night I was making dinner and accidentally splashed a bit of boiling water on my arm. I let out a yelp of some kind and a few seconds later she shows up in the doorway and says "What's wrong, Mama?!" I was able to explain that I was okay and she went back to playing.

We've also had several instances of times she will get a bmp or bruise, then she'll cry for a bit. Then, once she calms down some she says "I feel better."


Today I got her out of the car and set her down in the garage just as a FedEx truck was pulling out across the street. She kind of freaked out and as soon as I picked her up she said "I too little, I so scared!" The fact that she can express her feelings this way is invaluable! We are constantly amazed, and a lot relieved, that she is showing these skills.


Our girl is also a character because she is so creative. She has a sense of humor too! She was so proud of herself with these two pairs of sunglasses on. She laughed and laughed and I had to pull over the car to take a picture.


She has also blossomed with her imaginative play. She found this binky in a cabinet in her room and brought it and a blanket downstairs. She plopped herself down on the kitchen floor and said something like, "Look, I a baby! Waaaah Waaaah!" Incredible.

And, the best for last...this morning I was doing Morgan's hair and as soon as I was done Piper gave her a big hug and said "I love you Morgan!" So sweet!

But, don't be deceived, this character has her sassy, defiant side. More soon...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Our Dancing Girls

Gram and Grandpa B visited a week or so ago and Grandpa always takes great pictures. These are from the girls' dance classes. They look forward to Friday mornings all week long!


Morgan is practicing her "galloping." She's got this down pretty well. She is also working on her skipping, but really only uses her right leg for now. They also chasse, and tiptoe like ballerinas, with their arms over their heads...known as "sunshine arms."


I am not sure what Piper was doing at this point, but she looks so pretty! She's come a long way in her class and is participating for the majority of the class now. They allowed her to start early, but now that she is finally two and a half she is joining in more easily and following directions better. No wonder most teachers don't start kids in dance until two and a half or three years old?! Developmentally it makes sense.

Thanks Grandpa B!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sister Time

Morgan and Piper are currently playing in Piper's crib. I sent Morgan upstairs to "get" Piper when she woke up from her nap. When I got up there, Morgan had climbed into Piper's crib and was VERY proud of herself.

They are playing together very nicely. Every time I go in the room to check on them, Piper waves at me and says "Bye Mama!" until I leave.  Yay! Bonus blog time.

Piper has a stinky diaper though. I don't know how Morgan can stand that. Ick.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"21 Jump Street":an Autism Mom comments

Whoops! Sorry, my link no longer redirects to the article I wanted it to...but I came across a post from an "Autism Mom" blog I regularly read. She has some insightful things to say about it.

Please click here. Thanks.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Unbelievable

So many things to write about, so little time...but I just came across something that upsets me a great deal. Do people in Hollywood really have no clue?! Do they think making jokes at the expense of people with special needs is okay?! Unbelievable.

Check out this link and please...do NOT go see the movie "21 Jump Street."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

She's a Biscuit!

Piper, that is...and she's doing just fine! One of our nicknames for Piper is "The Biscuit." Long story...we called her this even since she was in utero and is still fits her somehow.

We had our follow-up meeting with the physical therapist on Thursday. Piper spent some time playing while the therapist ran through the remaining screening tools with me (social/emtional, cognitive and adaptive skills)...as well as testing her on a few items directly. All in all she's doing well! Later, the therapist told me she mentioned earlier in the day that she had the follow-up with Piper and the other therapists that met with us last week said "Oh that Piper? She's doing great!" So, this was even before she did the testing today.


That was so nice to hear as we have been through so much with Morgan. I think another reason I pushed to have this done was because Piper is the absolute youngest in her "pre-preschool" class. Her birthday is August 27, and our cut-off for K in Washington State is August 31. Sooo, that means we'll have to deal with the dreaded "do we hold her back?" question as we get closer, but we'll take it year by year. It is just hard to gauge how she is doing because all the kids in her class are older and showing so much more of their social skills.

The therapist did give us some activities and other recommendations of what we can do with her at home to be sure she is making progress in her gross motor development. She's also going to call us in about six weeks to see how she's doing.

Yay Piper!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Baby Stella Adventure

Morgan has shown very little interest in dolls. She has a few of them and puts them in a doll stroller here and there...but really, she doesn't do much with them expect remove their clothing. Poor naked dolls.

Piper has a doll named Baby Stella. I know there is another post in here somewhere about her. She is a super-cute doll with a soft body. My generous Aunt Berri bought it for her a few Christmases ago. Piper loves her Stella, but I wouldn't say she's overly attached to her. Lately she has been doing more imaginative play with her, putting her in her baby crib before bedtime and giving her kisses. Sometimes she does a shortened version of our bedtime routine which includes singing her some songs before she goes to bed. She puts her in the doll high chair and feeds her. There is a lot of diaper changing that goes on too.

In the last week or so, Morgan and Piper have been fighting over Baby Stella more. Morgan has decided that she likes to do a little pretend play too, probably inspired some by what Piper is doing. Sunday, I kind of had it with the arguments and doll tug-o-war, so I asked Morgan if she wanted a doll like Stella too. She said "yes." I showed her a picture of a "Baby Stella" that was almost like Piper's doll, but had a full head of dark hair and ponytails. She got a big smile on her face and said she wanted her.

So, that afternoon we headed to the only store in town that carries these dolls and had a little adventure at the mall at the same time. David had left town that morning for a business trip and I needed to keep the girls busy so this was a welcome opportunity. As soon as we got to the downtown mall we made a beeline for the toy store. Morgan didn't previously know this store was there. I don't usually buy toys at this store as I can buy them cheaper at other stores or on Amazon. It's where I go for ideas. Yes, we could have bought the new doll online, but I decided the experience was worth the extra money. I also wanted to see the doll in person, to know what we were getting.

As soon as we got to the doll aisle, Morgan spotted her. "There she is!" she said. I made sure she saw all the other options to be sure this was the one she wanted. She carefully looked at the dolls and the other "accessories". I asked her again if this was the one she wanted, she confirmed and we put her in our stroller to buy. No one was currently riding in it, so I figured the new doll could sit there for now. The girls checked out the other items in the store for a while and were surprisingly well behaved. Piper kept showing up with new toys to suggest...and I quietly put them back in their spots as she moved on. We did score a big container of fizzy, colored bath tablets. They LOVE these things and they'll last us a while. Finally, Morgan declared she had to go potty, so I took advantage of the situation and paid for our two items and hightailed it out of there.



A few shots at Auntie Anne's sharing a soft pretzel. Those things are big! And, since when did they cost $3.00?! We haven't been there in a while and I don't remember them being that expensive. No wonder we don't go out much.


Here's Morgan's new friend! Morgan and Piper both decided to walk instead of ride in the stroller, so "new" Stella got the prime spot to ride.


Here she is, out of her box and in Morgan's arms! Morgan kept saying all night "I LOVE my new doll!" and and think she said once "Thanks for my new doll!" Love her! Currently this doll is also named "Baby Stella," but we'll see if we can coax her into giving her a new name. Less confusion that way.

And not to leave out Piper and the original Baby Stella. I think she's got the idea that the new doll is Morgan's and not hers. She does take advantage of playing with her when Morgan's at school though.

Overall, time will tell if this resolves the "fighting over the doll" issue or if it opens a new can of worms. So far so good!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Piper's Developmental Screening - Part 1

So, I don't think I mentioned this here...but a few weeks ago I decided to schedule a developmental screening for Piper. Wondering if she was developing on track was making me nuts, so I thought the best thing to do about it was have some professionals help me determine where she is at. I went through all the protocol required to sign up with Early Intervention, as we did with Morgan, just in case Piper qualified for services. We finally went for the screening Tuesday morning.

I got up in the morning thinking, "Okay, good or bad, we're going to have all the info we need today." Well, not quite.


As usual, these things never get completed quickly and it's still more waiting for us. BUT...we did get some good information and good news, just not everything we wanted to know.

First off, as soon as we showed up and checked in...out of nowhere comes Morgan's old Speech Therapist. I can't remember if I posted about this, I think I did...but, this is the woman who just offhandedly stated, while walking out the door after an appointment, that she thought Morgan would be diagnosed with Asperger's or some other form of high-functioning autism. This was after we had been to one consultation where they said no autism. Of course, ultimately she was right, but it was brought up so nonchalantly like it was no big deal. I remember that feeling of my blood running cold and somehow knowing my life was changing forever...then she just left me there alone.

Anyway, she walks up to us in the waiting area, says hello and asks about Morgan. I went on to tell her she was doing well in school and then it dawned on me that she didn't know Morgan DID actually get a PDD diagnosis (this was after I mentioned it like she knew). The way she approached us, I though she was going to be one of Piper's screeners...but then she asked if I'd checked in and then disappeared into a back room never to be seen again. It was so strange. Then I got a little angry...it was like she showed up just to get the satisfaction that she was right about Morgan. And how the heck did she know we were there? I didn't see her talk with any other patients/clients, then she was gone.

So...back to Piper. After that therapist disappeared, the actual screening therapists came out and greeted us. We went back to a large room and they started running Piper through the usual paces, a lot of it familiar as we went through it with Morgan many times.

I was SO proud of Piper! She did better than I expected at following directions and listening to the therapists. I thought she might get shy or non-cooperative, but she got through it with only minor redirection.

In the end she was evaluated in the areas of Speech/Language, Physical Therapy (gross motor) and Occupational Therapy (fine motor/sensory). She scored slightly behind in OT, but still within the average range and the same was the case with PT. This surprised me as gross motor was an area of more concern for me. I was surprised that she didn't qualify for services. Go Piper! The Physical Therapist does want to do a follow up next week to go over some exercises we can do at home. That works for me.

As for Speech/Language she also scored within the average range and actually above it in expressive language. Wow! Here's the odd thing...they didn't fully complete the test. They had to decide to stop as our appointment time was ending. Piper wasn't getting enough questions/items wrong in a row to stop the test in the way it is structured (they have to get 5 or 6 in a row incorrect to stop the testing). Does that make sense? This only makes me nervous because Morgan always does this with this particular test. She can go on and on and complete questions/items much higher than her age because it only requires "static" answers that are easy for her (like identifying colors/shapes, pictures, etc.) To me, this means we could be concerned...or the reality might be that Piper is really just pretty smart. Of course, I hope he latter is the case.

So, they're scoring up their tests and I ask "What about the social/emotional, and adaptive skills tests"? They paused and said "Funny you should ask that..." They did not have a designated person to administer these tests at that time. I was quite annoyed because those are the areas that are crucial in knowing if Piper is doing okay. Morgan was/is obviously delayed in these areas.

So, when we have our follow-up with the PT next week, she will administer the social/emotional and adaptive skills screenings. More waiting. They did say from what they saw yesterday, their gut says Piper is doing just fine. That was nice to hear. It was especially nice to hear from the Speech Therapist that she thought Piper's language was developing typically and her usage of her language is as is should be. In comparison, Morgan was/is drastically different.

So, all in all it was good, but I'm still a little nervous about next week.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Rigidity

It just breaks my heart that Morgan goes through such anxiety from day to day. It is so hard for us to manage, and so many times there is nothing we can do about it.


We took the girls to the local "Jump and Bounce" today. They always have a great time there. Because of the holiday it was packed today and I'm sure both girls were completely over stimulated by the time we left.

When we got home for lunch, Morgan refused to eat any of the mac and cheese I made. She then choose to go right to "quiet time"...but once she was there she got upset again and wanted to come back to the kitchen to eat. By that time we had let Piper sit in Morgan's usual spot, which completely threw Morgan into a tizzy. Can we say "rigid"?! We finally got Piper to switch back to her own spot/seat (I know, so not fair), but once they were seated in the appropriate places they both melted down. Morgan could not calm herself, so we decided to just put her upstairs again for quiet time. Piper calmed down pretty easily and ate a little...then went down for her nap. Morgan is still upset and crying in her room. At this point we just have to leave her there. There is no reasoning with a child with autism. Either she'll finally calm down or cry herself to sleep.

There are a lot of things we are doing with/for Morgan to help reduce her anxiety/rigidity and make her more flexible, but as with all therapies, they take time. We are barely at the beginning of our marathon.

Let me give you another example of what we see often. The other day Piper wanted to play with the cookies and cakes in our little kitchen play set. Morgan came to join us. We had a fun little game with the cookies, but when Piper went to get the cake all hell broke loose. When we usually play this game we sing Happy Birthday together and blow out the candles, then remove the candles from the cake and cut pieces for us to pretend to eat. This time Piper, being the flexible kid she is, decided to just bring the cake over to us, leaving behind the plate and wooden box we keep it in. Morgan became upset, so I grabbed the plate as I thought that would help. Apparently that wasn't good enough, we needed the box too. I kept telling her it was okay if the cake was on the plate without the box, but that did no good. With Morgan, we have to play the game exactly the same way each time, or she loses it.

There is no flexibility for our girl in her play, no creativity, no real "pretend." Same means "good" to Morgan. If she knows how it goes, she likes it. Anything new or different thrown in can cause total meltdown. Occasionally I throw something in that goes over OK, but I find I have to build it up before I actually do it, so she has some warning. This is good, but then the next time we play if I don't do the "new" thing the same way she freaks out. She locks in on anything she likes and can't venture outside it. When I play with her alone we can sometimes manage these issues so we can still have fun. When she plays with Piper it is more difficult because Piper has no clue what Morgans needs or what her issues are in this area. Unfortunately she is starting to learn this and either will accommodate her or just not want to play with her. Truthfully, it's not a lot of fun to play with Morgan. Piper is taking a jump forward in her creative play and I'm really enjoying it, but when Morgan wants to jump in...total buzzkill.

Last example of rigidity. This one is food related. I'm sure I've mentioned Morgan's beloved "dinosaur" sandwich. If not, it is a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into two dinosaur shapes with a special bread cutter. She has a particular technique to eat this. She pulls the bread apart, eating the honey side first. While she eats the honey side, she holds the PB side in the other hand. I know...so odd. Lately we have had a few bread issues, such as one time the head just fell off the dinosuar and another time the bread was had some odd creases in it. Wouldn't most kids think that he head falling off was just hilarious?! When this happens Morgan demands it be fixed, which generally is impossible. Or, she asks for a new one. We accommodated this for a while, but lately have just told her if there's something wrong with it, don't eat it, and we're not making a new one. Depending on how hungry she is determines whether she'll have a meltdown or just not eat the offending sandwich.

This is exhausting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Our Valentine's Day didn't start off so sweet. Piper woke up looking like death-warmed-over and proceeded to throw up and dry heave several times throughout the next hour or two. Morgan's fever was back and she was cranky as a result. I quietly put away the gifts and candy and decided to wait to see how the day progressed. I had a picture of Piper sleeping on the couch, but it seems to have disappeared from my phone. Morgan was looking at them later and may have accidentally deleted it. Oops.

They did feel better later in the day, especially after their afternoon nap. We made a trip to Morgan's school for her parent/teacher conference (more on that in a separate post) and though they were still not themselves, I think they were glad to get out of the house.

Dinnertime became our "Valentine's Day" and they were thrilled with their goodies! They also had a few sweet treats without any incidents. Last year, Morgan managed to eat treats all day long (cinnamon rolls for breakfast, cupcakes at school and a lot of treats in between), and ended up getting sick at bedtime. So glad we avoided that this year!


Morgan and Piper love their Tinker Bell and Princess "purses"! Morgan requested I take this picture as she balanced it on her head.


We took advantage of the dollar bins at Target and picked up these cute shades. Piper wears them a lot around the house and Morgan is requesting to go "to the beach," which means the cool water park we discovered last year. I had to be the bad guy and tell her it's closed until summertime. Bummer.

It looks as though both girls are on the mend and we hope we can avoid more sickness for a while, if we're lucky.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pipey

Morgan has decided that Piper's name is now "Pipey" (or "Pipie"?). The majority of the time she calls her by this new name. At first I thought this sounded really odd, but it's grown on me. I don't plan on calling her "Pipey", but it sounds pretty cute coming from her sister.

Morgan tells us directly, "she is not Piper, she is "Pipey" She has even gone as far as pointing out Piper's name letters in her bedroom, telling us to take down the "R". I've asked, "How do you spell it?" She says it's "P-I-P-E." Explaining that this, in fact spells "pipe", not "Pipey" is totally lost on her. She insists this is how it is spelled.

We'll see what this morphs into next week...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tweaked

I "tweaked" my back on Sunday. We were at the church playground with the girls after the service. Piper insisted on going on the "big" swings. The surface of the playground is bark and the swings have huge "pits' under them from the kids dragging their feet as they swing. I pushed Piper for a while and suddenly she started to let go. I stopped her real quick and went to pull her off and "tweak!", I had a big pain and spasm in my lower back. In fact it was so low, I'd say it was around my tail bone/hip area. I manged to get Piper off the swing, then realized I couldn't move without a lot of pain.

David was watching Morgan on the slide and started shouting to me when he noticed Piper run right in front of the kids at the base of the slide. I motioned him to come to me and told him I needed help getting out of the "pit." He then went into "super-dad/husband" mode and took care of the girls while I tried to get a sense of the injury. All sorts of things went through my head as I realized I couldn't pick up the girls, much less bend over at all. Ugh. It was not a good feeling.

Well, to make a long story short, it is much better now. I spent some of that day resting and lying on a heating pad. A little ibuprofen worked wonders, so we were still able to have some friends over for the Super Bowl. I took the day off of working out on Monday, but was able to resume our P90X program, albeit modified a bit, this morning. I am still sore and don't know when I'll be 100%, but for now I'm happy it's not worse.

This reminds me of how quickly things can change, for the better or worse. All we can do is be thankful for all we are blessed with and do our best each day.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Spa at the Allendorf's



Who knew Morgan would be into this? I sat down in the afternoon yesterday to start the process of doing a pedicure...for myself. Usually I do this after the girls go to bed, but this time I thought "Why not? I'll see what they do."

Well, Morgan was fascinated! Really, they both were...but Piper just wanted to splash around in the foot bath with her hands. Mmmm...not so much. I asked Morgan if she wanted to paint her toes and she said "Yes! I want purple toes!" She pestered me so much I cut my pedicure short (before the polish part). As you can see from the photo I modified things with a kid-sized stool, but she stayed there so patiently. She even liked the vibrating/massaging part of the foot bath. (This, coming from a kid that ran screaming from the spinning Dora toothbrush the other day. I thought it would be fun...no dice.) She let me trim her nails, but was not so keen on any other "treatments". Of course, she has beautiful, non-callused girl feet, so there was really nothing else I needed to do. She did really well with the polish part too, occupying herself with the TV while I blew on her toes. I had to do a few repairs to some smudges, but nothing too major.


Here's the result! Pretty purple toes! She really likes them. I can see this being a regular thing for me and my girl. As for Piper...I gave her one try on the polish. She did not want anything to do with putting her feet in the foot bath. The polish part was a disaster as she didn't get the concept of having to wait for them to dry. Oh well, we'll try again in a while.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Morgan Tidbits

A few things from the past few days. David is at his annual trade show in Las Vegas and we are missing him. Morgan loves it when Daddy gets her up in the morning and is woefully disappointed when I've been showing up in her room each day. That's alright. There are plenty of other things she prefers that Mama does.

On Monday night I was talking with David on the phone as I was putting the girls' dinner together. I told them dinner was ready and to come sit down. Then I watched, mesmerized as Morgan went to the refrigerator, opened the door and pulled out the milk jug. Keep in mind, she can only do this when there is not a lot of milk in it...way too heavy otherwise. Then, she put it on the counter and pulled a stool up to it. She then got on the stool chose two glasses from the drying rack and set them side-by-side on the counter. Still amazed, I watched her open the milk and pour an equal amount of milk into each glass (basically using up what was left in the jug. Wow. She has never done this before, nor did I know she could if she wanted to. Well, I knew she could, but I'd never tested out the theory. She was so proud of herself and praised her and gave her big hugs. I had been giving David the play-by-play, so he praised her via speakerphone. I've got to figure out a way to put the milk in a smaller container so she can do this whenever she wants!

Morgan's teacher called today during school time. At first I was worried something was wrong, but she reassured me that Morgan was fine. She usually emails me information or interesting things Morgan does. Today they were working on "why" questions. They would give specific examples like "Why do we wear a jacket?" Answer, "Because it's cold outside." Or, "Why do we eat our hot dogs?"..."Because we're hungry." Her teacher decided to have one of the assistants ask Morgan the question again about the hot dog. She asked "Morgan, why did you eat your hot dog?" She had asked it a little differently so they wondered how she'd answer. Morgan answered, "Because I wanted a cookie." Ha ha! This is great because she wasn't just memorizing a rote answer, she was thinking about it and answering spontaneously! This is also so Morgan...she has some things she'll eat no matter what, but some foods she'll eat if she knows she'll get a treat. This was apparently one of those!

Finally, during the NFC finals on Sunday David was really fired up about the 49ers. He always is, but with the Super Bowl at stake he was even more passionate. Morgan (and Piper too), get a little upset when David yells at the TV, players, refs, etc. even if it's something good. Morgan was trying to get David's attention for something and suddenly busted out "SERIOUSLY!!!" She had the total sarcastic inflection too. She knew she was saying something funny because she immediately cracked herself up. Maybe we have a little comedic personality coming through?!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Anticipating the DSM-V

This recent New York Times article, states that the upcoming revised diagnostic criteria for autism will exclude many of those previously diagnosed on the high end of the spectrum. There were many comments on it on network news shows this morning, one of which I caught about half of as I turned on NBC this morning. I went online to view it in it's entirety and found this original article.

I knew the highly-anticipated DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistic Manual, Version V) was due to be released this year, but I did not know the time frame. It is easy to get up in arms and speculate ahead of time, but the more I read about it, I don't have many concerns...at least for our Morgan.

Though she has an official diagnosis of PDD-NOS, I think she falls pretty solidly on the spectrum, though possibly on the higher end. I think she received this diagnosis due to the fact that she did not have certain repetitive behaviors that are required for classic autism. As she has gotten older, I know some of those behaviors are there, but they are not as obvious as they could be in other cases. No, she does not constantly flap her hands or spin in circles...but there are other things she does repetitively or as a so-called "self-stimulatory" behavior that would qualify. It was just not seen that day by the professionals that diagnosed her. There are also so many traits she has and the specific way that her mind/brain works that fits the autism "mold." Also, as children get older, they tend to show traits more clearly...that is the reason that some professionals will not officially diagnose before a certain age (per their discretion). This is especially true for those children on the higher end of the spectrum as the signs of the disorder may not be obvious until later.

At this point I'm going to hope that the new criteria will simplify the diagnosis process and make it easier for professionals to decide who does and doesn't fall on the spectrum. I suppose this means I am cautiously optimistic. The criteria will not be fully released until late Fall, so we have much more time to anticipate this event. I also agree that folding Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS into the overall Autism Spectrum Disorder is a good call as it reduces a lot of confusion.

I think it is also important to emphasize the last part of the NYT article, in that in testing the new DSM, they are using data from almost 20 years ago. There is so much more awareness and knowledge at this point that when current professionals use the new criteria, the statistics will probably look different. I'm willing to bet that the 85 percent in the area of PDD-NOS is much lower, meaning more of these children with this previous diagnosis will remain on the spectrum.

Aside from this, my biggest concern is the fact that the school systems struggle to meet the needs of those who do qualify. Even with less children meeting the criteria, many school systems/districts still work more to resist services than provide them. We've only encountered this in a minor way here (thank goodness), but I know there are many districts who don't have near the programs that ours does. But...I could go on and on about this.

Well, I will a bit more. In thinking more about those children who may no longer qualify for services with an autism diagnosis, there needs to be acknowledgement and previsions made, in some way, for their differences in learning styles. These kids may no longer fall on the spectrum, but that doesn't mean they will be successful in the classroom or in life. There is something that is slightly "off" from what we call "typical," that is why they were put through some sort of diagnostic process in the first place. As an example, though not associated with the autism spectrum, I have a friend who has a learning disorder involving reading comprehension. She struggled in school, but accommodations were made to assist her, such as giving her extra time on tests and use of audio tapes of her textbooks. Though she had many challenges, she now has a Masters degree in Speech and Language Pathology. This is where I hope these children who are no longer "on Spectrum" will still be allowed accommodations per their specific need. They will not be left to their own devices, but set up to succeed. So many classrooms are set up for a "typical" learning model which not all children will succeed under. It's not that these children need a different classroom setting, but they may need some extra attention or assistance in the class they are in. Of course, my kids are not yet in this type of class setting yet, so I understand I may be somewhat ignorant in this area (I do not want to make assumptions, as this may be the way many districts work with kids from Kindergarten on up). I'm just thinking of those kids that fall in the grey area of this new diagnostic model. Though the new model may be simplified, some children will be at risk of falling through the cracks.

I'm sure there will be much more to say as we get closer to the official release of this revised diagnostic model.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A Daddy Portrait, by Morgan



Or not so wordless...notice watching the TV with phone in hand? Watching football and tracking fantasy scores?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Random Dr. Visit


Morgan stayed home with a cold for a few days last week. About that time, or a bit later, she started to do some odd things pertaining to her potty habits. She would have to go pee several times in a row. A few occasions she would pee a little in her panties, which threw her into a tizzy and she'd have to change her panties immediately. Finally on Sunday it dawned on me that this may be something we need to see the Dr. about. A possible UTI (Urinary Tract Infection, I know...gross)? This is something we'd never dealt with before and I haven't experienced it much myself. In fact besides a few colds, Morgan has not had any illnesses/issues that required medication since she was six months old. Pretty good, in my opinion.

With Morgan's autism we struggle with communication over little and big things. I asked her this weekend if it hurt when she went potty and she said "Sure!" in her silly way where I don't know if she really means "yes" or if she's just agreeing with me because she feels like it. She has never complained of pain or anything bothering her (though we've noticed her adjusting her pants/panties a lot).

So...I called the nurse at the pediatrician's office and she said to come in. I gave Morgan lots of liquids to be sure we'd get a good sample and she did manage not to freak out when they had her pee in the "hat." I do think she had to go so bad by that point it didn't really matter. When we saw the Dr., there were no other issues (as possible from her cold), but the preliminary test did say she had a UTI. It made sense when they said how this happens...it's sometimes due to basic anatomy and not wiping well. Morgan has been wanting to wipe herself lately and I admit to not being as diligent about it. Ooops. So, off we went to get our antibiotic and she'll hopefully be feeling better soon. She's back at school today and besides a few extra trips to the bathroom, her teacher said she's doing great.

The picture above is while we were waiting for the Dr. This is a brand new office that opened the same morning, so I figured "how dirty could the floor be?!" They were playing "Night-night" and insisted their coats were blankets. Hey, we had to wait forever for the Dr. and they were occupied!

Lastly...so odd. Morgan was unusually affectionate with the Dr., randomly giving him hugs and sort of "pawing" at him. I think he was a little thrown off by it too. She usually keeps her distance. I think the Berenstain Bears and the "Visit to the Doctor" book has helped tremendously with any fears of doctor visits. She even said "Just like Dr. Grizzly" when the Dr. was checking her ears. Good girl!