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 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 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'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! 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!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Plateaus and Connections

Sometimes I think there is a bit of a pattern to Morgan's development. It is possible that most kids develop this way, but I'm not sure. Piper may more of a sure and steady girl, taking a gradual approach, but Morgan is a bit more complicated. But, how can we expect anything different from her?

Currently, I think Morgan is in a "plateau" stage at the moment. In this stage, in the past, she sort of levels off for a while before she makes a big jump forward. Preceding the jump is usually what I call a "crisis of frustration" phase where we seem to struggle more with communication and see more outbursts and tantrums. I know we are not there right now, though she has her moments, so now is the plateau.

During last summer she had a huge jump forward in her expressive language and once she started school in the fall, she took another leap. She has much more spontaneous language, less scripted, though some is still there. I find she makes these leaps as schedules/routines change, as this is where she is challenged the most. She likes her routine and fights to stay in it...but that is not life and she is forced to make changes, thus she takes jumps forward, whether she is willing to or not. Thank goodness!

Now we are back in the school year as our winter break is done. Maybe we'll see another jump forward soon? Dare we say there is a "pattern"? Once we think we figure something out, it changes again.

We are taking steps forward in our RDI program as well. In just the last week I have worked very hard with Morgan to incorporate techniques and "activities" into our routine. Though it is hard work to keep her engaged, when we do it there are great rewards. I must admit, that at times I have a hard time "connecting" with my girl. She is high-functioning enough that she never completely retreats into her own world, but she is satisfied with more playing on her own and loves to watch her favorite TV shows (again and again). Since I have been working with her more consistently I have felt more "connection" with her. When we are in the midst of what we call our "projects" she often will stop to give me a hug or kiss. I'm sure she feels much more connection with me as well. Some of this is due to the one-on-one attention she gets and I am down on her level...but some of it is due to the strategies of helping her to become more dynamic in her communication.

With RDI we try our best to use more "dynamic" communication with her. We avoid questions and commands. These things require rote answers, not forcing her to think and make more dynamic pathways in her brain. We use "experience-sharing" language, talking in detail about what we are doing and seeing, whether we are sorting laundry or putting away the dishes. We also work side-by-side in a way that we are dependent on each other, no one working completely independently. It is truly what the name is "relationship development." We are still at the beginning of this journey, but I am thrilled with the progress so far.

I'm off to work with Morgan some more and hopefully lots more hugs and kisses along the way!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Car Wash

Morgan and Piper have a love/hate relationship with the car wash. Basically this means Morgan loves it and Piper hates it.

It had been quite a while since our last trip to the car wash. It had been snowy and slushy and the car was filthy! The girls would brush up against the doors getting in and out and their jackets were a mess. I hate spending the money on it, but there is no way I'm washing my car in the driveway in a Spokane winter. It had to be done. Morgan was so excited when she heard where we were going in. She'd say "We're going to give the car a bath!" Piper was unaffected until we made the turn to the entrance and she heard the roar of the machinery. She suddenly panicked and started pointing in the opposite direction saying "Go that way, go that way!" I kept telling her it would be fun. She started whimpering as we got closer. Morgan just got more excited!

We managed to avoid a major meltdown. I carefully explained as the car maneuvered through, that it was getting rinsed and then the soap was coming (just like washing her hands), then scrub scrub scrub, rinse and dry. Finally at the end I asked them to look for the yellow light to change to green which meant it was all done.

As we exited the car wash and made the turn onto the street Morgan said "Yay, we did it!" and Piper said almost simultaneously "Whew! We made it!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Bus - A Small Victory

So...we are still working on the "bus coming to our house" issue, but we won a different small victory regarding Morgan's transportation to school. Right after Thanksgiving her morning pick-up time changed to 8:07 am. Yes, almost an hour and half before school starts. Too long for a little girl on any bus, much less a special ed bus.

Yesterday, when the bus picked her up, the driver mentioned that starting on Monday, she would be put on a different bus. She did not have the details, but she seemed slightly surprised that this was happening. "But, she does so well?!" she asked. Yes, she tolerates the ride, but that doesn't mean she should be forced to do it. Morgan does do fine once she's on the bus, but mornings are hard for us in general. With a shorter bus ride, it opens up a time for us to be less rushed and less tantrums happen. We also are afraid that, like her parents, Morgan is not a morning person. It's hard to get her up and focused.

We are hoping for an 8:30 or later pick-up time. Wish us luck as we hear the details!