Thursday, March 15, 2012

10 years of Denver

Today, my son is 10 years old. I'm taking this moment to reflect on how far he has come in such a short time. I've often referred to him as my little hero and you are about to read why.

Denver has Asperger's (now classified as "Autism") with hyperactive tendencies, social difficulties and sensory issues. Despite his challenges he has always met them head on (sometimes literally). These are some of the greatest memories and achievements as they come to my mind today.

-Where's my buddy?: This was his favorite toddler game. When he started to talk (as he did early on) I would come to get him out of his crib, look around the room, and ask, "Where's my buddy?". He would pipe up all bright smiles, "Here I am!"

-Premature: He was born almost three months premature at 2lbs. Still he came out screaming and only had to be on oxygen once for less than a day. He gained weight quickly and showed us he was ready to be in our big world.

-He learned to crawl and walk early.

-Hydrocephalus: It was mild and self corrected before he was four.

-He had obsessive organization of objects early as well. If something were moved it would upset him greatly.

-Poopie Picasso: Dirty diapers would get smeared on walls thanks to texture sensory issues. If there's any phase I'm truly thankful to have survived, it's this one. As a toddler he had to be put in footie jammies with several safety pins to try and block the zipper. He still got through them sometimes (little escape artist). I can't recall how many times I had to scrub his bedroom walls.

-No boundaries: Nothing stopped him if he wanted something. I remember mornings getting up and finding the contents of the refrigerator all over the floor, pet rats set loose and all during ages of 2 and 3. I once found him on top of the refrigerator eating Cheerios. We also got up to find him sitting in our 30 gallon aquarium with the four pet rats we had (and the aquarium was up on a high stand). He climbed chairs for that trick. He also took apart all manner of "childproof" doorknobs or latches.

-No pain: He developed a sense of pain late. He broke his toe by snagging it in a bit of carpet and falling. We didn't know it was broken until we saw it swell up and turn purple. He also took to taking a running start and slamming his head into his (thankfully hollow) bedroom door. He succeeded in making many holes in that door and one wall.

-Pain: When he did develop pain sensory he explored it in odd ways. His mother sat on a hornet on the couch and it stung her. Seeing what happened as she jumped up and yelled, Denver promptly moved over and plopped down on the hornet himself. The most notable accident that he didn't intend was jumping off his bed into a pile of blankets. In the pile was a die cast airplane that stabbed into his foot. He had to go to the ER for that one.

-Head banging heartache: He had fits as a toddler where nothing could console him. He would bang his head furiously on the floor and have to be held. While being held he would bite and scratch in his blind fury. The only way to calm  him was to cover him with a blanket. I'll never forget how he looked at me one day as I held him and said, "Daddy, why can't I stop?" He had to start wearing a helmet and did so for a full year (at least).

-Potty training: Despite our best efforts, he didn't potty train until Kindergarten when he saw other children using the potty. Just after that we moved to Wisconsin.

-Kindergarten: He had to learn not to bite other children or hit them when angry. We had his diagnosis at 3 years old so his teacher and the school was fully informed. His first school in Lincoln, intended to put him the "behavioral" room and keep him there. His school in Wisconsin kep him in mainstream class. His new school had its own autism library but we would still see difficulties.

-1st Grade: He had to start medication due to uncontrollable outbursts in class. He had a fixation on explosions. He would run up to other children, wave his fingers in their faces and yell "BOOM". They started working with him on social skills and the lunchroom (very loud in lunchroom). His first grade teacher told me he couldn't learn the material and asked if he should be institutionalized. Denver showed her differently by the end of the year. He could literally read words backwards and upside down. He had a classroom aide as well.

-Death of a friend: It was hard for him to understand when we returned to Lincoln a few months after moving to Sheboygan for my Godson's funeral. He loved Zach and the loss hit him hard. He still talks about Zach being his guardian angel.

-Medication Revelation: After being on his medications for a while, he came up to me unexptected and said, "Dad, I can think!" He showed me his home workbook for math, "I can do this!" He was honestly excited.

-Divorce: He went through seeing a his mother deal with illness and our divorce. It was hard on him and we alsoo moved to a new apartment. Because Sheboygan had open choice in schools, I chose to help him by keeping him in the same school so he had something familiar to work with for the year.

-2nd Grade: His teacher was former behavioral education and knew autism. By the end of the year, she confided that Denver had taught her things as much as she taught him. Difficulties in behavior and med alterations happened through the year. We faced challenges when the behavioral teacher asked if he should be institutionalized and voiced concerns about my being a single parent or writing blogs about my child. Though they still worked very well with him all year and he had lots of support; when the same teacher and principal asked that I take him to a different school, I decided it best to do so.

-Death in the family: My father died and we went to his funeral in New York State. Denver learned that he actually likes motorcycles. He gave himself blisters on a small bicycle by pretending to rev like he saw the Patriot Guard doing.

-3rd Grade: Braving a new school and taking a schoolbus. The year went well. He had trouble with respecting teachers and swearing in class. This took the year and a lot of coaching to teach through. He had a great year with very understanding teachers and support.

-Death in the family: His grandmother on his mother's side passed away.

-Big Move: After meeting my wife, Lisa and dating we moved to Louisiana. This was a major adventure for Denver, riding it the big truck so very far.

And now he's almost through 4th grade and about to take the LEAP test. He's in the top of his class for spelling and invited to the school spelling bee. We are very hopeful for him and he has come such a long way and through so very much. Happy birthday to my little hero.


sally said...

David, I think you have done a great job with your son. It is quite challenge that you have and will have for some time.

Happy Birthday Denver.

DJ Wilde said...

Thank you Sally :D