Friday, June 25, 2010

Autism and potty training

Potty training for a sensory affected child can be a daunting task. It's frustrating to the parents too. I've read about children who don't manage it until as far as 18 years old. Most that I've read about are around 9 or 10.

What is it that causes potty training to be so difficult?

One theory is that the sensation of the open space of the bowl under them is disconcerting. They may not feel stable or safe sitting on the bowl. That could even take effect for child size potty chairs.

The change of not having the sensation of a soiled diaper may even have a little to do with it. Consider that all they've known up to this point is what if feels like to have the duty done next to their skin. The new effects can be disconcerting. Hey, it's only a theory.

What's really important to know (mostly for the high functioning with autism such as Asperger's) is that it's not impossible. Potty training can be done. It will take more dedication and perhaps longer than a typical child, but can be done.

Things that will help:

There are training programs geared for autism that you can find by internet search. Here are just a few sites to check out:

Seeing other kids the same age can inspire a child to do the same as they do. With all the attempts and programs used with my own son, it was seeing other five and six year olds use the potty that fixed the situation forever.

Use props, videos, toys and books. Read books on potty, watch videos, and get a baby doll that wets itself for demonstration.

Reinforce by pointing out that no one else in the house does the duty in their pants.

Consistency and repetition are key!

So, if you are looking at potty training, collect yourself and arsenal of information and tools and above all, don't give up!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Autism and medical marijuana?

I've been building up to this one for some time now. I've seen blogs and even a news report on the subject and I've been asked my own opinion on it. It's taken me this long to really look and form this opinion too. And that's just what this is, an opinion. You're welcome to form your own.

First of all I think you should check out this broadcast from ABC news:

And you might want to look at this too:

So, what do you think? I think there should definitely be more research on the subject.

I can understand the argument that people are getting their kids "stoned" but how much does it take to truly have that "stoned" effect? Doesn't the amount they are given have some bearing on this? Note in the second video how he's only giving his son a "pinch" of the stuff. Clearly it's not being "abused" is it?

No, I don't know that I would give my son marijuana with his current condition. But if I was in these parents position? I can't say I wouldn't consider it. My son's meds are working for him, for now.

And what about other severe psychiatric rage inducing conditions? Could small amounts of clinically measured MJ help them? Well, I hope they do the research because they really could be on to something.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Autism and teaching hygiene

When it comes to being an autistic teen to adult, I've heard hygiene become a significant complaint. For that matter I've met several teens with autism who need more practice. Why does this happen?

Hygiene of this kind has to be ingrained in routine (note that word!) at early teen years. Remember with autism it's ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE. Since this is a change and a big change, don't expect this to go easily. Expect it to be a pain in the neck instead. Here's an approach I suggest.

Give details. We work best with details on anything. Explain to your child how they're body is changing at this special time in their lives. They're body is going to start creating odors through sweat that others will find offensive. Explain how those odors will affect other people. Use this to show how important it is to be clean.

Taking baths is taught from early childhood and my son loves his bathes (lucky me!) but I still have trouble getting him to move that washcloth over his body. He has this idea that sitting in the water is enough. It's going to take applied practice to fix this routine because he's old enough that I won't do it for him anymore.

The biggest changes are use of things like deodorant. This can get tricky because of our sensory issues. Think about this; some deodorants can irritate our skin or leave a residue that we can feel like sticky syrup under our armpits. Then there's the smell. We may not care for the odors that the perfume creates. So you really can't just go out and grab one off the store shelf and expect us to use it. My suggestion? Get your child involved in choosing their deodorant. Again, apply details as to why it's important.

Consider this for the kind of soap, toothpaste and shampoos you expect him or her to use too. Sensory issues change with age and will affect all these areas. Changes in hormones also affect sensory issues so be prepared for that idea too. Hopefully this blog gives you some food for thought on hygiene in our teens with autism. If it's not made a routine, it won't happen and will carry into adulthood. Yes, there will be resistance. Make sure they understand, no matter how busy life gets, they must always take time for their hygiene.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

18 year old with autism tasered at Tybee Island

I've been reading up on the teen on Tybee Island who was tasered and the heated debates on the issue. I've read over the incident reports that you can find online by googling “Tybee Island taser teen” and other news reports. I have to say, it doesn't look good for the the Tybee Island police. Let's take a look at a couple if the issues at hand.

The report states that he became combative and flailed his arms. A struggle ensued and one of the officers used the taser to subdue him. The first issue I have with this is the witness account that says none of the flailing or such occurred. That says they grabbed him and took him down without him trying to walk away or any such behavior. I'm sure they could say that person just doesn't like cops, but it doesn't matter. One of the greatest risks you face as an officer (that isn't life threatening) is the scrutiny of the public eye.

Drinking or acting drunk: They asked him if he had been drinking. They say he answered in the affirmative. Well, think about this; autistics are highly literal people. I wonder if they really used the word “alcohol” in that question, because if they didn't he could have taken that to mean anything.

“Have you been drinking?”
“Yes, I had some water and a soda.”

That makes “yes” a truthful answer, but not for alcohol. As for his behavior; I'm sure he was acting strangely. He had lots of sensory input to deal with from the loud crowds and activity. While they said they had no way of knowing he had autism or a heart condition, there are standard methods of finding out if a person has been drinking alcohol. Did he smell like alcohol? Did they try a breathalyzer? Did they even offer that as an option? Past that, all his behaviors fit his autism.

Blaming: in their carefully worded apology and statements they do a lot of blaming. Here's some of the things they blame (past his own supposed behavior) for the incident:

1: He's big: Yes, he stood taller than both officers. So what? Are we saying the officers are easily intimidated by big people? You're supposed to be trained for dealing with people of all sizes.

2: The environment: So there were lots of people partying around the place? Again, so what? Did they all break out into a fight? Was there a riot? No? Then what did they have to do with it? You can't blame the scene for the event with a single person. Just because you are going to deal with a lot of drunks to night doesn't mean you should have an itchy trigger finger or that everyone will be drunk (even if they act like it).

3: Officer's may have to a make split second decisions: Yes, that's true. But I'm having a hard time seeing just where this “split second” issue occurred. One comment on the facebook page states that officers can do this if they are in danger of their lives. I can accept just “in danger” but I don't see it. How did he endanger anyone? Did he hit them? Did he even push them? Or did he, as the report says, just try to walk away? Walking away is not a threat. And the witness says that didn't even happen. Was it necessary to even grab him? I don't think it was. Split second decision? Not buying it. Two trained men on one (even if large) man and the report just doesn't show the need of that kind of force. It doesn't show the “split second” need.

4: He shouldn't have been left alone: Maybe not, but what did he do wrong? Was he hurting anyone? Was he messing with anyone or anything in any way? Or did he just seem off and awkward? Was in endangering anyone to include himself? Questionable I can understand, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't have been left alone. It also doesn't excuse what happened in the slightest. People who's disabilities could cause them to hurt themselves or others are the ones who shouldn't be left alone. The report shows no reason that this man was a danger to anyone. He wasn't in danger of wandering away or getting lost. He wasn't hurting anyone. He wasn't even interfering with anyone. He just paced and seemed “intoxicated” in a place where “everyone” was drinking (alcohol).

I'm glad they are going to employ additional training, but I would like to see an apology for his young man without all the excuses.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Autism meltdown preparation

If you have a child with autism you may know this feeling. The feeling of anxiety over going to public places for fear of a meltdown or erratic behaviors from your child. Behaviors that others just don't understand. But since we know that meltdowns are going to happen, can't we plan for them?

What I'm suggesting is a safety protocol or plan of action to help you deal with meltdowns either before they can happen, or during.

With very small children you can bundle them up and whisk them out of the way in order to deal with a fit. It's fairly common practice. Larger children aren't so easy to pluck up and walk off with.

Mind you, this is not to assume this will work with every autistic child. It's likely to be more effective with the higher functioning children. So results may vary.

First, if your child is communicative with you, work on establishing an understanding of how they feel. Make sure they know they can tell you when they are starting to feel overwhelmed. The drawback is that you mustn't let this become a catch all for your child to get out of things that you simply have to get done. Appropriate behavior is still expected. You're going to have to be a little bit of a sleuth to figure out what actually triggers sensory overloads in your child. So we aren't talking about a fit because they wanted a toy, that's a different matter.

Practice keeping an eye out for places you can retreat to for a cool down period. This could be a bench or a side hall. Maybe even outside. Ideally it should be away from the main bulk of any crowd and somewhat secure. In a severe pinch, a privatized public restroom can work. That means you can lock the door for one person use. (Be aware that lots of noise from such a place will bring authorities) Use these areas as a place to calm down and gauge whether or not you simply need to leave. Practice clear communication, not only in your expectations, but in them telling you how they feel.

Look for signs of meltdown. This is likely going to be one of the hardest things to do. With many of our kids, almost anything could set them off because they have difficulty processing the world around them. Look for signs of frustration that don't make sense to given situations. This could be in jerking motions, stalling, starting to raise voice, sudden wavering in voice etc. It will take practice but can be done with diligence.

Also, before going out anywhere, discuss what to do when upset with your child. They need skills to use in order to help themselves calm down and refocus. Again, not going to work with all of them and will take extra practice with most. For some, just sitting quietly will work. For others, it's been suggested to sit, put their arms around themselves in a hugging form, close their eyes and take long deep breaths. It can work, but all you can do is try. For our kids on the spectrum, isn't just about anything worth a try?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cab drivers mistreat autistic kids

A good friend of mine in a town called Orange in Australia, posted on his facebook recently what happened to two of his autistic sons.

In Orange they have a program where taxis pick up special needs kids from school and deliver them home. That sounds like a nice program except that the drivers need some education on conditions and patience.

Not all of them have this problem, my friend has said directly that some of the drivers are "wonderful". But you can't choose your drivers.

So, what happened? Note the map in the picture with this entry. The driver picked up the two boys at point A. One of the boys had a meltdown in the back of the cab. The driver kicked them out at point B and left them there. The driver did go to the house at point C, pick up their mother and go back, but in that time, anything could have happened. Then they had to hurry back because Mom was actually awaiting a school bus with her small daughter on it.

Why did he have a meltdown? It's not a good idea to stress out autistic children. From report, cab drivers have actually yelled at and gotten rude with the kids. Granted they have to make sure everyone has their seatbelts on, but a gentle approach is better than a crude and rude one. Enough negative experiences and an autistic child (or any child) won't feel comfortable or safe in the taxi drivers hands. Enough negative experiences will cause meltdowns.

So the taxi drivers of Orange in Australia need an education in handling of ASD kids as well as a little sensitivity training. I understand my friend and parent, Vince Steele is working on that now. I may also see if I can help them from here. If you are in the area and think you can lend a hand to the situation, contact that taxi company and tell them what you think. Remember to be kind and professional. Link below.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Over the mountain, part 7

This is part seven of how I ran away from home at 14, over a mountain. Be sure to read parts 1-6 if you haven't already.

Going down the other side of the mountain consisted of large areas of flat land that steadily went down to other areas of the same. That didn't make it a short walk by any means. Pathways came and went and I couldn't trust their directions. So I did a lot of cross country hiking without paths.

In one clearing I came across an abandoned van. Yes, a motor vehicle. Rust covered it, but it's windows were all intact and darkly tinted. I couldn't help but get a creepy sensation as I walked around it and passed it on by. I didn't want to so much as peek in a window. I didn't have to wonder how it got there for long as I found worn tracks of dirt like random narrow roads. I thought I could follow them, but they often became overgrown with weeds and bushes in places and I had to change course around spots.

I made my way through a strange shaped valley area that caused me to climb up a hill in order to make my way down any further. The hill was steep and I had to lean on the narrow tree trunks that filled the area in order to climb. I still had my stick and suitcase, so my hands were full. I stepped onto the top of that hill area and came face to face with a cow. I couldn't believe it. I stood only five feet away from it. Apparently the side of a mountain makes good natural containment for cows.

It regarded me for only a moment and went back to eating the tall grass it stood in. I carefully walked around it and kept on going. I made my way down another steep hill of narrow trees and found myself in a large clearing. I could see a few more cows standing in a group some distance away. A large cluster of brush oak stood in front of me and in the near center of this clearing, but closer to the trees I just came out of. I casually walked around and saw even more cows. Then I saw the bull.

What's worse, he also saw me. He stamped and snorted and I remembered that I had on a backpack that made me stick out like a neon sign. I backed up past the sight of the brush oak and thought fast. How could I escape a charging bull? He hadn't charged yet, but I needed a chance. The hill I just came down. I could walk up it halfway where the trees were no more than a foot or two apart. In the middle of them I would have fifteen or more trees between me and the bull from any direction.

He hadn't come around yet so I ran into those trees and followed the length of the hill. It brought me around the other side of that brush oak where I might see him again. He was gone. So were the cows. I couldn't see him anywhere, but he had to be on the other side of the brush oak. It's the only thing that made sense. Past where I saw that bull, I saw a wire fence. Even at the closest I could get by staying in the trees, it was a long distance to make. I moved up to the edge of the trees and looked all around. No sight of him. I had to move, I knew I couldn't stay there. I was hungry, thirsty and tired. I couldn't be on the mountain another night. I doubt the bull would have cared for that either.

Slowly I stepped out and I started walking for the fence line. Not too slowly, I didn't want to waste any time. As I felt more confident I quickened my pace. I had a fourth of the distance left when I heard the pounding sound behind me. I only needed one glance and I really shouldn't have taken it. The bull found me and charged. I ran for my life. I didn't look back again, only wanting to get past that fence to safety. I hoped it was safety anyway. Thoughts of the beast tearing right through the fencing to stay after me flashed in my mind. When I reached the fence I slid under it in the dirt like a pro baseball player. I scrambled to my feet, dropping my stick, and kept right on running. I landed on a another path made for some vehicle and followed it around a bend before I finally stopped. The bull had clearly stopped at the fence. I no longer heard it's hooves thundering on the ground for me.

I gasped for breath from my hard run and looked down at the path before me. Lying in the middle of the path, sunning itself, was another rattlesnake. It was much smaller than the first one. It also hadn't noticed me. I shook my head, thoroughly finished with my mountain encounter and just wanted to be anywhere but where I was. I will say I still didn't want to be home. I didn't consider that to be home anymore. I decided I would find roads, and stick to them on my journey instead.

I walked around the snake and continued on my way. Hours later, I found myself walking on a paved road in front of a few houses. I wanted some water so very badly that I marched right up to a door and knocked. The lady who answered was only too glad to give me a glass of water. She asked where I came from and when I told her, she gave me an expression of shock. She offered to make me a sandwich, but I declined. I didn't want to be there for long. She went inside as I finished my water. It wasn't long after I handed her the empty glass that a county Sheriff's car pulled up.

I was taken to a youth detention center in Morgan, Utah; ten miles from where I started. It wasn't against the law to run away from home in Utah, but there were reports about me across the state. My father came and picked me up. We had a long, long talk about why I ran away. He tried to help me, to negotiate things in the house for me. But in the end, I still wound up leaving. Still, this is my story of my mountain journey. You might wonder how I survived it. Was it dumb luck or a guardian angel? I personally believe the latter.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Over the mountain, part six

By now, if you've been following, you know this is about my running away at age 14. If not, please see parts 1-5.

The air chilled and darkness covered the mountain. I shivered, balled up tight in the logs I found. I closed my eyes even tighter and prayed. It didn't get dangerously cold, lucky for me, but enough to be very uncomfortable.

I dozed off at some point but awoke to something scraping against my backpack. Something scratched and even tugged. An animal, and I froze. I didn't turn to see what it was. I didn't move at all. I hoped, since it went for my backpack, and not me, that I would be okay by being absolutely still. Even so, as a a child totally inexperienced in what I was doing, the event was horrifying. I don't think I could have moved if I wanted to.

The scratching stopped and it sounded like the animal moved away toward the water. I still didn't move. I dozed off and woke up with feelings of terror through the night. I cursed myself for what I got myself into and wondered if I would see the sun rise. And if I did get up and run, where would I go? I couldn't see a thing. I could run right off the edge of some other cliff and that wouldn't do at all.

Finally, I opened my eyes to the first rays of morning sun. I made it. Still cold and stiff from laying on the ground, I stretched out and started to move. I lifted up and immediately dodged back down again. On the other side of the log, where I lay my head, about three feet of snake emerged. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought it a good place to hide for the night. I slowly inched away from the log and stood up so I could see it from a distance.

The snake moved sluggishly, thanks to the chill in the morning air. I watched it slowly make it's way all the way out, from its angular head to the set of rattles at the end of it's tail. Yes, I spent the night with a rattlesnake. If it weren't for the cold, I could have been in real trouble. Being on the other side of the log helped too, I'm certain. Perhaps that kept it from seeking the warmth of my body.

I caught my breath and looked around at the ground, remembering my visitor from the night. Tracks in the shape of tiny hands by the water told me a raccoon was what came to see me. But why was it so interested in my backpack? Couldn't have been the bright hunter orange color of it. I put some good distance between myself and the snake so I could check my backpack. I felt hungry and then remembered I had put some food in the pack. No holes, so the raccoon didn't get in.

When I opened up my pack I got a nasty surprise all the same. The mason jars of fruit were broken. Probably from my long fall earlier. Smashed fruit and broken glass were everywhere. I had to dump out my clothes and the glass, everything. Then I had to shake out my clothes and the pack to get as much out as possible.

The pit of my stomach ached as I repacked. I was seriously hungry and had to make my way down the mountain. (part 7 coming soon)