Sunday, August 30, 2009

Autism and Nintendo's Wii

Although I am sure there will be many people who disagree with me, I firmly believe that every child on the autism spectrum needs a wii. We have had ours for about 2 ½ years now, and I can’t imagine what our life would be like without it.

The most obvious benefit of the wii is in gross motor skills and general exercise. Our two favorite games are the new Sports Resort game, and the older Outdoor Challenge. Both of these games have activities that require a ton of movement and coordination. On a day when Michael needs to burn off energy but can’t get outside, they are perfect.

What I like the best is that the game is set to adapt to each user’s current level. There are some activities that require jumping and running, others where you can sit and move only your upper body. As you get better at each activity, you get more levels and options – a great incentive to keep practicing.

I was surprised at the level of fine motor skills that are required for some of the games. For example, in the Island Flyover game in Sports Resort, you are looking for 80 different points of interest around the islands. Some are easy to get to, but others require a great deal of fine motor skills (i.e. flying through tunnels).

The archery game requires hand-eye coordination in order to hit the targets and get the most points. There is also a sword-based speed slicing game that combines visual processing speed and fine motor control. The object is to slice an object before you opponent, using the direction indicated on screen. On one hand, it’s simple, but it also requires fast processing of both vision input and motor output.

All the things I’ve talked about so far are fairly straight-forward physical benefits. What isn’t so obvious is the social skills building that the game provides. The first is simple turn-taking. Each player gets a turn, and has to wait for their next turn. But there are also levels of sportsmanship and teamwork that are often overlooked. Working together toward a common goal often brings out the best in kids, even if that goal is just to move your canoe faster than the other team.

Another final, hidden benefit of the wii is how it can mask social awkwardness. Michael can’t sit and play a board game with you, but he can bowl. Just being able to turn on the wii has saved many playdates from disaster. Other kids can overlook social deficits if they are genuinely having fun, and are willing to come back and play again. A very nice thing for our kids!

I don’t think I’ve met a parent who has a child on the spectrum and a wii who has regretted the purchase. Most parents value one set of benefits more highly than others, but everyone understands how good it is for their child. So, how do we contact Nintendo for an autism grant?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Walking on Air!

I am walking about six inches above the ground today. We went to the open house at Michael's new school yesterday afternoon. It was so wonderful to see a whole school dedicated to students with special needs, where everyone was really focused on bringing out the best in each child. Michael has been smiling each time he talks about school starting on Monday. Such a change from last year!

The classroom he is in only has five boys right now, although it can go up to nine. There is one teacher and two assistant teachers. Plus, two of the boys have dedicated one-on-one support. So, there are five adults in the room almost all the time, with OT, PT, and Speech therapists, a behaviorist, and social worker coming in and out to work with the kids.

But, the very best part is how well all the teachers and staff understand Michael already. At one point, Michael was getting a little agitated, and I pointed out how the pitch of his voice rose when he was upset. The teacher had already noticed. Such a change from others who have worked with him and escalated the agitation because they couldn't recognize it until Michael became physical. I really have a great feeling about this school year!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NAA on School Abuse

This is very disturbing, but true. Please take the time to read it, and understand that our kids do need advocates to speak for them, and protect them.

Dear Department of Education...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Too many loans on Lend 4 Health!

I just visited the Lend 4 Health website and noticed that there are way too many loans looking for funding. I wanted to contribute to each of them, but things are really tight right now. So, I did what I could, and ask you to do what you can.

The whole point of Lend 4 Health is that my tiny loan combines with your tiny loan, and a whole bunch of other tiny loans to add up to one big loan that can make a huge difference for a child with autism.

I know you might think that a 5 dollar loan can't make a difference, but trust me, it can! So, would you consider giving up a lunch out or a designer coffee and instead lend that little bit to a child waiting for treatment? Thank you!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A mainstream columnist who 'gets it'!!!!

I never thought I'd be reading about a gluten/casein free diet in the Washington Post. Today's Family Almanac column even mentions finding a DAN! doctor and attending a conference. I am so excited to see such a positive, helpful article about autism instead of the usual doom and gloom. Thank you, Marguerite Kelly!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Our first 'good' haircut!!!

Michael has always hated having his hair cut. I know there are a lot of sensory issues involved, in addition to having to trust a stranger with sharp objects. I definitely can't blame him for hating it.

We have always taken him to the same place for his haircuts, so he knows them and they know him. They know not to use clippers, and to be slow and quiet. They always let Michael sit on Steve's lap so he can hold him still and try to keep him calm.

This time was totally different. Michael sat in the chair by himself. He didn't scream, squirm, or cry. He actually talked with the stylist while she was cutting his hair!!!! Steve could barely keep his jaw off the floor, and even the stylists noticed the difference.

The only thing we've added since his last haircut is HANDLE. It is a wonderful set of activities that make all the sense in the world, once you think about it. The whole process is so gentle and easy, it's hard to believe it can make such a difference. Looking at my smiling child with a great haircut has reinforced my belief!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's never, ever too late!

It's been a rough week here because Steve has been out of town for the last several days. Michael and I have really missed him. So, when I saw a topic of 'hopeism' on Age of Autism, I knew I had to read it right away. I was smiling and crying at the same time, and counting all our blessings.

Sometimes I get so caught up in all the things that Michael can't do, I forget about all the wonderful things he CAN do, and does. Every day we get to see more of his personality, and it's awesome to see another parent getting to see parts of her daughter she thought she'd lost so many years ago.

So, go read, watch the video, and have a tissue ready!

What I find most ironic is the article above it, about Enhansa. I truly believe Michael has made such fantastic leaps this year because of Enhansa. So, having these two articles back to back is just perfect!

Monday, August 10, 2009

1 in 100

I've seen references in the last week or so to a new prevalence number - 1 in every 100 children now has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. That's really scary. More and more kids are being diagnosed, yet all we hear about is what "doesn't" cause autism. With so many lives being affected, don't you think they could come up with what DOES cause autism?

I wanted to find the source documents for the new number, and found this. When do you think the CDC will actually take these numbers seriously? When will someone become interested in .6 percent of children who had the diagnosis, but lost it? Isn't that something worth studying?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Michael's Getting nosy!

This is a very good thing. This morning my Aunt called me to chat. So, we were talking for a little bit while Michael was playing. As soon as I hung up the phone, he asked, "Well who was that, Mommy?" It was so nice. Normally he doesn't pay much attention to what I'm doing, and seldom calls me by name. Definitely a good thing!

It still fascinates me how Michael learns. He's been watching Sesame Street a lot lately. He has a binder full of episodes, and he picks and chooses which one he wants to watch. Then, he fast forwards until he gets to the part he wants, and just watches that part. For a while I thought he was just being a kid, but now I am realizing that he's learning from each of the parts he keeps playing.

The banana interview on Elmo's world led to him eating bananas, and banana bread, and even trying fried plantains. Another skit involved different kinds of bicyles. So, he decided that he wanted to ride his bike. It's strange to have a 7 year old watching sesame street, but if he's learning and happy, I'm very happy!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Weekend!

It's been a long week in a number of ways, but things are normalizing. It was Michael's last week of summer camp, and he is definitely going to miss it. The camp is run by an amazing team that really understands 'our' kids. It has been wonderful to see Michael so happy to go to camp every morning!

Mom is recovering nicely from knee replacement surgery. I didn't realize how worried I was about her until I actually got to go visit. She is sounding stronger every day, and mostly back to herself.

One of the best things, is that I don't remember Michael laughing so much. He is understanding the jokes on tv, imitating some of the humor, and just enjoying things so much more. When he's happy, I'm happy.

And finally, I have another friend with a loan request up on Lend 4 Health. She's also going through a rough patch, so I wanted to post a link to their request. It's a loan, quick and easy to do, and really will make a difference!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy Cinco de Linco!!!

Cinco de Linco is a fabulous idea that was created by Jeanne from Charlie in Wonderland. It's a challenge to make $5 loans to Lend for Health on the 5th of every month. So, do you have five dollars to lend to a child who needs help affording biomedical treatments?

To steal shamelessly from Jeanne's blog:

"So, here’s the bottom line: The kids on Lend4Health.org need your help. They need you to read their stories and chip-in $5 loans, or more if you’re feeling ├╝ber generous. There are currently 4 open loans on Lend4Health, 4 loans for 5 kids. These kids need your help, your $5 loans!

For the past year plus, L4H has been facilitating loans for individuals on the autism spectrum to help their parents pay for costly treatments that are not covered by insurance. These loans are changing the lives of these children. The loans give the children a chance for a better life, a better quality of life, happiness, and better health.

You know how easy it is to loan a friend a few bucks for a coffee, for a beer, or for lunch right? Well, it’s just as easy to loan a few bucks to a child in need. Just visit Lend4Health.org. Read the stories of the kids with open loans. Choose one, two, or all of the kids and make your loans. It’s that easy.

I can tell you from my own personal experience, it feels damn good to help these kids. It feels good and right. It is good and right. It’s hard to believe a few dollars could change a person’s life; but it’s true. Your $5, plus my $5, plus her $5, plus their $5, plus a bunch of other $5 equals a better life for these kids.

Please visit Lend4Health.org TODAY and make your Cinco De Linco loans. Make sure you designate your loan as CDL, that way we can keep track of how many kids we are helping. You can do this on the PayPal page where you review your payment. Just under the description you’ll see “Add special instructions to merchant” – click there. A box will pop up where you can type in a message designating your contribution as a “Cinco De Linco Loan” – or “Happy Cinco De Linco Day!” – whatever you want, as long as you include the words, “Cinco De Linco.” "

Lend for Health

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Special Diets Don't Help??!!??

I've been dismayed by the amount of coverage that the so-called study of the effectiveness of using special diets for Autism has gotten. I am especially sensitive to this issue since Michael is IgE allergic to three different foods. It's hard to believe that I have already had to defend myself for taking those foods out of his diet - even though they are potentially anaphalactic!

I wanted to do a post talking about how well eliminating allergic foods has worked for us, but then I came across this posting. It says everyting I want to say, but much more eloquently.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another day down...

What a day! Some good (2 recipes actually worked today), some bad (Mom's in a lot of pain from the surgery, and they 'forgot' to give her the pain meds multiple times!), and some really ugly (the worst meltdown we've had in months). But, when I see him sleeping like such an angel.. it makes the whole day good.

I always heard that you get the endorphins after childbirth so you would bond with your child and be willing to have another. I'm just wondering if there are some autism endorphins that make all the work worthwhile, and all the pain melt away when he does something absolutely sweet, totally unprompted. How else do we go day after day after day?

A friend in need...

One of the women I admire the most lost her house to a Tornado this week. She and her family are OK, but their house is gone. Tori (from Lend4Health) has set up a ChipIn page for them. If you can, please visit the page and see if you can help out. Just a little from a lot of people can make a big difference!

A Powerful Morning!

This morning, Michael ate cereal. I know that that is not remarkable in most households. However, here, it's close to a miracle. His interest in food is so low that any new food is celebrated. But, he asked for cereal, we went out and found some, and he ate it. Happily, with no prompting. Now that is a happy surprise.

He has also asked to make banana bread. That will be the adventure this morning. Wish us luck!

Also, please read this article at the Huffington Post. It is so powerful, and echoes so much of our journey with Michael. He's nowhere near recovered, but so much better than he was when we started!

Finally, today's giveaway is a greeting card maker. It isn't super fancy, but will get the job done. Check it out!