Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wrote in Rote

Auditory Processing is something that I am simply trying to wrap my brain around. Complex in its definition, I can't begin to imagine the struggle that my son feels in his little mind. With Alden's normal ability to hear sounds, he has a difficult time interpreting those sounds. Can you imagine? I think of auditory processing as a word search - there are lots of words that you can recognize, but they are all jumbled up. It is difficult enough to make sense of our world, and even more so for Alden to find a way to make sense of his world. Perhaps like learning the grammar of a foreign language for us. The amazing ability to adapt to the communication barrier is for Alden to have rote and repetitive language. Sameness, go figure... Alden speaks using what he knows and often using the same phrase after a typical activity like drinking his juice, "Momma, you were so thirsty." (Speaking of himself). Alden also frequently speaks in the third person. It actually makes sense that he says, "Alden is so thirsty," or "You were so thirsty," because that is what he hears. We do correct his patterns, and sometimes he repeats the, "I was so thirsty." Other times, he says with frustration, "No, Momma." I let it be and just from his response I know that at that time, it is too much for him to comprehend. That's OK. Just imagine, hearing a language all day long and constantly trying to make sense out of it. Exhausting. I have learned that patience and understanding are key to what we take for granted. Just as Alden is learning to make sense out of his world, I am trying to find ways to help him make sense out of ours.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hidden Wings

Bells were ringing the day my daughter, Olivia, was born. There was a purpose chosen for her. This beautiful, endearing, little girl had a path already leading to bring heartfelt empathy and understanding to all that have the priviledge of knowing her. Though only two, Olivia has a brightness and passion, and of course, an inherited stubborness from her mommy, but a giving soul when it comes to offering her heart to her brother. Of course, Olivia doesn't understand that Alden is different than other three-year-olds. She doesn't realize that disturbing the lining up of 50 Hotwheel cars will cause utter chaos - or does she? Olivia does test Alden - How close can I get to Alden's cars? Will Alden lash out at me if I touch one? I think I will try anyway. Determined, Olivia glorifies in each moment that Alden acknowledges her attempt to play with him. They laugh. It is the most beautiful sound. Olivia tries so hard for Alden's acceptance, even though she may get turned down on many occasions, she is inclined to win him over. The bells rang many times the day Olivia was born. It takes most of us a lifetime to earn our wings. Though hidden, the wings upon which she flies, we know that there is an angel among us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Parent's Promise

Bring power to me in all that will be,
understanding what is unknown.
Bring love to me in all that will be,
to never walk this path alone.

Bring sense to me in all that will be,
realizing the fate of choice.
Bring strength to me in all that will be,
as my heart becomes my voice.

Bring soul to me in all that will be,
absorbing each moment I start.
Bring passion to me in all that will be,
giving my hand with my heart.

Now, take all of me from all that will be,
Remembering moments of what has been.
Power, love, sense, strength, soul, and passion,
I give it ALL to them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Logos and Emblems and Labels, Oh My!

Many children with Asperger's Syndrom, Autism, or any other Autistic Spectrum Disorders tend to display areas of exceptional aptitude. Since these "disorders" (which are quite orderly) affect an area of the brain, our understanding of how these children think and view life is quite immeasurable. At the age of two (2), Alden really had little interest in reading books with mom and dad. Alden's interest sparked when I pulled out the phone book to look up a phone number and address for a local body shop. I never saw his big eyes light up so much in excitement when he yelled, "AT&T!" Of course, I was amazed at his ability to recognize the AT&T logo, but I had no idea that the AT&T was only the prelude to the logo world! I sat with Alden, as it was rare that he took interest in any sort of book, and showed him the car adds in the yellow pages, as I knew that his interest in cars was peaking. "Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Buick, Lexus, Toyota, Mercedes!," Alden could hardly stand it, he was so excited. As for me, I could barely contain my excitement of how brilliant my young, 2-year-old son was who could recognize the emblems and the spelling of the cars. After an hour of studying the cars, Alden started turning the pages, and yelled with excitement, "Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Chili's!" WOW! My 2-year-old could read! Of course, I picked up the phone and called my husband, then my parents to brag what a genius Alden was. I don't think a phonebook ever got so much use! Alden would literally spend hours looking through the phonebook - studying the pages. He would rattle off phone numbers, attorney names, letters, and jump up and down in sheer enthusiam, but Alden always returned his attention back to the cars, remembering exactly which page to turn to. We are not exactly sure why Alden chose cars as his "thing," but now, at the age of three, he can differentiate between makes and models of even the most obscure cars: Lotus, Lamborghini, Ferrari! Alden also likes to see the mail - "ComEd, NiCor, US Cellular," he recognizes them all! Alden's mind works different and we are now trying to tap into how to use his thought process into real life applications. We even made Alden an "Alden Emblem" so that he could recognize things that are his. Alden's life in emblems and logos makes sense to him. With his emblems, he finds safety and contentment in his world that is ever changing and language that he doesn't always understand. Emblems and logos are constant and that is what Alden can endure. We all have a safe place when stress overcomes us. We resort to what we know because we find comfort in what we understand. Alden has guided us outside of our comfort level, but through him, we find that the world of discovery charters the footsteps of what others may someday follow.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oh, and the "A" emblem. Well, even though the Aston Martin turned out to be a Dodge, the emblem, according to Alden, was now an "Alden emblem."

The Valentine Box

It amazes me on a daily basis, the perceptions of my children. For Alden's preschool, family project, we had to design a Valentine Box. OK, so I got a heavy-duty shoe box (supplied from my dad), contact paper (supplied from my mom), and lots of creativity supplied from Alden and Olivia. I asked Alden what kind of Valentine Box he would like, and he said, without hesitation, "I want Mickey Mouse's Aston Martin!" For all of those who are unsure what an Aston Martin is, it is the souped up, fancy car that James Bond drives in his films and apparently what Alden believes that Mickey Mouse drives. I had to laugh to myself, for what 3 year old knows what an Aston Martin is, let alone, most other people? I had to laugh to myself thinking how I was going to make an Aston Martin! I first cut the box top to fit the Valentines. Then, I used the white contact paper and wrapped it around the box like I would a gift. The contact paper did not stick properly, so I had Alden help me glue the sides. Alden did not care to work with the glue, as he does not like to get his fingers dirty, however, Olivia was right in there, gluey fingers and all. Well, the glue did not hold so I had to come up with another plan. I found some heart wrapping paper and decided to wrap the box in that instead. I did that and Olivia loved the hearts. Alden did not. "Momma, Mickey's Aston Martin doesn't have hearts, it is red." Time to bust out the acryllic paints. Alden and Olivia both painted over the nice heart paper with bright red paint. Alden was done for a bit after that. Baby steps. I cut out some wheels, a grill, a spoiler, and a Mickey Mouse picture that I attached to some cardboard. Alden and Olivia painted the wheels black and we added a heart stamp in red on each wheel. Again, Alden had a difficult time with getting his hands messy, so I kept a wet paper towel nearby for him to wipe his hands. Of course, Miss Olivia, was all over the paint and loved getting messy! I helped paint the grill and we all finished the spoiler. I got out the handy glue gun and constructed the pieces together on the shoebox. Once together and the glue had dried, I cut out some oval circles in white paper and had Alden help paint an "A" in the circles. These pieces would be the crucial emblems. I added the "A" emblem to the spoiler and the grill along with some headlight circles that we also painted. It was a complete Valentine Box work of art! Alden hadn't seen it all together yet and I brought it to the dining room table. Now, Mickey was not on the Aston Martin yet since Alden had to play with the cardboard Mickey for a while. I was so excited to show Alden our finished, amazing work of art and was even more thrilled to see his reaction bringing his Aston Martin to life. "Look, Alden! Look how awesome your Aston Martin Valentine Box looks!" Alden looked at the box, then looked at me, then looked at the cardboard Mickey and said, "Momma, that's not an Aston Martin! That's a DODGE!" I had to laugh to myself. I then asked if we could glue Mickey onto the Dodge, but Alden said, "Momma, Mickey can't drive in a Dodge!" As for the "A" emblem, Alden was Ok with that and called it the "Alden Emblem." Well, needless to say, we tried to build Alden's Aston Martin, but sometimes in life, we just have to settle for the Dodge!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Beauty in the Beast

Like a rose, perfect and beautiful, it has its imperfections. Asperger's and Alden has its imperfections in this perfect little guy. OK, I know, we all think that our children are perfect, most of the time... Alden's beauty in this beast far outweighs the negatives. Trying to find the the beauty is sometimes the hardest part. Life is imperfect, and this is just the reminder. However, life's perfections are quite beautiful if we can only see it. There are days of constant struggle - not as much for Alden, but for me. Questioning "Why?" seems to plague the unnecessity of it all. Screaming "Why?" seems to wear out the energies that you need to guide these, or any children. I have given up the "Why?" and faced the unraveled beauty of it all. I truly believe that Alden is here to teach me something - perhaps something about myself. The beauty in recognizing all of the challenges for him that I take for granted. I am trying to understand things through his eyes, soul, and heart. Not an easy task, but it seems that putting myself in his shoes, helps me to help him. The cliche' really exudes power to its action and not just its words. Through the meltdowns when Alden's Hotwheel cars get misaligned or the frustrations in him not wanting to even try new foods or a sippy cup, I look at him - simply - but with a huge breath - and grasp onto his challenge to help him through. He loves... and that is what it is all about. My beauty in this beast of life must be the example for him (and for his sister, Olivia). It is definitely not as easy as these written words speak, however, embracing the beauty may be what can ultimately conquer this beast.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Intuition and Asperger's

I knew from the beginning that something was truly different about my son, Alden, who is now three. Of course, when he was born, as every parent feels, he was this perfect little baby. At 7 lbs, 15 oz, delivered by C-Section, he was a healthy, perfect little guy! Not ever taking a pacifier (he would simply just turn his head or spit it right out), he also never, ever put anything in his mouth. I could lay pennines on the ground and he would just simply line them up, not ever thinking to put them in his mouth. Breast milk, then formula, then baby cereal, then baby food, it was never an issue. Alden was an amazing eater, up until he was ready for solids or a sippy cup. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of that. I simply thought that he just wasn't ready. When the doctor asked about his developments, I did express many concerns about the mouth and his eating. "Oh, he is just pretty spoiled," he would reply. My gut knew otherwise. Alden also only played with certain toys. The Fisher Price rings were the hit. Not stacking, but lining each one spacially perfect - at 8 months old! Then, it was the Mickey Mouse, little stuffed figures. All perfectly lined up in his crib. If any of his stuffed friends fell out of place, he would fall apart. This was the beginning of the difference. As a first time mother, I would think, "Wow, he is brilliant!" "My son is a true genius the way he lines everything up!" Alden is brilliant and a true genuis in his own right. His beautiful patterning is still a part of him. It has just evolved into HotWheel cars - hundreds of them. Maybe an OCD of some sort, naming each one by make and model (and remembering who gave him each one), or his safety mechanism to resort to what he knows is constant and can truly understand. This seems to make sense in his world, but to be honest, constant and understanding would make sense in anyone's world. Alden just has the ability to express that more than we do. I am learning from him to make sense out of my world. The Asperger's is difficult to understand sometimes. If I could just get into that little head of his. He patterns every thought which is expressed in his patterning of the objects that he plays with and in the rote language that he speaks. If I could only be so organized! I am now home full-time, having quit my job last June to be with and guide both of my children. Yes, I quit my job in this economy! Who does that? Well, my parents, who were watching my children full-time, got quite burned out, and no daycare would accept a child of Alden's age (2 at the time) that had to be fed and still took a bottle. I suppose they thought that he would convince all of the other children to take back their bottles and being fed was the way to go... Oh my little Prince! Out of necessity - I am home. Out of love - I am home. Now, my husband I are sacraficing the financial situation of our decision. That would be another post! Follow in my journey of my son and my daughter, as we try to make sense of the world. I am here for a reason, I believe and still hope - to be my children's voice and help in filling the hearts of others lost in search for answers. I am only the expert of what I know, but the guide of I what I search.
I will find comfort in knowing that I can guide another heart.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Miracle Witness

I am the witness of two miracles - my Alden and my Olivia. I have learned that I can't control everything in my life. My Alden (3), such a beautiful and amazing little soul, who lines up 50 hotwheel cars in a perfect row - perfectly spaced, and can tell you the make and model of each one. My Alden, who still drinks out of a bottle and eats baby food. My Alden, his heart full of love, but his brain has Asperger's Syndrome. My Alden; my miracle. My Olivia (2), such a beautiful and sensitive soul, who blesses you if you sneeze and asks if you are OK if you get hurt. My Olivia, whose gentle heart bleeds if her feelings get hurt. My Olivia; my miracle. I witness the miracles emerge every day. They grow; my love grows. They hurt; I cry for them. They smile; my world adores. They love; I love more. Though the challenge of the miracle is a miracle in itself, I am blessed to be the true Witness.