Wednesday, February 29, 2012

No Use Crying Over Spilt Smoothie

Our Video Nights have been a favorite staple in our house for about a year now. Every Saturday, my son and I get a dvd from the library and then we all watch it together while having dinner in our family room. It is a nice shared experience that we all look forward to.

But, as with most things with Kai, it doesn’t always go smoothly.

There are many times when Kai gets excited and does something that he shouldn’t.

Sometimes he will shout in delight, often to the point where we miss more than just a few words of dialogue. Many times he will run up to the television to view it up close, blocking the view for the rest of us. Occasionally, he will jump up and down on the couch. And often, during the really exciting parts, he will ask me to rewind the movie, or just grab the remote to do it himself, so that he could see the scene again (and again and again sometimes.)

These behaviors range from being amusing but mildly annoying to things he really should not do.

But sometimes it goes beyond that.

On more than one occasion, he has spilled his drink after knocking into the table or wildly swinging his body in excitement. After the last time, when he knocked his cup of homemade carrot juice onto the carpet, we told him that if it happened again, we would no longer do Video Nights.

This past Saturday, we were setting up for our latest movie. I brought our drinks to the family room – green smoothies that my wife had made out of spinach and other vegetables and fruit – and then went back to the kitchen to get more of our meal.

When I returned, I saw that my glass was tipped over, and the entire green contents had spilled onto the carpet. Kai was sitting there quietly. When he saw me, he calmly said, “Dad, get a towel.”

I angrily yelled at him and rushed off to get towels. My wife heard the commotion and came over. When she saw the green goop all over the rug, she was even angrier than I was.

Video Night was over even before it began.

Kai started crying, either from knowing that he wouldn’t be seeing the movie, or because Mom had yelled at him.

I soaked up the spill with towels, and my wife got a carpet cleaner. And as she tried to clean the carpet, I brought our dinner, and Kai, back to the kitchen.

I tried to calm down. I questioned Kai how this happened. He explained that he swung a blanket and it knocked over the glass. I explained that he needed to be more careful, and quietly told him that there would be no more Video Nights.

When my wife returned to the kitchen, we started to eat our dinner in silence. No one was feeling good.

After awhile, Kai asked my wife to get more vegetables. She angrily told him that she wouldn’t be getting any more today.

Then Kai turned to me and said, “Dad, you can have my smoothie.”

I realized then that Kai was trying to make amends. He thought that our anger was because I had lost my smoothie. I don’t think he understood that we were upset that the carpet had gotten stained yet again. And so, offering his own smoothie was his way of showing some remorse, and trying to make up with me.

I thanked him for his offer, and suggested that we share his drink.

By the end of the meal, we were in better spirits.

In a few days, it will be another Saturday night. I’ve reconsidered my original thought about not ever having another Video Night. I don’t like the idea of not carrying out a threat, but I already miss our little tradition.

And so, we will find another way for Kai to pay the consequences for his actions. My wife came up with an idea to have him help clean a part of the house every week so he knows what it feels like to have to clean up.

We will also be more careful, and use cups that have lids.

But family-bonding time seems more important than a carpet. At this point, one more stain won’t make too much difference. But having a nice time together and creating good memories for the future will have a lasting impact.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Starting Over

“In raising a child with autism, I’ve learned that there are many ways in which you need to be patient. There is shorter-term patience, like when you are trying to teach your child to tie his own shoelaces, for instance. Then there is the longer-term variety, such as when you are trying to find a medication that will help your son…”

Today’s column updates Patch readers on our latest experiences with medication. Click here to read the entire column.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pickles: The Best Reward

We are always trying to find ways to motivate our son to do well in school. And lately it has been a challenge. He has either been uninterested in any possible reward, or perhaps just unable to control his behavior in school.

But this past week, we found something that he was motivated by: pickles.

Kai’s favorite restaurant right now is Fuddruckers. Fuddruckers is a fast-casual, hamburger restaurant. It is more expensive than McDonald’s, with grilled-to-order burgers and fresh-baked buns. But what sets it apart in my son’s eyes is the fresh produce bar.

The restaurant offers a wide selection of choose-your-own fixins to top your burger. These include fresh tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, as well as more unusual toppings such as cheese sauce, honey or spicy mustard, and even pico de gallo.

But Kai doesn’t care about any of that. He just loves the pickles.

At McDonald’s, he will pick off the two pickles on the McDouble burger and eat them first before he touches the beef or the fries.

And at Fuddruckers, he can have as many pickles as he wants (or at least as many as Mom and Dad let him have). And that makes it his favorite place to go right now.

A few weeks ago, we had told him that if he had a safe week at school, we would go to Fuddruckers. Alas, he has hardly been able to stay safe for one day, let alone for a whole week, so we have not gone to Fuddruckers in a while. My wife and I even stopped telling him about the possibility of going, as we didn’t think he could accomplish the goal.

But on Friday afternoon, he came home from school, announced that he had stayed safe all week, and wondered if we could go to Fuddruckers. It was a holiday-shortened week, and his overall performance at school was just so-so, but he did stay safe. And we wanted to reward that. So, we went to Fuddruckers that evening.

Because the burgers are made to order, there is always a wait for the food. It is not as long as the wait at sit-down restaurants, but it is longer than at McDonald’s. And that wait is still difficult for Kai.

To fill the time, we try to get him to use the iPad, but he never wants to. Instead, we walk around the restaurant and see the numerous sports memorabilia. We get our drinks. And hope that our buzzer goes off quickly.

When our order is finally called, Kai is a happy kid. He can’t wait to go up to get the food with me. And then we head over to the produce bar to load up on the pickles.

It was a nice way to kick off the weekend.

The key to happiness is pickles! Now you know. :)

* * * * *

Our snow from Friday morning did not last long. Warm temperatures yesterday melted much of what had fallen. But it was around long enough on Saturday to go sledding and have a snowball fight.

With the way our winter has gone, it might be the last snow of the season. So, we really enjoyed it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Compilation of Favorites

The Boy Who Did Not Speak, Take It Out On The Husband Day, my son's story before he was my son, and much more...

Our challenges and triumphs, good times and bad: I have compiled my favorite Patch columns onto one page. If you are relatively new to the blog, or just want to see what you may have missed, click here to check it out.

Friday, February 24, 2012


A couple weeks ago, my son was lamenting that this was “the worst winter ever” as we have had a dearth of snow. And it hadn’t changed much since. Rain and warmer-than-usual weather has made it feel more like April than February.

But this morning we finally awoke to some snow. And Kai was gleeful.

For a change, he got dressed quickly and ate his breakfast with little prompting so that he could come outside with me to help shovel the snow.

Today’s snow was of the extra heavy variety so he didn’t try to shovel for long before he gave up.

But he was happy to stay outside while I cleared the driveway.

Beautiful snow, happy kid, good day.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Recalling Our First Movie Theater Experience

The other day I mentioned that we watched Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! on dvd. What I did not mention was that Horton was the first movie we had taken Kai to see in a theater.

Kai was only four years old at the time and his attention span was really short. He could not stay still for long and he was prone to getting upset and loud quite often. We knew it was risky to go to a theater. But my wife, especially, wanted to give Kai the experience that other kids have.

There wasn’t much of a selection of kids’ movies playing at the time. Horton was really the only choice. (This is the full-length animated version featuring the voices of Jim Carey, Steve Carell and Carol Burnett.)

We got to the theater and purchased a big tub of popcorn. We knew that as long as we had popcorn, there was a chance that Kai would be content and watch the film nicely.

Although we did not get to the theater much before the published start time, with all the commercials and previews, we sat for about half an hour before the movie started. And in that time, Kai had had his fill of popcorn.

Just as the movie was to begin, he said that he was “all done,” which was how he told us that he wanted to go home back then.

I really did not want to leave without seeing any of the movie. So I urged Kai to be sit and watch. I was hoping that once he saw the beginning of the film, he would be hooked.

Well, that did not happen. The story started off slowly. He had no interest in it. And within ten minutes he was again saying he was “all done,” except this time he was much more adamant and loud. And so we left, and never saw the rest of the movie – until the other night.

When we watched it this time, Kai was hooked from the beginning, and engaged throughout. He even liked it well enough to watch his favorite parts a few more times over the past couple of days.

One of the heroes of the Horton story is Jojo, a young boy who does not speak until the end, when he saves Whoville from destruction by yelling “YOPP!” from the highest tower.

Jojo’s evolution reminds me a bit of how much Kai has changed over the past four years. In Kai’s case, the changes have happened gradually, and so we sometimes do not take note of them. But when we take a step back and compare, like with this experience of watching this movie, we see that his progress is akin to Jojo's yelling “YOPP!”

And that makes me smile as much as the movie’s happy ending did.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jelly Belly Fun

On Monday, with school off for President’s Day, we drove up to Wisconsin to visit the Jelly Belly warehouse where they give free tours. Kai likes Jelly Bellys, but he doesn’t eat them very much. He just likes to look at all the colors and learn the different flavors.

When we got to the warehouse, we had to wait about 20 minutes for the tour to begin. But Kai stayed calm, mostly. When it was our turn, we put on our Jelly Belly hats and boarded the train that would take us around the warehouse.

The train stopped at various spots while different video clips explained how the candy is made. I thought it was interesting, but Kai didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

The best part of the visit was yet to come. At the end of the tour, each participant got a free mini bag of Jelly Belly candies, and then we entered the warehouse store.

This store had an enormous selection of the famous candy, including many flavors you ordinarily don’t see too often.

We found out that in addition to their famous jelly beans, they also make other candies. Some of the out-of-season items were on sale. I got a 10-pound box of Reindeer Corn for $5, quite a bargain, I thought, since many of the small bags of Jelly Belly they were selling cost more than that. (Reindeer Corn is just candy corn that is red, green, and white instead of the usual autumn colors.) And yes, I know that 10 pounds is quite a bit of candy corn. My wife is wondering what we will do with it all.

Our favorite new item, though, was a box of Bean Boozled, which is a game where you twirl a spinner and choose a jelly bean. The fun is that these are not just ordinary jelly beans. Half of the beans are tasty Jelly Belly flavors, but half of them are awful flavors such as Skunk Spray, Rotten Egg, and Barf. The crazy flavors look identical to the good flavors so you don’t know which is which.

When we got home, we played the game. My wife ended up getting many of the yucky beans that taste so bad that the instructions advise keeping a garbage can nearby while you play. Kai got mostly the regular flavors, except for Toothpaste, which he actually liked.

Later, he had his weekly session with Alyson, his longtime speech therapist extraordinaire. Alyson always practices conversation with Kai, and tries to get him to talk about what he did over the weekend.

During this week’s session, Alyson said that Kai talked all about the trip to the Jelly Belly warehouse. He even mentioned that Kiwi is the most difficult flavor to make, something that was mentioned on the video during the tour.

It is nice to know that he is hearing and learning things, even when he doesn’t appear to be paying attention.

And at the end of the day, even more than $5 Reindeer Corn, that was the highlight of my day.

Hopefully he is learning similarly in school. And from me, too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enduring Shoe Tying Torture

I am not a patient person. And I am very stubborn. That is not a good combination when you are trying to teach a child with autism how to tie their shoes.

Today’s column in the Patch looks at the frustrations that led to feelings of being An Awful Parent.

Read the column here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Introduction to Star Wars

My son received a few different Star Wars Legos for his birthday. But he still hadn’t seen any of the movies.

Up until now, I did not think it was worth watching the movie with him as his film preferences lean heavily toward animated features. But with many of his peers interested in Star Wars, and with his new Legos, we thought it was time to introduce it to him.

On our trip to the library on Saturday, we found Star Wars, A New Hope, the first film that came out 35 years ago. I have to admit that I was never a huge Star Wars fan, but I look back on the first two movies with fond nostalgia.

It had been years since I saw the original movie, so I looked forward to seeing it again. I wondered how Kai would like it, and my wife, too, for that matter, as she had never seen it before either.

Kai took interest when R2D2 and C-3PO came onscreen, not because they were cute, but because their names were letters and numbers. He got excited during the battle scenes. But he seemed bored during much of the other parts of the movie.

My wife liked it even less. She said that it was not her kind of movie.

I enjoyed it, but was surprised at how cheesy the special effects seemed versus how impressed I was by them when I saw the movie the first time. The acting and dialogue was also a lot more simplistic than I had remembered.

The next night, we watched Horton Hears a Who!

Now that was a film that all three of us really enjoyed. It was a good story, and had many funny moments for all of us.

And so, although Star Wars is a cultural icon, it doesn’t hold a candle to Dr. Seuss, at least in our house.

After seeing the reaction that Luke Skywalker got, I think it will be awhile before Harry Potter makes another appearance here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Son, the Emcee, is a Dream Come True

My son’s school had a special program for Black History Month yesterday.

When we got there, Kai was at his desk hugging one of his favorite classroom aides.

He then asked to go to the bathroom. And he wanted to make sure that the teacher wouldn’t start the program without him.

When he got back, it was time to start.

Kai joined his classmates up front for the first song, which was somewhat of a relief for us after what happened at the holiday concert in December.

After the whole group sang a song, some kids performed the scene where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. Later, other kids read poems together.

Finally, Kai was called up to the front of the room. He had the only solo. He would read the poem Dreams, by Langston Hughes.

Wikipedia tells me that Hughes was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry.

Kai did Mr. Hughes proud.

As he went up to the front of the class, Kai didn’t just read the poem. He announced that this was the last performance. He asked the audience to raise their hands if they liked the show. Of course, everyone did.

Finally, he read the poem:

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

He read loudly and clearly. And when he finished, he got great applause. And then he started to ad lib some more and probably would have gone on if his teacher didn’t shoo him off.

At one time, it was a dream for us that our son would be able to speak like this. Now he is chatting away like an emcee.

Hold fast to dreams, everyone. Hold fast.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Birthday Wrapup

Okay, one last post on birthday-related items.

Kai opened up his remaining presents after he got home from therapy yesterday. He ended up receiving a lot of great gifts from thoughtful relatives, adding to the haul from his friends over the weekend.

With all that he got, you would think he would be set for another year and not ask for anything for several more months. But I won’t hold my breath on that.

Still, I am happy that he seemed a more appreciative than in the past. This time, he took the time to open and read each card instead of just tearing the wrapping off each present without knowing who it was from.

Dinner, more birthday cake, and phone calls and Skype with grandparents wrapped up the day. He was even somewhat conversational on the calls.

So, it was a happy birthday.

But, I’m glad it will be another year before the next one.

Though I’m sure the time will pass all too quickly and another birthday will be upon us before we know it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Celebrations

It has been a busy few days with my son’s birthday party over the weekend followed by Valentine’s Day and now his actual birthday.

My son likes to celebrate all holidays. Valentine’s Day isn’t exactly up there with Christmas and Hanukkah, but he still likes to get Valentines and candy. He was up early yesterday in anticipation of the day.

We normally try not to load him up with too much candy. But we know he will receive some on Valentine’s Day. And he enjoyed receiving the treats, but I was happy that he enjoyed looking at the candy without consuming too much of it.

This morning, he was again excited. If you read yesterday’s post, you know that my wife went into labor on Valentine’s Day. But Kai wasn’t born until after midnight so today is his actual birthday.

After his party the other day, he opened all the presents he received from his friends. But he still has the ones from relatives that he will open today. And this morning we let him open one. Which he was thrilled to receive.

After which he talked on the phone with his grandparents.

And so, he’s off to a happy start. Here’s hoping it carries over into school as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Best Valentine’s Day Present

“Valentine’s Day 2004: My wife went into labor while walking along Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago…”

Today’s column is an extra special one as, for the first time, I tell the story of Kai’s birth, adversity, and love.

Please click here to read.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Birthday Party!

We had our son’s birthday party yesterday at Pump It Up, one of those places with inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and bounce houses.

Kai has been there, and places like it, many times before. It is a popular choice for birthday parties among his peers. We had thought about doing something a bit different, like we did last year, but, in the end, decided to stick with something that we knew for sure he would enjoy.
I know all kids have fun there, but it seems like the kind of place that is tailor-made for kids with autism. Kai can run and jump to his heart’s delight and not have to follow along with anyone else.

Kai has been excited about the party for days – and yesterday he woke up early. He couldn’t wait to go.

Once we were there, he had fun, though it felt to me like he was just a little less energetic than he has been at these places before. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the stress of him being the birthday boy, or the effect of the new medication that he just started, or perhaps something else, but he did not seem as jubilant as he usually does.

It looked like the rest of the kids had fun, though.

Most of the kids were from Kai’s school. Others were kids of our friends. Almost all had some type of special need. But while they were jumping and bouncing and sliding, they were just kids having fun.

And when all that was done, it was time for pizza and cake.

Kai enjoyed sitting in the special throne for the birthday boy. And had fun blowing out the candles.

But he didn’t really have a big smile until we came home and it was time to open presents. And then he was happy.

And after he played with some of his presents, he took a nap, which is very unusual for him. The day may have just been a little much for him.

But it was a good day all in all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Knitting a Bond

My wife took up knitting and crochet a few months ago. It’s a great way to pass the time in waiting rooms while Kai is in therapy. It also gives her something to do on long car rides.

Her latest project involves knitting a series of squares of different colors that she then puts together. The pattern she is using labels each square with a different letter.

Kai has long been into anything that includes letters or numbers. And so when he saw Mom’s knitting pattern with all those letters, he had to know what it was all about.

My wife explained to him what she was doing. He was fascinated. He then created his own chart to keep track of her progress.

“What letter are you working on now?” he will often ask. “Which one are you going to do next?”

And then he will update his data.

Knitting: the common bond between a boy and his mom. Who would have known?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Karate – Yame

Yame is the Japanese word for stop. In Kai’s karate class, Sensei often says it when it is time for the kids to end a particular drill.

My son has never really liked going to karate class. But we kept sending him because we thought it would be good for him. And, for a long time, it was.

When Kai first started karate, he was not able to follow his school teacher’s instructions. So, we weren’t very confident that he would be able to listen to and follow Sensei’s instructions at karate class. When he was able to, we were pleasantly surprised.

Sensei’s tough approach was quite a change from the gentler approach of most of Kai’s female therapists. But it seemed like it was just the prod Kai needed to accomplish more.

But lately, Kai has not responded well. He is not motivated in the class, and then talks back to Sensei when he gets on Kai. Kai has set a terrible example for the younger students. And it is embarrassing for my wife and I, as the other special needs kids in the class all seem to enjoy karate and take it seriously.

Last week, Sensei spoke to my wife just before the class was to begin. If Kai acted out, he would have to leave the dojo. He would not be permitted to stay.

During warmups, Kai got upset. He started throwing around the equipment. When he refused to clean up the mess he made. Sensei asked him to leave.

My wife brought him home. She was really frustrated. We both were, although I wasn’t there to personally experience this last incident. Things had become really bad as all of the other kids were taunting Kai about what a bad job he did.

Kai lost privileges that day. But we had to decide if we would continue sending him.

During some of the tough times we’ve had before, I’ve encouraged my wife to persist and keep Kai in the class. But I think it’s now time for a change.

There’s no excuse for his poor attitude.

But I don’t think forcing him to continue attending karate will change his attitude, especially with Sensei apparently losing all patience with Kai, and with the other kids joining in to deride him.

In sports, sometimes a change is needed to revitalize a team that has tuned out the old coach. Maybe that is the case here.

And so, we will say “yame” to this karate class.

Personally, I will miss taking him every Saturday morning. The friendships I had with a couple of the other dads provided the only adult conversations I regularly have with anyone other than my wife. And though I would have liked to continue to attend the Karate Dads’ Club, I am putting my son first.

Hopefully we will find another outlet to teach Kai the discipline he was learning through karate, one that will also provide good physical exercise.

But I’ll miss my buddies at the dojo.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Return of Sleepless Nights

With our fresh start with a new psychiatrist, my son has been off meds for a week now. He seems mostly happy these days, and is his old jovial self more often than not.

So we are glad about that.

Unfortunately, that is not the only thing that has changed back to how things were before we started the drugs.

Kai has returned to waking up in the middle of the night.

It is apparent now that the Risperidone and Seraquel had helped immensely with his sleep. Because without the drugs, for the past week, Kai wakes up in the middle of the night, gets out of bed, and knocks on our door.

The other night, he came by at about midnight. I walked him back to his bed and tucked him in. I’ve resumed sleeping in the extra bed in his room as he would keep coming out of bed otherwise. Sometimes he falls asleep quickly after I lie down. But on this night he did not.

“Dad, my lips are sore.”

I went over, put balm on his lips, and then returned to the spare bed.

“Dad, my leg hurts.”

I had no idea what the problem was. But after a minute or so of rubbing his leg, he seemed okay.

“Dad, can you scratch my back?”

This went on for about an hour. He was wide-awake. He wanted one thing after another.

Finally, at about 1 AM, I thought of giving him some melatonin. And after he ate it, he quieted down. He must have fallen asleep. Finally!

But at 4 AM, he was awake again.

“Dad, can I wake up now?”

Grumble, grumble. No, Kai, it’s too early.

“Dad, can I have some water?”

I got him a cup of water.

“Dad, I can’t sleep.”

Yes, Kai, I realize that. Close your eyes and try to stay quiet.

I was really irritated. But I knew he wasn’t doing this to irritate me. He just could not sleep. And that means he was miserable, too.

Over the past few months, I had gotten used to getting a full night’s sleep. So this change is really hard. And I’m sure it’s as hard for my son as it is for me.

At 6:30 AM, I finally told Kai that he could get out of bed. He started to cry. I asked him what was wrong but he did not answer.

The new doctor will soon recommend her approach for medication. Hopefully, it will include something to address Kai’s sleep issue. He * yawn * and I need it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Birthday Parties Can Be a Real Zoo

My son’s birthday is coming soon. Which means that we have been thinking a lot about birthday parties. We have had both really good and really bad experiences, which you can read all about in my Patch column this week.

Click here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Weekend

Our local nature center had a Family Day on Saturday. Along with their usual displays, they had a bunch of special activities for kids.

Kai got to try archery for the first time. With a line of kids waiting to try it, each child could only shoot three arrows. We’ll need to try it again sometime to really get the hang of it.

Kai enjoyed roasting a marshmallow. Well, he enjoyed the eating more than the roasting.

In addition to visiting the nature center, we enjoyed our incredibly warm winter weather by going to the park both Saturday and Sunday.

The park had some new playground equipment that Kai enjoyed. But he still likes to look at the numbers that caught his attention from when he was two years old.

We capped off the weekend by watching the Super Bowl. We made it a special event, with chips and salsa, and eating in the family room. And so it becomes one of the few sporting events that I can watch from start to finish. Kai is not really into sports, but he likes to keep track of the score. So, while he wasn’t watching every moment, he wanted to stay up to see it through to the end.

Happy kid, good times: a super weekend.

ADDENDUM: I just received a phone call from the nature center... we won a raffle they had... $120 gift basket from Whole Foods! I didn't even know there was a raffle but apparently my wife entered it when I wasn't looking. :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

The New Girl

My son likes girls. When he was in preschool, there was one particular girl that he had a crush on. He couldn’t communicate very well back then, but you could still easily see that he really liked her. But she mostly ignored him, at least until the end-of-school picnic.

In kindergarten, during the four months that he was mainstreamed at our neighborhood school, he was especially fond of two girls. His communication skills were starting to develop, but he still could not interact with the girls like other kids could. They spoke with him every once in awhile, but I think it was as much to tease him as to be friendly with him. I don’t think he realized they might be being mean to him. He just relished their attention whenever he got it.

Now he attends a therapeutic school. The reality is that far fewer girls go to this school than boys. During first grade, Kai’s class consisted only of boys. And the same has been true in second grade. So there have been no girls for Kai to pine over.

Until now.

In the past couple of weeks, two girls have joined his class. And Kai couldn’t be happier about it.

Yesterday, we met with a therapist at his school who teaches once a week in his classroom. She recounted to us that as she was about to start her latest session, Kai excitedly raised his hand. She called on him.

“Um, excuse me, Dr. G____. You have to introduce yourself to C_____.”

Kai was concerned that the new girl wouldn’t know the speaker, and he was looking out for her.

It was funny to think of my young son being so chivalrous, and so concerned about another child.

It was also wonderful to think about how far his communication skills have come since preschool.

Hmm, maybe this girl will pay some attention to him.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Back to Square One, A Fresh Start

We have tried various medications with our son for several months now. At times, we saw some benefits. But, mostly, we saw even more detrimental side effects. And in the overall picture, things were not trending in the right direction.

I wasn’t ready to completely give up on medication, but I felt it was time to seek out a different doctor and get a second opinion.

We spoke about it with the staff at our son’s therapeutic school, and they referred us to a psychiatrist who has helped several of their other students.

And so, my wife and I went to see the new doctor.

She listened to our story. She was sympathetic. She was patient and spent more time with us than the previous doctor ever did. She didn’t make any promises. She acknowledged that this form of medicine is informed trial and error. But she had some ideas on what she might do for Kai.

We liked her.

And so we will see what this new doctor can do for our son.

The first step is to take him off all meds for about a week. The doctor will then observe him at school and get a baseline of what he is like when he is off medication. Then, she will add a drug, slowly, conservatively, one at a time, and take it from there.

So, we are back to where we started months ago.

But this new doctor has made us a bit more optimistic than we have been in a while.

Sometimes we all need a fresh start.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Noting Progress in Communication

My son has therapy at a clinic that incorporates play to help kids learn to build interactive relationships. At the beginning of each session, the child can select from a wide array of toys.

Lately, Kai’s toy of choice has been a set of Electronic Snap Circuits, which teaches kids the basics about electronics.

We have this at home as well, and he obsessed over it when he first got it. The set that both the clinic and we have is the base set, which enables kids to “build over 300 exciting projects.” Kai has been campaigning for a few weeks now to get the “500 project” extension set for his birthday.

But he’s not just campaigning for it at home. He has declared his desires to the clinic as well.

At his last session, he told his therapist that he wanted them to get the extension set, too. His therapist took advantage of his motivation and turned it into an opportunity for Kai to practice his social interaction.

She had Kai write down his wish on paper to organize his thoughts. And then she helped him track down the head of the clinic. And when she introduced him to the boss, he had to voice his thoughts himself.

My wife reported that Kai spoke very clearly and nicely. And after the head of the clinic heard Kai’s pitch, she promised him that the clinic would get the new set.

We were amazed at Kai’s ability to articulate his wishes. I doubt he could have done this a year ago. His communication skills have certainly come a long way.

Of course, now he expects the clinic to have the new set. He doesn’t understand that it might take a little time for the purchase to actually be made.

Hopefully, he can make this much progress with his patience, too.

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