Tag Archives: autism

Out Of Nowhere

Amber and I both knew the day would come eventually, but we had no idea how it would manifest itself.

Last night, out of the blue, Kaitlyn just broke down and started crying.  This is not typical of her, especially right before Survivor was starting, so we knew something had to be up.  It didn’t take long for us to get our answer.

upsidedown-world1Kaitlyn told us that she “didn’t feel like” herself anymore.  After a little more digging, she revealed that she felt it was because of her Asperger’s.  She said that she felt alone in the world and that she is treated differently by some kids because she has autism.  We were in the midst of a full-blown meltdown.

From the time Kaitlyn was diagnosed, Amber and I started discussing how exactly we would handle telling her, and how we would deal with situations like this when they came up.  When we told her about her diagnosis, she took it just fine.  She asked a few questions about what it meant, and what it was, and we answered them honestly.  We didn’t want to hide anything from her.  Since her diagnosis, we have been upfront with her teachers about it and worked with them to maximize Kaitlyn’s days at school without interfering with or interrupting the classroom environment.

One of the first things we told Kaitlyn last night was that her autism is just part of what makes her special.  It is what makes her the caring, trusting, compassionate, and gifted child that she is.  She was (and is) so scared that other kids will treat her differently because of it, or that she may be bullied because of it, and Amber and I had to convince her again that those things just weren’t going to happen.  (I’m not above going all “Curt Schilling” on people who mess with her, either!)

dolphin11aWe told her that her Asperger’s/autism is what makes her love dolphins so much and what makes her want to work with them in the future (she wants to be a dolphin trainer, and Amber and I will do everything we can to encourage her to be just that).  No, it is not a requirement for a dolphin trainer to have autism or Asperger’s, but it certainly can’t hurt to have someone who has been blessed with it and has such a deep love for them working with dolphins and educating people about them.

Another point we brought up with her is that nobody, under any circumstances, has the right to make her feel like she is less of a person because of her diagnosis.  Nobody.  Amber and I just will not tolerate it.

We know that last night will not be the last time we have to comfort Kaitlyn and reinforce to her what a blessing her having Asperger’s truly is.  We made it a point to tell her last night that we wouldn’t change a thing about who she is; we are proud of her, and we wanted to reassure her that we will always have her back.  Amber and I work hard everyday to make sure Kaitlyn understands how special she really is; we are fortunate to have people surrounding us who share that goal, and we are thankful everyday for the support system we have in place here (I don’t know that we will ever truly be able to express how much we appreciate what everyone does for us and for Kaitlyn everyday).

When people really get a chance to know Kaitlyn and take the time to really understand her struggles and successes, the impact it has on her, and on Amber and I, is tremendous.  It truly is a gift to have a child with Asperger’s, and we do our best to teach Kaitlyn everyday that she is truly blessed to have Asperger’s.  Aspergers 1

Utter Chaos

It seemed a little strange that there would be an open house at Kaitlyn’s school so late in the year, but that is where we found ourselves last night.  Honestly, it was pretty cool to be able to visit the school and her classrooms (yes, two classrooms) and talk to her teachers about the progress she has made this year.

chaosAfter navigating our way through the PTO’s silent auction (although there was very little in the way of actual silence in the cafeteria), we went over to Kaitlyn’s main classroom.  Kaitlyn was very excited to show us around and show us what she had been up to; there was a checklist on her desk of things that she was supposed to show us, and she happily did.  While we were standing by her desk, Kaitlyn’s teacher came up to us and chatted for a few minutes.  She made note that Kaitlyn’s desk was remarkably clean (for her, it seems), and also commented that her desk was not the most chaotic in the classroom earlier in the day.  Of course, this point warranted further investigation (I waited until this morning to ask), and as it turns out, Kaitlyn’s desk was the second messiest in the classroom before she cleaned it earlier in the day.  More on who had the messiest desk in just a minute.

From Kaitlyn’s regular classroom, we made our way to the gifted cottage.  Kaitlyn was very excited to show us where she has been going for the last six weeks or so.  Pretty much as soon as we walked into the cottage, it made perfect sense that Kaitlyn would have such a messy desk in her regular classroom; the gifted cottage is what most would consider utter chaos (although I would probably call it “organized chaos”).  As it turns out, the student with the messiest desk in the regular classroom is also in the gifted program, so it made perfect sense to me once Kaitlyn told me.

It is actually a pretty neat statement on the learning environment that is fostered in the gifted cottage.  In there, it is clear that there is the understanding that each of the kids learns differently, and those different ways of learning are embraced.  We learned that one of the main goals of the gifted classroom is to enhance the strengths of the students, and by doing so, make the weaknesses even stronger.  As funny as it sounds, what with Katlyn’s adherence to routines and structure, I am confident that she will thrive even more now that she will be in that type of environment; next year, she will continue to be in a regular classroom setting most of the day, and will also continue to move to the gifted area to enhance her day.

If you were to look through the archives of when I write about Kaitlyn’s school , you will see that this theme is repeated constantly:  we love where she is and could not be happier with the teachers she has had and the environment she is in.

Annual Report

A few weeks ago, we took Kaitlyn for the second part of her annual evaluation with the psychologist.  This was the one-on-one session where he basically interviews her and gets a good idea of how she has progressed or changed since our last visit.  Overall, the visit was about 90 minutes long.

Last week, we received the clinical report (and when I say “clinical,” I mean it very literally.  As usual, the report was filled with “doctor speak,” which we have had translated for us in the past, so we are familiar with it now.).

There were no real surprises in the report at all, and it read pretty much like last year’s did.  Really, the only “change” that was noted was that, according to the DSM-5, Kaitlyn now technically has Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder.  After researching what exactly that means (she will “require support”), I concluded that it is just a fancy way of saying she has Asperger’s (because it will be so much easier to tell people, “my daughter has Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder” than it was to say, “she has Asperger’s.”  Now, in addition to explaining what her diagnosis means, Amber and I will first have to overcome the blank looks from people trying to comprehend what we meant by “Level 1.”).  Here is what Level 1 is:

Social Communication:  Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments. Difficulty initiating social interactions, and clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful response to social overtures of others. May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions. For example, a person who is able to speak in full sentences and engages in communication but whose to- and-fro conversation with others fails, and whose attempts to make friends are odd and typically unsuccessful.

Restricted, repetitive behaviors:Inflexibility of behavior causes significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts. Difficulty switching between activities. Problems of organization and planning hamper independence.

Basically, Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder mirrors Asperger’s.

The report did mention that Kaityln probably also has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which made Amber immediately point out (rightfully) that she inherited that from me.

Rolling Right Along

schoolhouse1Kaitlyn brought home her report card for the third nine weeks this week.  We actually got it the day they came out this time, and given the fact that she lost her report card last time, there was a 50/50 chance (at best), that its arrival would be delayed this time, too.  I guess all that practice I made her do helped resolve the root problem from last time (failure to zip up her backpack).

Kaitlyn just keeps rolling along with getting great grades.  Straight As again this time, and she exceeded expectations in all non-graded areas again.  On the honor roll again, too.

Of course, her report card also contained the much-anticipated comments from her teacher, and those stayed about the same, too.  “Kaitlyn is a pleasure to have in class.”  “She continues to grow.”  “We will continue to work on getting her to slow down on assignments to avoid making silly (my word, not her teacher’s) mistakes.”  Same old, same old.

There is a big change coming for Kaitlyn starting next week, but Amber and I, along with her teacher and school administration, believe that it will only help Kaitlyn continue to grow and excel.

What’s In Store?

2014

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was sitting in front of my computer screen recapping 2012, and the adventures we had.  Hard to believe that it was 365 days ago.  Hard to believe that it was countless adventures ago, way more than I could ever have hoped to share on here.

2013 was yet another adventurous year for us.  We saw our shares of ups and downs, but the one thing that Amber and I remained steadfast in is doing what we thought was best for Kaitlyn each and every day.

We had our annual follow-up with the psychologist.  Kaitlyn completed her first 5k.  There was the first of many Oscar-worthy performances.  Those are always fun.  Kaitlyn played her first season of an organized sport, T-ball.  There was, of course, our first Disney cruise, and what a “Dream” it was!

Kaitlyn turned seven this past summer, and her ocean-themed birthday party was a success.  Over the summer, she also lost her first toothSchool started back in August, and Kaitlyn was excited to start second grade; so far, second grade has been amazing, with Kaitlyn having made straight A’s in the first nine weeks (second report card coming soon!).

2014 should be an interesting year as well.  Amber and I know that there will be plenty of adventures (I could probably write something every day, but then you would get sick of reading this blog), and with the adventures, there will be plenty of highs and lows again.  While we may not know all of what is in store for 2014, we do know some of what will happen.

Soccer kicks back off shortly, and that should be entertaining.  We have our annual follow-up with the psychologist coming up in January.  Kaitlyn will be bringing home another report card in the next few weeks, too.  We will be going on our second cruise this summer, but not before our required trip to the Disney Store in Destin for some necessities for Kaitlyn.  Third grade, and all the challenges that will come along with it, will start in August (it pains me to even write that this far out because I don’t want it to get here too soon).

No matter what happens in 2014, I know that Amber will be by my side, and I know that we will continue to raise Kaitlyn our way, knowing that everything we do is with the truest intentions of making her life better.  I am thankful that Amber and I get to share these adventures together, and we are all thankful for the support of our friends and family.

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