Raising My Autism Spectrum Disorder Kid

Originally I studied simply out of my desire to help my son.  Little did I realise that I would discover my passion along the way which would in turn bring with it a change of career.  Here are excerpts from my journals telling the story of my now teenage son and how it all played out.

My baby cried inconsolably from 8pm to midnight each night from the first night after I brought him home.  The plunket nurse called it his unsettled period.  This was to become my daily hell for the next six months.

My first child had been a cuddly baby who loved to be held, rocked, patted and snuggled.  It was his nature and in my naivety, I expected the same with his little baby brother.  When my baby cried, I picked him up to comfort him.  All this did was make him stiffen and scream louder.  I was bewildered.  I thought I was doing something wrong.  I began to doubt myself.

Breastfeeding – Connan fed differently.  It was as if he got tired of sucking and needed to rest. I began to think there may be something wrong with my baby.  At 6 weeks old I took him to a cranial osteopath who told me that he had restrictions down his left side.  He treated Cons the once and didn’t tell me to take him back.  With the knowledge I had at that time, I didn’t realise that he would have benefitted from further treatment.  I expressed my breast milk for Cons and he was fed mostly from in a bottle from this point on with me continuing to offer him the breast at the start of a feed.

Milestones – Cons rolled over on the floor once at 6 weeks old and didn’t do it again till he was well over 12 months.  He did not like being placed on his tummy on the floor to kick.  He did not crawl on all fours.  At 12 months old he began to shuffle on his bottom in a sitting position.  He liked to get to his blocks and each day would seek and find the two square green ones then sit happily with one in each hand.  If he couldn’t find them, he would get very frustrated and bawl loudly.  He sees a homeopath regularly for constitutional remedies to help him.  These make a difference to his frustration levels.

At 14 months he began to pull himself up onto his knees though didn’t keep going into the standing position.  He walked around on his knees for a number of months and had to be encouraged to stand on his feet.  He walked at 22 months old.

This boy responds extremely well to routine and does not like change.  It is important to give him advance warning if plans have to change.

3 years – Cons has a very strong dislike of, and extreme reaction to, clowns.  He doesn’t like his food mixed up on his plate.  He is not fussed on meat as he doesn’t like having to chew it.  He has an eczema rash and very reactive to insect bites.  He has taken a liking to the wooden Thomas the Tank Engine and this is all he wants to play with.  At creche he wants to play exclusively with one other child.  He still gets frustrated and can be very loud when he expresses this.  We spend a lot of time outside and walking him in his mountain buggy.  He settles to go to sleep better if his environment is tidy and he prefers a settled quieter environment in general.

I began to really look at his diet and started to make some changes.  He is not sleeping through the night.  He is often congested with a runny nose and has repeated ear infections.  His speech is slow to develop and he seems to have his own language.  He has a high tolerance to pain and doesn’t mention it when his ears are sore.  He started seeing an osteopath and was to continue this treatment for the next five years.

4 year old – At this time my son was displaying a difficult side to his personality and his frustration levels are high. He was behaving very unsociably, refusing to acknowledge greetings from others and refusing to wave or say goodbye, roaring like a wild animal instead of using his words and crying, very loudly, a lot. Cons had, since birth, rejected any displays of affection.  He is frustrated and has tantrums.

Cons finally begins to speak and it is in complete sentences!

I am now studying herbal medicine and nutrition so we started making dietary and environmental changes as I learned – removing wheat, dairy, and preservatives from diet.  Con’s congestion improved and asthma began to ease.  Constipation is a problem.  He is not sleeping through the night and is still in a night nappy.

Cons is still into his wooden Thomas train set and wants to collect every engine.  He knows them all by name and can describe them in accurate detail.

4 years 8 months – Cons attended a Steiner Kindergarten and began to socialise.  At this point he was socialising mostly with just one child and while starting to acknowledge the others around him still prefers to have only one friend at a time.  He had also progressed past roaring like a dinosaur at everyone he met and at this time was acting the character Peter Pan and although he was disappointed that he was unable to fly like his fantasy character.

5 years – Starts at local school.  Cons struggles with school and is often misunderstood.  There seemed to be a negative report on his behaviour almost every day.  He is very left handed and uncoordinated.  He finds it uncomfortable to sit on the mat.  As he didn’t crawl on all fours as a baby, his body did not develop core strength and this meant he would get a sore back when standing or sitting unsupported for more than a few minutes at a time.  While he is beginning to socialise at school his behaviour sometimes works against him.  He discovers that biting other kids isn’t a good thing to do.  He is still not sleeping all night and is coming into my bed every night.  He is still in a pull up nappy at night time.  He seems to have little stamina.

While his social skills were difficult, there were the funny moments, like when he got invited to a birthday party and as the wee boy handed Cons the invitation he told him that the party was to be at McDonalds.  Cons immediately hands it back saying that McDonalds is rubbish.  I quickly intervened and spent some time with Cons explaining that he could eat at home first and that the toys were okay.

6 Years – Two days before his sixth birthday Cons announces that he intends to sleep in his own bed when he is six.  He wakes the first night and I take him back to his own bed.  The second night he sleeps through the night and continues to do so.  He is still in a pull up and is wet every morning.

Cons teacher suggests he go through the new Perceptual Motor Programme at school.  We get some help from an occupational therapist and work with a physiotherapist on a programme that I can implement at home.

Cons is seen by a pediatrician and a child psychologist.  He shows OCD tendencies and they feel he is too young to give a diagnosis.

7 years – Cons is struggling in class with outbursts of temper and is distressed with the noise.  We implement some strategies for him to keep himself and others safe when he reacts to this distress.  He is allowed to go outside the classroom, cross his arms, and stamp his feet.  This is working.

He is still wetting every night and continues to wear a pull up.  He is not self conscious about this at all and happily stays at a friend’s house and wears a pull up there.

8 years – Cons struggles to adapt to the changes in his world when we move to Wellington and does not settle easily at his new school, as the support and understanding at this school is missing.  He starts karate and really enjoys it.  After six months he returns to Hamilton to live with Dad.  He is happy to be back at his old school with his friends.

9 years – Cons returns to Wellington to live with Mum after a year with Dad.  Cons doesn’t return to local school, he attends one further away where he settles in well and is happy to be back with mum.  Cons returns to karate.

10 years – Cons decides he wants to stop wetting his bed.  His experience of the world has been stressful and he doesn’t relax during the day.  When he goes to bed he relaxes and then his bladder lets go ending up in wet beds.  It takes about a year and I get very adept at stripping and changing a wet bed in my almost still asleep state.  I never scold him for a wet bed, it just wouldn’t be helpful.  He seems to have little stamina and is beginning to be aware that he cannot do all he wants to do.

11 years – Cons starts at intermediate school.  He gains further independence with being able to walk to school and makes friends at the after school care.  This is an easier environment to make friends as there are less kids and noise.  He is struggling with outbursts of temper in the classroom and is upset with the noise.

Cons plays soccer for local club – he runs around and hardly touches the ball.  Team sports are not his forte.  He does tennis in summer and enjoys this.  He takes up Warhammer 40K as a hobby.

Hair tissue mineral analysis test shows Cons is deficient in a number of minerals.  This is a breakthrough.  After three months of taking the protocol to correct these deficiencies, Cons comments that he notices his anxiety is lessening.  When he gets stressed or anxious he will wet his bed however this is less often now.

12 years – Cons plays soccer again – not that into it.  Cons attains grade of yellow belt green tab in karate – he finds the noise too much and perceives the instructors as aggressive – he stops karate.  I take him to an exercise specialist instead to work with Cons on his coordination and core strength.  Cons plays tennis in summer.

Cons is involved in a ‘reactive’ incident at school and another in the community.  He is disciplined at school and home and begins to ‘get it’ that actions bring consequences.

Cons cannot bear to have deodorant or sunscreen on his skin.  His natural body odour becomes strong in puberty so the solution is he showers daily and shampoos his hair every day.

I find myself in tears when I hear the spontaneous words “I love you Mum” from my 12 year old son for the first time in his life.  He is not a child who expresses emotions as rule.

13 years – Cons starts and likes high school as he changes teachers every spell and this means (in his words) that the teacher doesn’t have time to get annoyed with him.

He struggles socially to understand the world around him and we spend a lot of time debriefing him on his day and helping him to understand people’s actions and reactions.  He is confused by girl’s behaviour.

Cons experiences some problems with other kids bullying him.  Handwriting is identified as a major problem at the first parent / teacher meeting at the beginning of the year.  We discover Cons has been placed in a class with team teaching assistance because of his poorly legible handwriting.  Working with the exercise specialist on his gross motor skills has also improved his fine motor skills.  Cons switches to printing and is delighted to discover it is easier and we can all read it.

Cons is growing in his maturity and independence this year.  End of year, Cons  returns to karate after a two year break.

14 years – Cons is in Year 10.  His current personal focus with school is to get as many ‘Excellence’ grades as he can.  He is quite concerned about NCEA next year.  Cons struggles with noise in the classroom and interprets many of his peers as arrogant and trying to prove they are more intelligent than he is.  His belief is that they are there to learn and he thinks they ought to be quiet in the process.

Cons does well in subjects that are logical.  He is fabulous at math.  He struggles in English.  He is even doing well in PE which is a huge positive change.  He enjoys social studies and his teacher tells me her goal is to get him putting his sophisticated ideas onto paper.  Cons struggles to get his ideas down in writing.

Cons walks to school each day and chose not to get a locker this year.  He carries all his books every day even those he doesn’t have a class for that day.

Cons is beginning to show signs of reading social situations – he told me that he avoids the boy who hassled him last year and that this boy has a really angry face when he is talking to people.  Cons still feels it is only him this boy doesn’t like however he has managed to recognise that this boy has the same look when he talks to others.

Cons has very sensitive hearing and while he likes to listen to music, he sets the volume extremely low.  He is an unusual teenager in that his bedroom is always tidy.

Cons has a big fear of birds; insects; clowns; rats; mice.  Milder fears are dogs; horses; animals.  He likes our two cats.

Cons isn’t that fussed on using a computer though has recently bought himself an iPod.  We watch very little TV in our house.  Evenings will often find the three of us on the couch reading books.

Cons’ alarm goes off at 7am each school morning and he gets out of bed and into his routine immediately.  He showers; dresses and comes upstairs.  He makes his own school lunch and breakfast and gets himself out the door to school between 7.45am and 7.50am.  In the recent school holidays in April he decided not to sleep beyond 9.30am each morning and retired at his normal 8.30pm each night as he didn’t want to mess up his sleep patterns.

Cons has a rather good grasp of nutrition and understands the need for protein, fats and complex carbohydrates in his diet.  He doesn’t eat a lot of junk food and rarely drinks fizzy pop.  He mostly drinks water and sometimes rice milk.  He has a fresh made vegetable juice each weekday morning.

Cons occasionally still struggles with anxiety and outbursts of anger which are more apparent when he gets stressed.   I give him liquid herbs to manage this as he has difficulty with swallowing anything in tablet form.  He regularly sees a homeopathic colleague and responds well to homeopathic remedies.  We did his salivary DNA test and as a result he is now taking an activated form of folate every day.  This has made a huge difference to his energy and anxiety levels.

Connan was seen by a pediatrician this year and diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder.  Cons is happy to have this diagnosis as he has friends who are similar and says it helps him to understand himself.  He is doing well at high school and has a hobby that he loves.

To make an appointment with Cush go to http://cushreid.co.nz/book