All posts by melindabrown79

Melinda Brown is a wife and mother from Oklahoma City. She loves to dance, scuba dive and travel – and used to do so frequently back when she had free time. She works full-time during the day and does her best to be the best therapist-parent she can be in the evening. She can be reached through her website: www.dancingwithautism.com or on her facebook page at www.facebook.com/ourdancewithautism

How I Went from a Completely Exhausted and Run-Down Special Needs Mom, to a Happy and Thriving Special Needs Mom!

pic

For the past few years, I had progressively become more and more run-down. I was just completely and totally exhausted all the time: mentally, physically, you name it. I would get up, go to work, come home, take care of Lila – play with her and work on various floor-time/play therapies, clean the house, take care of the pets, do the laundry (you know the drill). Always trying to keep up with anything and everything that Lila, my husband, or our pets needed.

Lila would go to bed around 10:30pm, and I would go at 10:35pm. I would just fall into bed, exhausted, and seriously think “HOW int he world am I going to be able to do this again tomorrow??”. My husband noticed how down I was on one of those days – and he said “Hey Babe, are you going make it??” (jokingly I’m sure). And I replied with “I honestly don’t know….I don’t know how long I can keep doing this in the long term”. There are no breaks – and going 24/7 I had absolutely nothing left to give to anyone, least of all myself. Everything I had went to everyone else.

Now, our friend Kristy had been talking about Thrive for a while and how AMAZING it was – how great she felt, how much energy she had, blah blah blah. Honestly? I thought she had lost her mind. What is that “sticker thing” going to really do? I mean, come on. That may work for typical folks but this is just what special-needs parenting is like. It’s a whole other level of exhaustion. Well, fast-forward a few months and I was at the point discussed above. SO, as a last-ditch to help me – my husband called Kristy and placed the order directly for me. He said if it could make me feel a quarter of how great Kristy felt, it would be worth it.

Well…within a couple of days I had the 3 steps (pills, DFT patch, and shake), so I might as well give it a whirl. What the Hell. And three weeks in I was so upset – I didn’t feel what Kristy felt, what everyone else felt. Why was it working for everyone else but not for me?? Kristy talked me into continuing, and man, am I glad she did.

Less than a week later it kicked in. I woke up refreshed and full of energy for the first time in what seemed like a million years. I actually started going to the gym 3 times a week at 6am before work (whaaaat?!?). and I was NOT a morning person. I was a “please don’t talk to me till after 10am kind of person”. This changed that completely. I felt mental clarity I hadn’t felt in years. Overall I just felt so much damn happier than I had in a very long time!

It is AMAZING what premium nutrition can do for your body – those 3 steps first thing in the morning have literally changed my life. I will NEVER go back to feeling the way I did before. They should give this out to special needs parents upon diagnosis, I swear. I wasted so much time feeling so terrible – I got ME back!

If I can reach the one parent who is where I was THEN, and help him/her feel the way I do NOW? I have to spread that message, I wish someone had approached me sooner! So that’s why I talk about Thrive.

As always – sending lots of love and light to you and your beautiful families!

“Ah-Yay!”

I don’t usually post about any of the challenges, but wanted to offer a little glimpse into the autism family life for those who don’t experience it: Bath time has become extremely difficult. Lila hears the water running, and her anxiety goes from zero to one hundred (within a split second) – she screams and appears completely overwhelmed.

I want more than anything to be able to ask her WHY she is so upset – what’s wrong, baby? So I can change it. So I can ask – but she can’t tell me.

This week while mid-meltdown, she grabbed my face in her little hands, looked me in the eyes, and repeated slowly and deliberately. “Ah-Yay”……”Ah-Yay!”…… Momma, “AH-YAY!!!” I have absolutely no idea.

Maybe it’s what is making bath so challenging for her, and she’s desperately trying to tell me. “Ah-Yay!”. I started to cry. I always tell her I’m so sorry – that one day we will get there – I promise. It’s the tiny moments like that that absolutely break my heart. As always we keep working – we’re warriors, all three of us

“Mah, Goots, Yets Go!”

14962648_10205687501345970_5548801498787505934_n

That’s it folks. It may not look like much to an outsider but it was incredible.
The longest verbal string I’ve ever heard from her. The good Lord knows that neither patience nor manners are her strong suit – she said “Mah, Goots, Yets Go!”, which in Lila speak is “Milk, Juice, Let’s Go!” and it was spoken to me as I headed into the kitchen after she had requested a drink

The Biggest Mistake I’ve Made (So Far) as the Parent of an Autistic Child – and How I’m Working to Correct It!

At 15 months of age we started floor-time/play therapy at home with Lila, under the tutelage of her SoonerStart therapist – Janet. We worked every day for years on joint attention, fine motor skills, speech, turn-taking, picture cards, anything that involved effective communication between each other.

Well – I in particular ended up painting myself into a corner. Bill had much more common sense with this than I did lol Communication – that was the key, right? SHOW me what you want, and I’ll do it! Anything – give me anything and I’ll do it. Desperation lent itself to shelving any reservations I had about performing any of these requests.

Long story short I ended up here:

Oh, you want Mommy to….:

  • Get out 5 foods for you mini-buffet style, then blow bubbles over you while you play on the iPad?
  • Jump on the trampoline with you for hours and hours?
  • Give you a piggy-back ride 100 times in a row?

And I did. At the time – she was communicating, and I was too scared to put limitations on it at that point. So I did whatever she asked whenever she asked for the most part – unless it put her in some sort of danger – that was my ONLY caveat.

Looking back I see how ridiculous this must all look now – but I know where we came from. From a place with zero communication – I thought we had lost her. Therefore, I was beyond desperate. I also worried that she had/has no siblings or friends, and I think I was at least in some part trying to fill that void for her as well (but that’s my issue, not hers).

NOW is the time to set those limits. If we don’t do it while she’s young – all of us will be in a world of trouble, and I know that. She’s extremely intelligent – and her self-soothing skills have improved dramatically. Therefore, I’ve had to start saying “no” more often. Sometimes with a visual of when it will be available again, but sometimes (like while I’m working from home) – the answer is just “no”. She’s learning to be OK with that. I get her what I know she needs to calm down. It may take a while, but she can do it. That’s an important life skill, folks.

Limit-setting – that’s what we’re working on right now, and just flat-out saying “no” for things that are just completely unacceptable (ie physically trying to hurt the cats/puppy). I’ve always been good at the sensitive side of parenting – and working on plenty of floor-time/play therapies with Lila, so now I’M working on setting more limits for her, saying no, and having her take more responsibility around the house for things I know she can do. She throws her chips on the floor – she can pick them up. She doesn’t like it – but she knows better, and she can do it.

She’s a brilliant little girl – and I talk all the time about no limits for her just because she’s autistic, etc. I wouldn’t let a neuro-typical kid get away with this stuff, so I can’t let her get away with it either. So that’s where we’re at on that – we’re working on it, and as always we’ll get through it together!

New Play Therapy Games!

lila

New Play Therapy Games!:

I’ve learned to always work with what you have – and to think outside the box (thanks, Janet!).

I’ve been working on (but haven’t been able to successfully negotiate) a time where we sit in the playroom and play with actual toys. So like most things related to autism, I feel it’s more beneficial for both of us if we meet halfway. So I’ve chosen to use her affinity for the trampoline time as our new “therapy” time.

We both play on the trampoline a LOT – hours a day, every day. I always verbalize what we’re doing (i.e. saying “jump!” every time we jump together) because we’ve been doing floor-time/play therapy with her since she was 15 months old and that’s just how we roll.

Instead of just verbalizing what’s going on and singing, we worked on a couple of new things to force her just a little bit out of her comfort zone:

 

1.) “Do you want to…..”

Using WHAT we’re doing to work on the concept of “yes” or “no”. I say a few silly suggestions (which she thinks is funny), then go for the actual activity.

So I say, “Do you want to swim? Noooo (exaggerated and silly sounding – scripted that off one of her favorite apps and she loves it). Fly? Noooo…. Jump? –  YES! Let’s JUMP! So we’re basically just working on the play-time activities we’ve already been doing – then trying to work the concept of “yes” and “no” into the framework of that activity. She thinks this is pretty silly but she’s learning AND having a good time! (And isn’t that always the goal?)

 

2.) Verbal Choices….

We’re starting to push the boundary with the spoken word just a bit. We obviously know her better than anyone, so it’s easier to gauge what stretches her vs. what would cause her to get upset (which obviously ruins the play and defeats the purpose of play therapy).

So I say, “Do you want to (a) jump or (b) march?” Every time she comes to me I ask her to choose. Sometimes I mix it up with spin – but she knows each of these words well and I have heard her say them clearly enough that I can differentiate between the two. I think it’s important that I chose words/actions that she’s familiar with for this exercise – it allows me to work with her withOUT her anxiety level skyrocketing. She’s started (at times) just coming up to me now and saying “Jump!”, “March”, etc. with no prompting from me as a result!

We’re about to head into the holidays, TeamQuirky – please remember to throw conventionality out the window and do what works for you and YOUR family! Lots of love to all of you and your beautiful families.

 

Current Strengths:

  • Expressing herself verbally more and more (I’ve even heard two word phrases a few times like “Mommy, yay!”.
  • Able to identify feelings via picture cards (ie happy, sad, sick, etc).
  • Working off of “Potty time” and “Washing Hands” picture schedules.
  • Actually ate some noodles and diced tomatoes! Making in bulk for her this weekend – so excited!
  • We did Halloween our own way and she had a GREAT time.

 

Current Challenges:

  • She hasn’t been feeling well – and that causes her behavior to become much more challenging.
  • Bath time – regression there (again) – no clue why – building that routine back up using some of her current favorite songs from Sesame Street & Nursery Rhymes while we do bath.
  • The puppy (Millie!) – we found out that for the first time in her life, she likes dogs! But she does not really like the new puppy – the nipping and jumping on her, etc. Things will only get better as Millie continues to get bigger, we’ll get there!

 

14910364_1975765515983799_7652318898379322107_n

14718604_1970602206500130_9115553492696111554_n14591786_1974482336112117_9125125314477887304_n

Late-Night Trampoline Fun

img_6299

It’s not your stereotypical perfect picture, but I love this so much. Lila took me by the hand to the back door last night around 6:50pm. The sun was almost set, she looked out the window and knew it was almost dark. I said “I think we can go out ONE last time, don’t you?”. She ran to the back door and we headed outside. We jumped on the trampoline until past dark. Her pure JOY in those moments is palpable, overwhelming, and one of my very favorite things on the planet. I’m so lucky to be this one’s Mommy. I tell her all the time, but if I could only choose one child in the whole universe, I would choose her – just as she is – every single time. So unbelievably blessed 💖

Back to School: “About Me” Booklet

IMG_6906

Last year I did an in-depth book for Lila’s teachers/therapists last year since it was her first year of pre-K (thank you for the form, Janet!). For those of you who want to do one and need a starting place, I’m pasting a clean copy of the basic contents here:

All About Me

My name is:

My friends and family call me:

This is who lives with me at home:

These are the therapists and doctors who support me and my family and how to reach them:

These are other family, friends, and supports that are special to my family and when my family or I usually see them:

Here are some things that I REALLY enjoy:

Here is how you know I’m happy:

Here are some things that are challenging for me to do:

Here are some things that I wish didn’t ever have to happen because I dislike them so much:

Here’s what I do when I’m not happy about something:

These are the ways in which I communicate to others what I’m thinking, feeling, wanting, and don’t want:

These are the ways I get around my environment and how I move and use my fingers and hands:

These are the ways I’m able to eat, and what foods I like and don’t like:

This is my experience being around other children my age and what usually happens in those settings:

This is how people who care for me let me know what behavior is expected of me and how they handle it when I’m misbehaving:

This is how I best calm down when I am upset:

These are some things that my family would like to see me learn over the next year:

This is what you can expect from my family at home when working with me:

This is what my family would like as far as communication about what I am learning and how I am doing at school:

These are my family’s hopes and dreams for me: