Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Activities

My little brother has been placed in a variety of activities to keep working on his motor skills and coordination. These sports also serve as a way for him to focus his energy in a productive manner. Since both me and my brother are half siblings sharing a father while spending the majority of our time with our mothers, it is on weekend visits that we see each other. In the house we visit, there is a fire place in the living room opposite to an open doorway leading to a hallway and then the kitchen. My little brother would run from the kitchen to the fireplace and back, over and over again. When he was not doing this and jumping around in that area, he was focusing on climbing up the railing on the stairs. Needless to say this little boy had too much energy that needed to be focused in a better way. We signed him up for ice skating, horseback riding, and gymnastics. He generally excelled at all of these things after practice. These were ways to focus his energy and anger and also practice balance and coordination. I strongly advise parents with autistic children to include their child in some sort of sport or activity to help them release the anger I explained previously with the temper tantrums. Its a great, active way to keep them happy and healthy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

As I think I've said before, my family is activley involved in the "Autism Speaks" fundraiser walk, where we raise money and get sponsered for walking every year. We have walked in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. There are a couple of major fundraisers we organize every year gather money to donate to the organization which have been very helpful. The first big one we created was a dance/gathering down in Mass at the local John Alden Club that alot of my family members have been members of for a while. Generally we charge ten dollars a ticket or two for fifteen dollars. The DJ and bartender have always been friends to the family who don't charge us for their services. I have become close with the owners of the local pizza places and sub shops in the area, and they have come to expect me around the end of the summer requesting a food donation. At the dance itself we always create a 50/50 raffle but on multiple occassions the winner donates all the money right back to Autism Speaks. It's always impressed me how many people show up and how many donate their time or supplies to help us raise money. There has also often been a company that shows their support by doubling the money we raise and adding it to the donations. The second major event we construct is a car wash usually around July, and although it tends to be less productive than the dance we do raise a significant amount of money.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Temper Tantrums

It sure is frusterating to be the parent or babysitter in a situation where the child is throwing themselves onto the floor full force and crying, kicking, and screaming. What gets even more tense and uncomfortable is if this fiasco is happening in a public place. Whats even a step above this level of frusteration is if you are a severley autistic child throwing the tantrum! I personally can't even imagine how that must feel. To have all these feelings, needs, wants, and thoughts with no way to successfully communicate them to the adults surrounding you and caring for you. Almost as if you are experiencing pain, exhaustion, or frusteration and your mouth stops working. You can't make it form the way it should in order to create the words you need. As if someone has duct taped your mouth shut or stolen the words straight out of your mind. A major trait of autism is the lack of both communication and social skills in order to express what they are feeling or thinking to those around them. My brother still isn't able to form any words to tell us how we can help or soothe him. With the average child, when they throw fits most of the time the adult is aware of the cause of the behavior. My step-mom and I attempted to supervise my not-so-little-little-brother in a mall in the Boston area once. He is taller than her and stronger than me so when he threw himself to the ground crying there wasn't much either one of us could do. It took three grown men to assist us. While it was embarassing and upsetting for us, what he went through was much worse. Even after the twenty minute battle to sooth him, to this day we are still unaware of what triggered the outburst. We never for sure find out what is causing a severly autsistic child to get as worked up as they do during those temper tantrums.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Break Visit

Over spring break I went to visit my little brother in the asisted living he stays in. He is getting so strong and powerful over his single mother that it was getting too dangerous for him to stay with her. While he was living with her, he was also lacking any sort of development, even in regular every day tasks. Since he's been in this home, constantly one on one with a trained teacher he's made constant progress. He's learned to dress himself (although its a minor skill for most, its a major step with a severley retarted child with autism) and brush his teeth. Although they seem like small stepping stones that, it has taken him 12 years to be able to do them. He still hasn't been able to verbally communicate with other people, but progress is progress and it felt good to see him taking these steps. Before he was placed into the new living enviornment, he was constantly throwing full on temper tantrums in public. It took the assistance of three grown men to help get him in the car after one of these violent fits and he still continued to thrash and scream. These tantrums have slowed almost to a complete stop. Over all the visit to see him and meet the teachers he has been working with was a complete success!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Horseback Riding Therapy

Last Saturday my little brother turned twelve years old, but instead of celebrating his birthday playing with friends from school, we had a small family gathering even though he was completely unaware of what was going on. He's still isn't completely capable of verbally communicating with us either. Instead he has learned a few simple signs to express things like hunger and thirst. I can't imagine what he goes through, with all the thoughts and emotions he feels but no truly successful way to express them in a way that every one around him can understand. Temper tantrums are common with him, which is completely understandable considering what he deals with on a regular basis. Well, like almost every girl in America, I recently saw the movie "Dear John" and the leading female character in it had a dream to open up a horse riding ranch specifically for autistic children. This caught my attention and I chose to do some research on it. Apparently, interaction between autistic children and horses can be very beneficial. A lot of people say that children with this disability have a sort of "horse sense" that allows them to connect well with the animal. It seems to add up since a horse can sense the smallest movement and tell what the rider is feeling (whether it be nervous, relaxed, tense, excited, ect.). Since autistic children have such a hard time communicating to others (as I explained about my little brother) it can be a very positive experience, if the horse is able to read into the body movements and tension of the rider. It allows the rider to communicate with the horse in ways that they cannot with another person. It also could help the child with a lot of the sensorimotor skills (something that tends to be at a lower level for autistic children). It's definitely something I want to keep researching and considering for my little brother.  (Some additional information on the therapy) 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Where it all started

        Eleven years ago my little brother was born extremely pre-mature. As time progressed we realized that that wasn't the only thing different about him. By the time he reached his toddler years, he was still unable to speak and socialize like the average child. It didn't take long before he was diagnosed with autism. Now, at the age where he should be playing sports, making friends, and having crushes, he is still unable to speak and socialize like the average child. For about nine years my family has taken part in the Autism Speaks fundraiser, in hopes that someone somewhere will make a breakthrough to help him, and all the other children like him, develop like every other kid. While 1 in every 110 children are diagnosed with autism, the rate is even higher for boys (1 in 70). Growing up with him is what triggered this subject for my blog. What I've learned from him and what I've learned about autism will be the common thread throughout this blog.