Thursday, March 23, 2017

Growth Spurt!

Oh my goodness!  My child is growing. 

Whomever said my child was going to be small because he has Down syndrome had no idea what they were talking about!

Jacob is 18 months younger than his sister, and already weighs more than her.  Okay, in her defense, she's still a foot taller than him, but Jake is a TANK.

You wouldn't know it if you saw him.  But the child is dense.  Somewhere underneath that belly of his, there's a six-pack. Maybe a 12-pack!

Since he finished school in June of last year, he has grown FOUR SIZES.  That's not a typo. Four sizes.  He finished school a 4T last year.  He is now outgrowing his 7's.  Well, sort of.  His waist is too big for the 7's, but the pant legs are about 3 inches too long.

When I put him in 6X's, the pants would be obscene if he weren't still in diapers, but the legs are just the right length.  But that's alright. They match perfectly with all his muscle shirts!

So this week, I'm buying him a whole new wardrobe (again), and breaking out the sewing machine to hem up all his pants.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, a growth spurt (or three) is a good thing, right?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Kicking, Biting and Spitting: What I'm Doing To Combat the Combatant

I've had difficulty the last several months with a new development.  Kicking, biting and spitting.  This has been so much of a struggle, that I've called in behavioral specialists, and DD Services has moved his respite care from 0 hours last year, to 58  hours/month this year (Jake was throwing the mother of all tantrums at the time of his assessment. I'm not sure if that's good, or bad).

This problem has escalated since he started kindergarten, which is a class consisting of seven other kids with developmental disabilities and three para-educators (assistants).  As best as I can tell, Jake is the youngest, and the others range into the 2nd or 3rd grades.

The teacher is new, and highly motivated (thank goodness!), but she is also inexperienced (bless her heart).  I like her. Her heart is in the right place. But there is much trial and error going on in the class.

I've shown up to get Jake for his therapies, and the poor woman is flushed and frazzled.  Once, I came in and the room was annihilated - someone had literally cleared the shelves all over the floors.

Sadly, Jake is beginning to pick up on some of these behaviors and bringing them home.

We contacted a behavioral therapist and had a (sort of) consultation.  However, he wanted the entire allotment of Jacob's DD money $1200 to be used for behavioral services.  Um, I'm sorry. There are BOOKS on behavioral therapy (of which I will be buying - I'll blog about that later, I'm sure). Plus, he approach to dealing with Jacob is to wait his tantrums out, or offer him something that he wants more.

Okay, let me make something clear. I have FOUR children. I am not willing to let Jacob rule my world and dictate when and where I will do things.  I have absolutely no problem taking the time to teach him to behave properly, or what acceptable behavior is, but ALLOWING him to continue with his tantrums, and making the rest of us revolve around him is not acceptable to me. And it does him no favors in the future. It only teaches him that tantrums are acceptable ways of expressing frustration.

So, we've been working with the OT, PT, Speech, and the teacher at school to figure out the best way to work with him.  I suspect that some of this is due to his frustration that he can't communicate his wants and needs properly, and it will go away once he can speak a little better.  Other things are learned from the older kids at school.  And still others are from his innate stubbornness.

For now, I'm doing the following, though I'm sure this will be tweaked as I figure out what works and what doesn't:

1)  Try to spend more quality time with him than I have in the past.  Primarily, this is so he understands that good behavior means he gets lots of attention.  Bad behavior means time outs in his room or on the couch, without the attention he craves.

2) When I'm with him, we try to unplug. From everything.  No cell phones, no TV, no music.  I limit the number of sensory input he can get.

3) Lots of physical play. Jake seems to respond well to physical activity.  The teachers say he behaves better in school after PT and OT sessions. He starts swim lessons tonight, and we're actively working on getting him to the park and going outside to play.

4) Quiet time. He's beginning to sit still long enough for us to read books. So, I'm encouraging that too.

5) I'm working out. This kid is STRONG!  His behavior isn't going away anytime soon, so I'm taking action to be able to handle him better.  The moment he gets stronger than me, I've lost that battle.

6) Taking breaks (Respite). I'm totally utilizing the respite care.  Luckily, my oldest is 21 and wants to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant, so she'll be the respite care. But we've agreed to let him go over to her house twice a month on the weekends so that our family can have a break. We love Jake to death, but taking care of a child with Ds is hard. And it's important for the other kids to remember what life as a normal kid is like, and to enable us to give them their much-needed attention too.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

My Son Has Low Muscle Tone, But He's Strong as an Ox!

When Jacob was born, I read a bunch of the literature on what to expect.  Most of it depressed me, quite frankly.  I didn't know that Jacob had a decreased risk of this or that.  I wanted to know what to expect in terms of development, and what virtually every child of Down syndrome had in common.

I quickly discovered that, like typically developing children, those with Down syndrome develop and grow at different rates, have different difficulties, and varying types of cognitive abilities.  However, one attribute, which appears to be across

the board for children who have Down syndrome is their low muscle tone.

Originally, I thought that meant Jacob would be weaker than typically developing children.  BOY was I wrong.  In fact, it was the exact opposite.  How is it that a a child, with an un-correct AVSD heart condition needed THREE nurses to hold him down for IV's?  Then there's the walking.  That happened at 13 months.  Where's the delay in that? And aside from a slight delay to catch up from being immobile the first 3 months of his life, Jake quickly built up steam and now exceeds nearly all physical expectations for kids his age.

And now that Jacob is 6 1/2, I'm forced to begin weight training because he is just about stronger than me.  Scary, huh?

So, low muscle tone does NOT mean weak muscles.  Then what does it mean? For a more detailed explanation, you can go to Wikipedia. They're the most straight forward and comprehensive. Essentially it means hyper-flexibility, and (sometimes) weak muscles, or muscle resistance.  For Jacob, it's TOTALLY hyper-flexibility.

Jacob's preferred position to sleep is folded in half, laying on his legs, occasionally sucking (or biting on his toe nails). Sadly, I don't think I've ever cut his toenails (please don't gag. I've done enough of that for all of us).

On the bus, Jacob wears a harness that has 2 straps for his feet, a vest that goes over his shoulders, and zips in back.  He's managed to slide out of that thing too.

He's slid out of his 5-point harness on his car seat (don't get me started on that one!), out of my arms if he's throwing a tantrum, or wedge himself into a drawer or a tiny cupboard.  I can't tell you how many times I've run through the house frantically calling his name, to find him grinning from ear to ear because he'd successfully hid from me. Sigh.

My boy is Houdini.  He can get out of EVERYTHING. If he were in a straight jacket, he'd find a way.
Luckily, he spends a lot of time in PT and OT, learning to strengthen his joints and his core.  Heaven knows, the rest of his body doesn't need to be any stronger.

Needless to say, this little boy keeps  me, and the rest of our family, on our toes!  Good thing we learned fast that low muscle tone does not equate to weak muscles, or any excuse to treat our child any differently from the rest of the kids in our home.

If anything, Jake's low muscle tone gives him an advantage.  Sometimes it's like the kid has four arms - quite handy when he and his 17-year-old brother are wrestling in the living room.  Or his hands are full, and he needs a little extra leverage with something he's playing with.

Never a dull day with Jacob around.  Never.