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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Wrist Wraps: The Unexpected Solution to Sensory Issues

So I went through a phase several months back when I was doing a lot of product testing.  Companies would send me their products, I test them out, then I'd blog, Tweet, or Instagram about whatever I was using.

For the most part, most everything was good.  Occasionally, I'd find something so wonderful I'd buy more when I ran out.
One  of those unexpected items were wrist wraps (If you go onto Amazon you can find the for under $10).  If you don't lift weights, you probably don't know what they are. But the concept is simple.  It's a thick elastic band, much like an ace bandage, that wraps around your wrists and Velcros at the end.  It's designed to strengthen your wrists when you're lifting heavy weights.  Since my kids are big into lifting because of sports, I decided to get a pair of wrist wraps.

Lo and behold, little Jacob got a hold of my wraps and LOVES them!  I think it's a sensory thing for him.  He'll put them on and take them off several times a day.  At first he needed my help, but now he can pretty much do it all by himself.  He wraps the elastic around his forearms as tight as he wants it, then runs around the house doing his thing until he decides he's done and takes them off.

I figured after a day or two he'd be tired of the novelty. But it's been nearly 6 months now, and he still pulls them out and wraps his arms.

I'm finding he also likes having the weight of my arm over him while he sleeps, and I've heard them talk about getting him a weighted lap blanked for school to see if that will help settle him down.

I guess the moral of this story is: As a parent of a special needs child, I must always think outside the box.  You never know what your child will find beneficial.



Friday, February 3, 2017

FINALLY....an Explosion in Speech!

For anyone who has followed me, or my journey with Jacob, you know that speech has been one of our biggest struggles.

Getting ready to go to speech therapy! 
Not only is he getting 30 minutes of speech at school each day, but he has another 30 minutes per week at a private agency.

Jacob's progress has been excruciatingly slow.  But there's been progress, nonetheless.  When he started at Youthful Horizons, he was essentially mute.  He didn't even grunt much.  We had him using Geminii system, but he got bored quickly.  And I think that's because the Geminii system is geared more towards people with Autism.  There was very little emotion in the programs, and it relied heavily on repetition.  All good things, don't get me wrong.  But he was bored. So we topped out on his progress pretty quickly, then backslid for a while. And, at $99/month for the program, we couldn't afford to keep using something that wasn't working.

About that time, we found Debbie at Youthful Horizons She and Jake have been an awesome fit.  She's mellow, nice, and she has all the best toys--at least Jacob seems to think so!

video
I've learned to appreciate the process of learning to talk.  First there is learning to push out air forcefully enough to make noise. Then you must learn to control your muscles enough to manipulate your lips enough to create specific sounds. And don't forget about placement of the tongue, jaw, and awareness of the cheeks, face, and other muscles.  All of these things had to be addressed in proper progression, while concurrently teaching him other means of communication via the PECS system and more sign language to enable communication RIGHT NOW.

Jacob is nearly 6 1/2 now.  Sign language is still his primary language, but now he's added a few words to his vocabulary.  He can say things like purple, bye, dad, mom (pronounced ba), Elisha (pronounced uheesa), he calls Courtney (seesa), bus, please (pronounced psss), blue (boo), there it is, that, dog, Craig (his PT), and occasionally, when he's in a good mood, I'll here his say Debbie.  13 words and 1 phrase. 

I'll TOTALLY take it!

videoAnd on those days when I'm frustrated that he still prefers to yell rather than use his words, I remind myself that we couldn't understand his older brother (who is normally functioning and actually quite smart) until he was 12! 

Patience, grasshopper.  Patience.