Let's face it. Fears are a part of life. But what do you do when you can't seem to overcome that fear? Or even talk about it?
Our son is eleven now and he's had a fear of puffer balls since he was three. You know what I'm talking about - those wiggly, spiny balls that can range from the size of a quarter to one as big as a basketball. They even come in different shapes and styles. Yep, those. I swear, you can find them in nearly EVERY STORE.
We don't really know what it is about them that's so scary. I remember he couldn't care less about them until one day we were in a sporting goods store waiting in line to check out. There was a bin full of large ones the size of a basketball and a couple of kids were playing with them. Without warning, our son started screaming and crying and trying to do everything he could to scramble out of the basket.
And that was it.
It put a serious restriction on his life!
That was the way he reacted every time he saw one. Sometimes, it even included leaping from baskets and running across a store while screaming bloody murder. It was bad, folks.
We couldn't go in a Mardel Christian Bookstore for years because they had those little toy displays right inside the door. There was always a puffer ball in one of the bins, and he knew it, too.
This is a boy who refused to look down the toy aisle at the grocery store for years. And a big toy store like Toys R Us? It caused anxiety you wouldn't believe. When it came time to do Christmas or birthday shopping for his little sister, we'd have to go down a toy aisle and bring back ideas or suggestions for him to approve or dismiss because he wasn't about to step foot down one himself.
When our daughter got old enough to understand what was going on, she would keep an eye out for the puffer balls and either hide them from her big brother's sight before he came down an aisle or warn us to steer clear of one.
It is completely heartbreaking to know your child is so afraid of something. And equally as heartbreaking when a speech impairment prevents him from telling you why. Did he have a nightmare about them that caused the whole phobia? Is it the way they look or move or both? We may never know.
But over the last eight months, we've been able to witness a very slow-moving miracle. At first, our son started watching YouTube videos about puffer balls. He'd talk about puffer balls with long spines versus short spines. Then, at his cousin's birthday party, they had little puffer bears with short spines in one of the rooms. While he screamed and covered them, by the end of the day, he was tentatively holding them. He couldn't stop talking about them for weeks afterwards.
We made a point of talking about puffer balls with little spines and how cute they are. He finally saw a picture online of a caterpillar with little spines and expressed an interest in it, saying, "It's not scary. It's cute." I asked if he'd like us to order one and he said he did. The day it came in, he was so nervous, he touched it with a single finger. But before long, he was holding it and petting it.
He now has a collection of puffers with short spines ranging from that caterpillar to a frog and even a pig.
But the biggest breakthrough - the one that had me in tears the most - was when we went to Mardel and he spotted the giant puffer balls with long spines down one of the aisles. We asked him if he'd like to go see him. He said yes. It took us a full five minutes to get down that aisle but in the end, he held one of them in his hands.
Our son, who had fought this phobia for years, was finally facing it.
He still gets nervous when going down toy aisles and he'll jump if he stumbles upon a puffer ball when he wasn't expecting it, but I think ninety percent of that fear is gone. I didn't realize how freeing it was to go through a store without keeping constant vigil and worrying our poor little boy was going to face that which terrified him most: A giant puffer ball.
Today was our son's 11th birthday party. I posted here about how much he enjoys the LOGO Board Game. He's requested what he called "The LOGO Board Game Moose" earlier this year. It took some investigating, but we finally figured out this was the Australian version of the game and there's a small, green moose logo in the bottom left corner of the box.
Getting a hold of it turned out to be much more difficult than we thought, though. We were unable to directly order the game and have it mailed to the United States. Thanks to a wonderful writer's group I'm a part of, Clean Indie Reads, I was able to connect with a fellow writer who lives in Australia. She bought the game for us and shipped it to us herself. We wouldn't have been able to get the game for him otherwise!
Even though he's asked for the game for months and was quite sure he was getting it, he still squealed when he opened the package. He's been looking at and playing with the game most of the day.
He now has eight LOGO board games and something tells me this won't be the last addition to his collection.
Our lives are filled with seasons.
Some are joyful, others are touched with sorrow. Sometimes a season in our life indicates a time where everything comes together just right, while another might feel like everything is falling apart.
For our family, we have entered a season that brings challenges and, along with that, a lot of adjustments. At this point, I think it will be a short season, but it's here none the less.
I've mentioned before that our son has autism. He was officially diagnosed at the age of three, although we'd been told to expect the diagnosis at two. Autism has always brought a wide range of blessings and challenges to our lives in the form of a boy who never fails to make us smile. A highly intelligent boy who can quote a number of movies, finds joy in music, has the most contagious laugh, and can give some of the best hugs and cuddles.
This summer, new challenges have risen on the autism front and our family has been struggling to help our son and everyone else adjust to the changes. We're working closely with an ABA therapist and allowing time and love to help in that adjustment period.
But for now, it's one of those seasons in my life where I need to focus most of my energy on my family.
What does that mean for my writing? It means that I need to move it down on my priority list. By doing so, the release of Finding Joy is going to be pushed back. I have every intention of releasing it this winter, but it's definitely later than I'd wanted.
I hope all of you wonderful readers will understand. Meanwhile, prayers and good thoughts for our family as we navigate through these new, and sometimes murky, waters would be very much appreciated.
Thank you and God bless!
Our son, X, is ten-years-old. He's a sweet boy who loves to give his family hugs. He's very protective of his little sister (S is 5-years-old) and always makes sure she's being taken care of. He normally doesn't like to be interrupted if he's focusing on something. But S can almost always ask him to help her reach something or set something up, and he rarely hesitates.
X has an amazing memory. The boy knows exactly where each and every movie is on our DVD shelf. He remembers the toys and songs he learned when he was two and where he was in the house at the time.
He enjoys helping me bake and cook. He likes to play outside, watch campfires in the backyard, and his favorite thing to do is swim.
X also has autism.
There are a variety of strengths and challenges that autism has brought into our lives. One of the more fascinating things is how he approaches his hobbies.
As a Baby
When X was a baby, he had a lot of toys he enjoyed. Most were ones he could spin, move back and forth, or put in some kind of an order. He crawled at a developmentally-appropriate time. But he had no desire to pull up or walk. When he was 10.5 months, we bought him this activity table. Do you see the alphabet printed on the bowl in the middle? As soon as he spotted the letters from a seated position, he pulled himself up for the first time. He was walking within a week or so after that. He often touched each letter in order with a single finger.
This was the beginning of his love of all things letters, numbers, and colors. He could order the alphabet correctly at the age of two, could accurately count to five at that point, and put anything with colors in the same color order.
Hobbies Changed with Age
X's hobbies changed through the years. He went through a period of time where he loved everything related to marbles or ball mazes. He'd spend literally two hours sending marbles down the chutes, watching to see where the paths took them.
He became interested in instruments. All instruments were great, but drums have become a favorite. We bought him his first junior drum set a little over two years ago and he's practically worn it out.
Have you seen the Animusic videos? Their most famous one, Pipe Dream, uses marbles to create music as they fall onto drums and different surfaces. X has set it up to where he drops marbles on different parts of his drum set to see what kinds of sounds they'd make.
Drums, Drums, Drums
Of all his hobbies, drums seem to be a long-term one. He's watched YouTube videos on how to properly set up his drum set. And the boy has some serious rhythm.
He tells us he wants to take drum lessons someday and when we ask what he wants to be when he grows up, he tells us "A drummer." Not just any drummer, though. He wants to be a drummer with the band TFK.
He's created drums out of Legos, plastic dishes, and just about anything else . He's also managed to collect drum sets ranging from electronic drums to miniature versions.
The Newest Hobby
When X received a LOGO Board Game as a gift from his uncle, aunt, and cousins, we had no idea he'd like it so much. He's always been fascinated with business logos, and this fueled that interest.
In the last year, he's saved his allowance and bought other versions of the game. These versions include The LOGO Board Game Second Edition, The LOGO Party Game, and both the travel and regular LOGO Board Game Drumond Edition.
He knows every card in those games. And each of them were bought for a reason. For example, The LOGO Board Game Drumond Edition is the only he has that includes the Shell Station logo.
There are way more LOGO Board Game versions out there than we knew. He has two more on his list to collect. He's planning on getting The LOGO Board Game Billionaire next month. And he's been searching for the German edition because it includes new logos in it (the Jumbo red elephant logo, specifically), and plans to get it in July.
We've got to hand it to him. When he has a hobby, he goes all in.
I've heard a lot of people refer to those with autism as having obsessions. And I can see where they might come to that conclusion. Don't get me wrong, they can have obsessions just like the rest of us. But most of the time, I think it's a matter of having a hobby and then putting all of their energy into learning everything they can about it.
That's exactly how X approaches his hobbies. I admire that about him. That's how someone eventually becomes an expert in their field: By focusing, learning all they can, and not giving up.
So he can continue to collect his LOGO Board Games and I'll happily listen to how excited he is to get the Billionaire edition next month (I'm certain he's told me all about it at least a dozen times this evening). I enjoy looking at the Shell Station or the Walkers card and talk about how neat it is, and compare the difference between it and other cards. Because this is what's important to him right now and he cares enough to share his interests with us.
Guess what? We located the German edition on eBay and ordered it tonight (it may take a month or more to get here). It may be his hobby, but come on! The game is coming directly from Germany. You've got to admit, that's pretty cool.
Our son is nine-and-a-half and he has autism. Birthday parties have always been very difficult for him and that includes his own.
I remember one of his parties when he was just a little guy. Everyone started to sing the birthday song and he was grinning from ear to ear and looking at each of us in wonder. I always wished I'd taken video because of the priceless look on his face. The following year, I wanted to make sure I didn't make the same mistake twice. Can you guess what happened? As soon as we burst into song, he was in tears. And yes, I did catch that one on video. :-\
Since then, we ask him whether or not he wants the birthday song at his party. Usually the answer is no. Or he'll want one of us to sing it to him before the party itself. Most of the time we all tell him "Happy Birthday!" and then he blows out the candles.
When you go to someone else's birthday party, however, you don't have that luxury. We usually take him outside during the birthday song. Sometimes that works and other times he still cries because he wasn't there, even though it would have been much worse if he was (we've tried that, too). Many times we've had a meltdown that lasted 10-45 minutes afterwards.
We also often have to take him out of the room during gift opening. He stresses out about it and cries over it. Taking him out of the room and trying to distract him with something else is usually the best alternative.
Over the last year or so, things have been slowly getting better with each party experience. Sometimes we come away with a smile on our face over a triumph. Other times we have to search and cling to the one bright spot out of a rough experience. But there's almost always something.
Our niece's fifth birthday party was this last Friday. As always, we discussed the day with our son in depth. We also went into it with a game plan.
As we approached cake time, our son surprised me by coming up to me and saying, "No birthday song." There were no tears or anxiety, just a request. I told him that they were going to sing, but that he and I could go outside and look at the flowers instead. He was perfectly happy with the idea and that's just what we did. There were no tears. There was no anxiety or stress. When the song was over we went back inside and he enjoyed a piece of birthday cake.
My husband and I were shocked. That alone was enough to make me want to do back flips. But it wasn't the only success we were going to see that evening.
He sat through the entire gift unwrapping process with his daddy. He had no trouble whatsoever. There was one toy he was particularly curious about and went to go see it, informing us that he "Was just looking."
The triumphs didn't end there. Most of the time, when a party is over and we're headed home, we see evidence of the stress he's gone through for hours afterwards. But this time, he came away from the event perfectly happy.
It reminded me that successes, no matter how tiny they might be, should always be celebrated because they are stepping stones.
The birthday party was a HUGE victory for our son and I couldn't be more proud.
I'm happy to welcome Vee Cecil to my blog today. Autism is a subject that is close to my heart for many reasons. Our son has autism and he loves everything there is to do with water. For many years when he was younger, we had to worry about him spontaneously jumping into pools, ponds, etc. Water truly can pose a high risk for children with autism.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 0.5 percent of Australians have Autism Spectrum Disorder. In a nation where swimming is a popular activity, it’s also important to note that based on a study that examined media reports of deaths, drowning was named one of the top causes of death for autistic children.
What accounts for this increased danger around water for kids with autism? Here are a few factors:
Elopement. As the National Autism Association reports, elopement or wandering is a problem for 48 percent of children with ASD. The organization also notes that 32 percent of parents of children with autism who’ve wandered said their child had a “close call” with drowning.
Drawn to water. The problems associated with elopement are compounded by the fact that, as WarnOnline.org explains, children with autism aren’t as aware of the dangers around them as other children might be. Many kids with ASD are also fascinated by water. They’re drawn to it, but without a proper education in water safety, they may not recognize that water is a threat.
Inability to swim. Of course, one of the best ways parents can help protect their autistic children from drowning is by teaching them to swim. This video from All Kids Can Swim guides viewers through a presentation on how to teach autistic children to swim. For parents who don’t feel comfortable teaching their children themselves, this comprehensive guide to aquatic therapy for children with autism provides advice on how to find a swim program in your area that is tailored for autistic children. It also provides information on ways to get help paying for these lessons.
Lack of safety equipment. In its article on water safety, the Autism Consortium notes that wearing safety gear, such as a life jacket, may be a good idea for autistic children. Doing so does add an extra layer of protection. That said, knowing how to swim and/or wearing a life vest do not make your child drown proof. You should be sure to closely supervise them when they’re around or near water.
When they have the right knowledge about water safety and are able to swim, being in the water can greatly benefit autistic children. I highly recommend that parents of autistic children take steps to teach their children to swim. It truly can save a life.
Vee Cecil is a wellness coach, personal trainer, and bootcamp instructor who lives in Kentucky with her family of four. Vee is passionate about studying and sharing her findings in wellness through her recently-launched blog.
April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. I'm sure you've seen a LOT of pictures popping up on Facebook and there were a lot of people wearing blue today. I love that there are so many who are trying to get the information out. 1 in 68 children now have autism. If people don't know someone who has autism, they will in the future.
I do think it's important to spread awareness about autism - but I think it's also important to spread acceptance.
Acceptance for a different way of looking at the world.
Our nine-year-old son has autism.
Is it hard sometimes? Absolutely. But I wouldn't change our son for the world. He has a completely different outlook on life than most of us have. I really would give almost anything to be able to see the world through his eyes.
Our son tells it like it is, he's trusting, and he doesn't lie. He sees things very much in black and white. He has a photographic memory and crazy problem solving skills. He is protective of his little sister, yet not afraid to let her know when he needs some space.
There are so many things that I admire about him. He works hard every day to communicate with us, has to fight for things we take for granted, but he never gives up.
He challenges and inspires me in ways I never could have imagined.
I'm truly blessed to call him my son!
Our almost nine-year-old son has autism. He has a huge vocabulary, but is non-conversational. What that means is that he has a very difficult time expressing himself. He can use sentences - which is huge considering he used only single words at the age of five - but they are still very limited when it comes to trying to explain something.
The most recent example - M&M balls. He has been telling us for three weeks about M&M balls. The conversation usually starts with him asking, "You would like the M&M balls?" To which we would reply either "We don't have any M&M balls" or "I'm not sure what M&M balls you're talking about." He would come back with, "Sure! You can have the M&M balls."
Truthfully, we thought maybe he had seen an M&M commercial where either one of the cartoon M&Ms had a ball or were pretending to be a ball. We wracked our brains and couldn't think of anything he would be referring to.
Most of the time, our conversations are very similar to the above. And one of the things we love about him is his sense of humor. He absolutely loves to take something, give it an opposite spin, and wait for a response before laughing. For example, today he would refer to a local fast food restaurant's paint color by saying, "Taco Villa is red!" Then he watches us, a huge grin on his face, and waits for us to respond, "No! Taco Villa is green!" He laughs, which is incredibly contagious. :-)
We had begun to think maybe that's what was going on with the M&M balls, too. Maybe he was making a joke about them.
Until today. We stopped at Academy and as soon as we got there, he was very excited about the M&M balls. Thinking we may finally get some answers, we all went up and down the aisles with all different kinds of sports balls. He was starting to get frustrated when he finally saw them.
Proudly, he plucked a package of Wilson foam tennis balls, the W on each one, and held them up. "M&M balls!" He quickly read the logo and corrected himself, saying, "Wilson W balls!" He was happy to have finally found them, and even more excited that we now understood what he had been talking about. Yes, you bet we bought them for him. Not only that, but my husband created a makeshift basket for his room so he could throw the foam balls through it.
It takes a lot of effort and thought for him to try and express himself. But you know what? He never gives up. Never. How many of us could go through three weeks of trying to explain something you had seen without wanting to put our fist through a wall? I bet not too many of us. I'm pretty certain I couldn't.
Our son is a hero to me and an inspiration. I admire his perseverance, his honesty, his ability to be himself, and his outlook on life. I am truly blessed to be his mom.