Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Not the Same Child!

Nyx has been progressing rapidly with her communication the past couple of weeks. She is consistently signing for "more" and "all done" (she says all done at the same time she signs it, which is nice.). She's got most of her alphabet and numbers down, and shapes and colours. She's saying "thank you" and "hewwo/herro" and "Sissy". Animals and their noises are a favourite - her piggy snort is hilarious!  So, great strides. 

A playgroup friend we see occasionally commented on this the other day, remarking, "She's not the same child!"  Well, yes and no. She is who she's always been, and she's becoming who she will be. Just like her seemingly-continual physical  growth spurts, her communication/social growth is happening all the time. I think now we're just paying closer attention. 

I must say I am quite pleased to see her interacting with other kids more in a mostly-appropriate way. She has started sharing toys more frequently with less fuss, and rather than avoiding playmates entirely (or screaming when they come near), she will observe them and take part in lateral play - even if she is still a bit of a bulldozer, now she is learning "gentle with friends", so is pushing gently with one hand rather than a full-on body check!

This progress does seem to have one catch; the better her communication gets, the more frustrated she is getting when she can't make herself understood.   Tantrums are abounding lately. Then again, she's also 21 months now, so "terrible twos" may be imminent.  I'm really hoping the OT and PC will help with some strategies for that in the fall. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal

If you're a fan of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy, you'll "get" the above reference. If not, I'll summarize: this is an animal that thinks that if you can't see it, it can't see you. 

Nyx seems to be a Bugblatter Beast in reverse - if she can't see you, you can't see her.  This has become a noticeable habit recently; if visitors drop by unexpectedly, or come into a room where they weren't before, she squeezes her eyes shut and turns her head away from them. This can go on for five minutes or as much as fifteen. She doesn't fuss, just "goes invisible."

It's what's called Avoidance Behaviour and while everyone does it in some situations, for ASD folk it can become problematic. I'm adding it to the list of things to discuss with our therapy team in September. 

Meanwhile, we are trying to respect her need/feelings and not push her to interact with people until she is ready to. It's a little frustrating for everyone, but our friends and family are very loving and supportive and patient. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


We met a lady at playgroup today who was helping a boy at the puzzle table. Nyx started grabbing pieces and the boy was getting upset. This lady said, "ok, our friend wants to play too, let's show her another way", and proceeded to invent a silly "put pieces in box" game that had both kids giggling in seconds, and carried on for a few minutes. 

I was awestruck. She knew exactly what to do!  I made some remark along those lines, and she said she works with Autistic kids. Bingo. 

All I can say is, ASD kiddos who have the opportunity to play and learn with people like this are tremendously lucky. And parents who get the chance to see such skill and obvious enthusiasm at work are rewarded by learning and challenged to step up their own game. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

The First Words I Will Teach My Pup

Nyx, like everyone in our family, is a huge fan of books. A cuurent favourite is the board book I'll Teach My Dog a Lot of Words, which has lots of fun opposites and simple vocabulary. 

My wife was reading the book with Nyx, and paused at the end of the first line: "The first words I will teach my pup are dig a hole and fill it..." "UP!" Nyx finished the sentence!  Very exciting. She can do it with other books, too, and will point to the word "red" and say "red", and "cat" for "cat", and can identify lots of letters correctly. 

I think this is pretty amazing. And then I wondered, is she knowing the words or just remembering them in specific contexts?  And I read a few articles on rote memory in Autistic kids. Bingo.  She's memorizing - which is still learning! - but not necessarily knowing what it is that she's memorized. Or maybe she does. I wish she could tell me. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Outside Our Comfort Zone

Today, Nyx and I visited a new playgroup. It's run by OCTC (Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre), and is specifically for Autistic kids. Max capacity is 16 kids/adults and there are 3 teachers/assistants in the room. 

Well, we were EARLY - crazy early, after a 5 a.m. wakeup and an errand on the way. It's on the far side of downtown, and I never know how to judge morning traffic anymore.  But the nice folks let us play outside in the centre's playground until it was time to go in, so that was good. 

Nyx took to things right away - fearlessly exploring, as always. She played in closer proximity to other kids than she usually does. She played "pretend to feed the baby doll", which near knocked me on my ass in shock. Note to self: buy baby doll & accessories.

Me? I was edgy. I was watching her constantly to be sure she wasn't doing anything that would upset another kid. I tried to chat with some of the other parents but felt really awkward - and guilty, as some of them are still waiting for assessment/diagnosis after a year or more. 

Circle time was hard. One little guy was screaming the whole time, the songs were different, and Nyx and I were both getting tired.  I'm glad we went but I think it will take awhile for me to feel as comfortable there as at our usual group.  Next time, at least, I'll be better prepared. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Multiple Choice

Before we got Nyx's ASD diagnosis, if she was inexplicably, suddenly cranky, I figured it was either (a) hunger, (b) tired, or (c) teeth. That's the standard toddler trifecta of rage, right?

Now, I question everything. Is she overstimulated?  Is she too far off routine? Am I pushing the communication stuff too much and frustrating her?  OR - is she just being a regular almost-2-year-old who can be a three-foot towering asshole for no reason whatsoever?  Because that's the kicker right there. She's ASD. But she's still a toddler, and toddlers of her age are known to be hair-trigger psychopaths, by times.  So I'm stymied. 

I've started reading through the first (of many, I expect) resource book that our Psychologist gave us. It's An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn. It's incredibly dense going, because the smallest details can have huge impact. Basically, we need to make lots of little changes - what that translates to is more self-doubt and anxiety about my parenting. (I say "my" at this point, because I can't and won't make assumptions on how my wife feels about it). It's rather funny, in a way, because most parents complain, "If only these darn kids came with a user manual!" That's pretty much what this book seems to be. The catch is, we aren't really sure what make/model/options our little Nyx is, so does the manual apply? I'll post more about that as we go.