Behind starburst eyes

Growth Spurts and Autism

 

Growth spurts are a time of constant flux in the entire body. They are a time where all the chemicals of the body are busy creating new growth, they are a time of rapid development of bones, skin, muscle and even brain matter. When someone is Autistic their neural pathways work differently from the get go, but they are the same as everyone in the fact that their bodies are always trying to return to a state of homoeostasis. Homoeostasis is the tendency of an organism to try and maintain it’s internal equilibrium.

However during growth spurts the body is far away from it’s ideal state of homoeostasis, even during sleep.

In the brain specifically the white matter will increase greatly from ages 4 to 20. White matter is the part responsible for relaying signals and messages from one section of the brain to another, it is responsible for sending sensory and motor stimulus to the central nervous system to create a response.

What does that mean for an Autistic child or adolescent? It means that the part of the brain that sends sensory signals is rapidly growing, which means new pathways developing, and just like in a field, it takes time for a pathway to become easy to walk, and familiar.  This means their brains are trying to send signals through new channels.

It makes sense that they will have more difficulties during those times of rapid growth with many aspects of daily living that they might not have had as much difficulty with pre or post growth spurt.

 

Areas of difficulties can include:

1) Speech production such as pronunciation, and echolalia

2) Sleep patterns can be disrupted and more irregular than what is typical for that individual

3) Transitions may be more difficult and they may need more time and help to adjust to changes in activity or location

4) Repetitive and Stereotypic Behaviours may be increased as they provide comfort and self-soothing to the individual

5) Emotional Regulation may be decreased as they are already struggling to return to homoeostasis and may feel closer to being emotionally overloaded from the moment they wake up than what is typical for that individual.

 

How you can help your child:
1) Remember that this is a difficult time for them. They don’t want to feel out of control, upset, confused, agitated or anxious and yet they are right now. No one WANTS to feel those emotions, and will naturally try to do whatever they can to either get away from the situation causing them, or lash out in frustration if it’s an internal situation they cannot remove themselves from.

2) Don’t overload them. If recently you’ve been helping them to learn how to cope with a specific sensory issue, or speech production issue such as pronunciation, remember that even when they are not going through a growth spurt they have to expend mental energy to master things such as being able to touch grass or pronounce an “s” sound correctly. Don’t stop working on goals already started, but don’t add additional ones until they have mastered the goals they are currently working on.

3)  Every person has a way they communicate, listen/watch extra carefully to theirs to learn more about what ways they are specifically struggling with the most. Help them to create plans to work through such issues, or if they are too young to either make the plans themselves or with help, make them for your child.

4) Watch yourself. If you are having a difficult time staying calm remember that you have the right to feel however you do, it’s how we react to our emotions that is either okay or not. Take time for yourself, especially if you are extremely frustrated. As long as your child is in a safe environment there is nothing wrong with stepping into the next room to take a few minutes to regain your composure. Or if you can, find someone you trust to babysit and go out, even a trip to the grocery store alone can be enough to come back to your child ready to help them in the ways they need.

5) Nothing lasts forever, even growth spurts. Eventually they will hit a “lull” in their growth for a few or even several months at which time it will be easier for them to handle all that our fast-paced society throws at us.

 

References:

Billeci, Lucia, Sara Calderoni, Michela Tosetti, Marco Catani, and Filippo Muratori. “White matter connectivity in children with autism spectrum disorders: a tract-based spatial statistics study.” BMC Neurology. N.p., 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 July 2014. <http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2377/12/148&gt;.

 

Giedd, Jay N., Jonathan Blumenthal, Neal Jeffries, F.X. Castellanos, Hong Liu, Alex Zijdenbos, Tomas Caron Paus, Alan C. Evans, and Judith L. Rapoport. “Brain development during childhood and adolescence: a longitudinal MRI study.” . Nature Neuroscience , 1 Jan. 1999. Web. 18 July 2014. <http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v2/n10/full/nn1099_861.html&gt;.

“The brain from top to bottom.” Le cerveau à tous les niveaux. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2014. <http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/&gt;.

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TD Summer Reading Club

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In libraries across Canada children can join the TD Summer Reading club for free with a valid library card. Why is the TD Summer Reading Club so amazing you ask, well there are several reasons!

Such as keeping kids excited about reading every week during the summer months when many children might not be reading as often without it.
How do they do that? Each week the child goes to the library and tells a librarian about a book they have read, each library does it differently, some have roulette style boards, others have bingo style drums with balls in them with questions such as “IF you could change the ending, would you? Why or why not? Once the child has answered the question, they receive a small prize. Each city and municipality offers different things, from stickers to buttons to swim passes for the local community centre to really anything!

They have tons of fun free programs that the children can register to attend. From making Robot Key Chains, hair accessories, Magnets, popular movies such as Rio 2, Mad Science and even a community Garden club, and the list just goes on from there!

One of the greatest gifts for our family is the free bus pass each child can receive for July and August. With that bus pass we have the freedom to travel anywhere in our region, including to every single library in our town so the kids can attend as many of the libraries fantastic Eureka themed Summer Reading Club programs as their hearts desire! For 3 kids we would have to pay $186 a month for their bus passes, so it’s a huge savings for us. One that translates into even more adventures during the summer! Many of those adventures I’ll be posting about here, such as their trip to the bowling lanes.

 

So increasing reading, getting kids mentally active and engaged in a variety of fun and educational programs, plus a bus pass so we can all travel to said programs and more, is a wondrous gift. I love the TD Summer Reading Club and encourage any parent to go to their local library to sign their child/ren up :-D

 

 

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Beginners Luck Bowling

I recently posted about Neb’s Funworld offering youth bowling passes for the summer where the kids can be signed up and they get to play 2 free games of bowling every day during the summer, they only have to pay the $2.50 each for shoe rentals. I decided to take the kids last week and what fun they had!

Mr.N at first thought he got to pick from the bowling balls beside the shoes, but once he was shown the smaller black bowling balls beside our lane he was thrilled. He’d never been bowling before so I wasn’t certain how he was going to like it, if at all, but as you can see he loved it! :-)

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He loved bowling so much in fact that he ended up winning even though all 3 of his older siblings were trying to win as well, which made me giggle. Overall they had a great time eating popcorn, drinking slushies and bowling with their siblings, almost as great of a time as I had watching them all :-)

 

Miss. G stayed at home with her Nana as I wanted to see how Mr. N did first with the lights, sounds, and the activity itself. The older 3 understand when we have to leave because he’s having a sensory overload, but Miss. G doesn’t just yet, she is after all only 2 still :-) Now that I know he loves it and can handle it when it’s not really busy there I’ll be bringing her as well to give it a go.

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Whitby Ribfest

Today I’ll be at MTC’s tent at Ribfest in Whitby, Ontario, helping out with sales as well as handing out pamphlets about Grandview Children’s Centre. I’m at MTC’s tent because they have generously offered to donate all proceeds from their sales this week-end at Ribfest to Grandview!

They have great deals on electronics and if that’s not enough incentive alone, there’s the knowledge that all proceeds are helping out an amazing centre dedicated to helping as many of the several thousand children in the Durham Region that need their services as they can!

From Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Diagnostic testing, Dietitians, Botox clinic (to ease hyper-toned muscles in children with conditions such as Cerebral Palsy) Recreational activities that are truly inclusive as they’re designed for special needs children and adults, and SO much more! Grandview really is an amazing place and I can’t wait to thank the people from MTC in person today as I hang out at their booth!

Come on by, have some delicious ribs, and check out some great deals to help a great place, all in all a triple win for the day! :-D

http://www.whitbyribfest.com/

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Creating an Outdoor Oasis

This time of year there are countless web pages, magazines, pinterest boards, and flyers all showcasing how to transform your backyard into the perfect outdoor oasis for your family. I admit I “may” have gotten caught up in all the loveliness I saw and decided to take the plunge.

First came re-organizing the kids toys, but with no real storage area their bikes were a big issue. So the crows nest/deck area we had got altered first. B took the siding off of it, and added a door which I promptly painted with chalkboard paint from Lowes and poof plenty of room to store all the kids bikes, and any yard equipment we have. (Mind you the poof comes after we pulled everything the previous tenants/owners had stored under there, and by stored I really mean old building supplies and some garbage that was uber gross)

The deck stairs and railings were sanded (and will be re-stained but haven’t been just yet) Then a gate was installed to ensure the wee ones wouldn’t get up to where the barbecue was on the deck. A table for prep work and for cooked foods, a mini fridge for cold drinks and freezies, some outdoor carpet squares were laid down, and a car seat was re-purposed into a comfortable seat for relaxing on while waiting for the various foods to cook.

Painting the chairs that had dulled over time from being outside, re-arranging them so we could have a sitting area for story-time.

Next came moving plants, levelling the ground where they were to ensure the pallets would properly lay flat. Then sanding all of the pallets, placing 6 of them 3 high beside each other for a big couch, complete with 2 slightly smaller pallets on one side so I could create a stair for Miss. G to use.

Sewing the pillowcases that would be used to cover the couch cushions we’d been gifted, as well as the massage table I’d removed the legs from and put in front of the other pallets on top of a single pallet, putting up the canopy and curtains I’d made for the back and sides.

And after all that it now looks like this:

CAM01211 Backyard Oasis

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Reacting verses Responding

It’s easy sometimes to forget how deeply our words impact those around us. It’s easy to forget that what we say and do lives in the hearts and minds of those we love and care for, especially our children. Times when we’re tired and frustrated by a bunch of things that may not even have to do with our child and then they do something, something they’ve done a million times before and we snap. We respond to their actions with our own frustration and upset instead of responding to it in the way our children deserve.

I’m human and I make mistakes, I get mad, and tired, sore and frustrated, and I too can react in a negative fashion. But I try every day to make sure I don’t. I try to respond instead of react.

My “trick” when I’m about to react instead of respond is to look at their hand. Why their hand? Because your closed fist is the approximate size of your heart. I look at their little hand and I see a visual reminder of how tiny their heart is just yet, and I refuse to fill such a small space with pain and words that will haunt them.

Looking at their hand helps me to be reminded that I am here to take their hand in mine and guide them, to show them how to access the great potential that is within each and every single person, their own personal greatness. I take a deep breath as I think of all this and then instead of reacting, I respond.

I respond with love. I try to help them find the most positive way of receiving what they wanted, be it a cookie or a toy someone else is playing with or additional attention. (Any project or chore can wait, but the giving of love and attention should’t be postponed when it’s asked for.)

Why do I say respond instead of react?

The dictionary’s definition of react is to act or do something in reaction to something else. BUT the definition of respond is to provide an answer to a query. In the middle ages respond was a noun for a pillar that actively supported. I feel that especially when they are young, they are looking towards the adults in their life to show them how to act, how to obtain what they want and need, and how to be the best them they can be. They are not purposely trying to “push buttons” or be “bad” they are simply making bad choices because they don’t yet know how to make better choices. It’s up to their adults to answer their unspoken questions and show them how to make better choices.

 

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7 billion verses 1

Photo: Don't let one little person or thing stand in the way of your happiness!

I love this one because I too get caught up in “small things” and in letting one person negatively effect my mood. But when I do that it tends to have a spiralling effect on my day, because then other things that normally wouldn’t bother me, do upset me and so on and so on until I feel really crappy. 

However when I accept that other’s actions are not my responsibility (minus the wee ones until their adults) I am better able to just let go of the situation and not hold onto the negativity that would spiral into more and more. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s well worth it, for my mental health and for the enjoyment of the day that I and my wee ones experience :-D

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No Regrets

 

A friend and I were speaking a few days ago about how much we tend to live with our hearts guarded against the pain we fear we will feel if we love one another with our whole hearts only to end up losing that person. (This was a discussion about dating) But it got me thinking…

In the end everyone leaves, some by choice, others by the fate’s call.

It’s not up to us when it’s going to happen, the only thing we can do is make sure we live life to the fullest, soaking up each moment we can with those we love. 

Because the secret to living a happy life isn’t to make sure we never lose someone, the secret is to make sure we don’t lose out on the time we have them in our lives. 

Laugh loudly, straight from the belly

Be free with kind words, and hugs

Be open to new adventures

Smile with your whole face and heart

Stop worrying about the pain, because like it or not, it’s going to come no matter what. Instead ask yourself, do you want it from regret and guilt over all you didn’t do and say, all the moments you let slip away?

Or do you want it from a heart filled with love, and a mind filled with memories of all the moments you were truly present with the other person? 

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Free Bowling

I recently saw on an online parents group that Neb’s Funworld in Oshawa, Ontario was offering free bowling all summer long to any child aged 15 years or younger. I of course checked it out! 

Sure enough by making a free account on their website I received a pass I could print at home or save on my phone to show the employee at Neb’s from July 2nd until August 31st for each child to be allowed 2 free games of bowling, the only “catch” is that you do have to rent the shoes your child will wear from there still, which are priced at $2.50 per child per day. All in all, I think this is a fantastic opportunity for us as a family to have a wonderful time together! As 5 children at the regular price of $11.50 each for 2 games and shoes is $57.50 for just the kids, as opposed to the $12.50 it will cost this way. A savings for this family of $45 each time we choose to go!

It truly is a great deal for us as I firmly believe what I was told years ago: “It’s a deal when you were already planning on purchasing it and it’s less than the regular price, it’s a bargain if you normally don’t use/buy it but you do so only because it was priced so low” and bowling was one of the things we’d put on our “family fun adventures list” of things we wanted to do over the summer. Now we can go 4 times for the same price as one visit! 

I am also aware of their Special Needs pricing (Save $3 off one game and shoes) and I am well aware of how positive and inclusive the staff are with those that identify with that label. (Yes I know discrimination is illegal in Canada, but just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and as we saw at Mr.C’s break dancing competition not all employees are kind or understanding about special needs. I really do see this as a way they are trying to give back to their community, and to help families have fun TOGETHER! So Neb’s Funworld is the only place I’ll go bowling (yes even after the Youth passes are finished come September ;-)   

If you’re in the area and would like a pass for your child/ren get yours today at: http://www.bowlinggivesback.com/index.php/whatwegive/

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Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

What happens when we judge a book by it’s cover?

We think that the mother on the side walk with pink hair and a large tattoo is “sketchy”.

We think that the woman taking a photo of herself (selfie) is “vain”.

We think that the out of work man is “lazy”.

What we don’t have a clue about is the REAL stories behind our snap judgements. 

We don’t realize that the “sketchy” mother dyes her hair pink because her autistic son has trouble recognizing faces, and this makes it easy for him to recognize her as his mom.

We don’t realize that “vain” woman is actively working on her self-esteem that was destroyed over years of abuse you’d be horrified even thinking of, never mind living it. 

We don’t realize that the “lazy” man has health problems that make it impossible for him to even find work, and it eats away at him that he can’t contribute in the main way society tells us men must to matter.

 

The next time you are in a situation where you make a snap judgement about someone you’ve just seen or just met, take a breath, and think for a moment do you actually know the full story? Or are you making a snap judgement on someone that does not deserve for you to sit smug and righteous as you mentally decide where this stranger is lacking or has gone wrong according to you. 

The idiom “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is a very common metaphorical phrase in the English language for a reason, because we lose out on so much when we dismiss those we’ve judged in such a manner. 

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