Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Little Background

In my daily life, the things I find most rewarding, as well as sometimes the most frustrating, are finding every way I can to help my kids live the best lives they can. By “best” I mean getting enjoyment like all kids should, but also fulfillment and development and learning, so they can grow into happy, productive adults. 

This is a challenging task and a full time job. Not only are they 8 years apart, so at very different stages of life, but they both have Autism Spectrum Disorders and Sensory Processing Disorder. But the similarities stop there. My 10 year old has Aspergers and is very bright, has the vocabulary of an adult, reads well beyond his age level, and faster than me. He’s also a sensory avoider, and over-sensitive to just about every sensation. My 2 ½ year old has PDD-NOS, with mainly communication and developmental delays, so he barely speaks at all, and behaves more on level with an 18 month old, except for his activity level. He is also a sensory seeker in almost every area, except for feeding. He has serious food aversions because of his other sensory seeking needs. So one kid talks non-stop, and freaks out at loud noises, smells, crowds, etc. and the other talks very little and makes lots of noise and loves rough housing.

The task is also challenging because Aspergers was only in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual version 4, basically the Bible for psychologists/psychiatrists) as of 1994, so research and information are still scant. PDD-NOS likewise is such a broad category and is used in so many different ways (like a temporary diagnosis, or a catchall for kids who don’t fit Autism fully) that there is not enough specific information. Sensory Processing Disorder is an even newer field of research (only the last 15 years or so has it been more fully recognized) and many doctors and professionals still don’t know much about the science behind it. So information is not easy to find, nor are resources, at least anywhere not near a rather large city (I live near Salt Lake City, which is a SMALL city) where there are plentiful research schools and other organizations.

BUT, I find the challenge rewarding not only for its results, (like when I find things that work!) but also for the journey. I am very academically inclined, and obtained a useless Bachelor’s degree in History because I loved reading and researching so much, and preferred facts and historical information to fiction or science. And I’m well-versed in using technology, being raised in a techie family (my father was a software developer for many years). I enjoy hunting down information at the library, on websites, through word of mouth, and cross-referencing everything. I have more internet bookmarks than I care to count, on every topic I can think of that might help my kids function better, or enjoy life a little more, or give me a break from it all. 

Every day is a new adventure. I don’t know which child will throw a tantrum about what, or if I’ll have a strategy up my sleeve to deal with it. And new ones pop up all the time, as the children enter new life stages (my oldest is now a tween, and acting much like a teenager with his constant attitude and defiance, and my younger is smack in the middle of terrible twos, despite being behind in a few areas).

Oh, one more thing. To top all this off, I’m a Bipolar Mommy. While I do okay most days regulating my own emotions, and have had 5 years of practice doing so, that’s still only 5 years, and as many with Bipolar Disorder know, it’s always a work in progress to hold your own. So my patience level fluctuates from day to day, and my emotions are tied inextricably to my successes and failures at helping my kids thrive. My husband is a trooper, I can tell you that much.

So bear with me as I "puzzle" through the conundrum that is raising my sweet boys to successful adulthood. And if I can share anything of value or enlighten you in anyway, or at least give you a laugh, awesome. If nothing else, this provides me an outlet, and a record of my failures and triumphs.

- Adrienne

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