Sunday, February 28, 2016

I am My Son's Advocate

I have always known my son, Kevin, was different. He hated loud noise with such a passion that I dreaded the 4th of July, New Year's Eve, and even the fireworks at Disney World. All these things caused Kevin to have terrible meltdowns where he'd scream, hold his ears, and cry until I removed him from the situation. I even took him to Tavares to see his favorite train, Thomas. However, every time the train blew his whistle he would come apart at the seams once again.

Kev and I visiting Tavares to see Thomas the Tank Engine
His cousins had their pictures taken with Thomas, but this
was as close as he was willing to get
We put him in soccer at the local YMCA when he was three years old and Kevin cried the whole first game. After that he would stare at the grass and made no attempt to play. His father and I were beyond frustrated. We were paying for this! Why wasn't he playing?

Then as he got older my mom pointed out the hand flapping. "You need to have him tested for Aspergers," she'd say, but I always brushed it off. My son is perfect, how could she suggest he'd be autistic? It was heartbreaking and I didn't think my son was less than perfect.

Soon he went into school and was one of the smartest kids in his class. He'd finish his work long before his peers and cause disruptions as he'd talk to those around him. For these reasons his teachers let him help his peers who were struggling with their work and answer questions of his peers who simply didn't understand.

Everything seemed fine... But then I noticed other things. Kevin hated heights! And I mean screaming at the top of his lungs, pulling on my arms, and legs at the top of water slides until I hesitantly picked him up and carried him down the stairs. The same thing happened when we went to Disney. Waiting in lines was horrible! He'd be screaming and crying while holding onto my neck. I'd try my best to comfort him and reassure him that we were safe, but Kevin wouldn't hear it.

At school things were getting harder as he progressed into the next grade. He started having meltdowns as soon as he dropped his backpack inside our house. I'd sit with him and comfort him, all the while trying not to cry because I was frustrated, what happened at school? Why won't you talk to me? Are you being teased? I met with his teachers and they couldn't give me any insight. Kevin participated in class and did all his work, so why was he so upset?

The answer came from Oliver, Kevin's cousin. Kevin was being made fun of and teased in after care at his school. "Why didn't you tell me?" I asked Kevin, but he only shrugged. My heart broke once again, why didn't my son confide in me? Didn't he trust me? We put Kevin in karate so he'd learn to stand up for himself and defend himself if need be... And that went well... For a while...

He managed to get his yellow belt
Now Kevin was also old enough to be a part of our church's boy scout program. Jim did all the paperwork he needed to do to be one of Kevin's leaders. He was looking forward to spending more time with Kevin and helping him achieve some badges. However, it didn't last. He hated being in the spotlight and would completely shut down. He wouldn't answer questions or do as he was told. He'd stare at a spot on the carpet and refuse to look you in the eye.

My boy scouts <3
Jim and I decided these were battles we couldn't win. We were going to stop forcing him to do things he didn't want to do. We were exhausted of fighting with him and ultimately feeling like the bad guy when we'd force him to go to boy scouts, gymnastics, karate, and even church. They didn't seem to benefit him as he'd "mope" the whole hour or three hours we were there.

It was around this time that Jim and I had received our answers. We started taking Kevin to counseling once again because of these meltdowns and wanted professional advice of how we could better help him. The first day upon meeting Kevin, the counselor took me aside and suggested we have him tested for Aspergers. Remember my mom suggesting that? So after seven appointments and after long hours of being evaluated the results were in. Kevin has Aspergers, a high functioning form of autism.

But what does this mean? I went home and announced it on my Facebook wall, asking for advice and good books to read. I wanted to be well informed so that I might understand what awaits us and also how may I better help my son. Right off the bat people offered me condolences and told me to read Jenny McCarthy. I wanted to cry and scream, "There's nothing wrong with my child! He's different, yes, but still perfect!" Instead I ignored these comments; but I wanted to say, "My child is different and vaccines did not cause this!"

Luckily, I have a friend on Facebook that was and is a huge help. She messaged me that her son was diagnosed with Aspergers at a young age too. They found answers in Tony Attwood books and suggested that we buy "All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome" by Kathy Hoopmann for Kevin and his friends to read. So that's what Jim and I did. We read the book with Kevin and explained to him his diagnosis, what it means and how it affects him. He's still perfect, not less of a person. We don't love him any differently. It just offers explanations and gives us an insight of what his shortcomings are going to be. Top of the list is communication. Many of his meltdowns are because he's frustrated with himself. He can't find the words to describe what it is or how he's feeling and/or thinking.

We, too, highly recommend this book
Also we've learned that people with Aspergers generally have "sensory overload". They hate loud noises, like fireworks, and even fans in bathrooms. If there's too much going on at a theme park (too bright, too crowded, too noisy) again Kevin breaks. Even if it's a ride we went on a thousand times. Every day is different. He may decide he doesn't like his favorite foods anymore, that he no longer likes his favorite color, or has a new fear...

People with Aspergers have "irrational fears". Kevin's are and have been: anything scary which includes but not limited to: scary movies, scary costumes, spooky scenery, spooky sounds... Halloween is usually an interesting holiday to celebrate with Kevin. Sometimes he's brave while trick-or-treating and when we get home he'll sleep in our bedroom because a costume he saw, or decoration, when we started walking hours ago he now can't stop thinking about or picturing.

Once Jim and I took him to the zoo to go trick-or-treating, thinking it was going to be kid friendly and Kevin would have a blast since he loves animals... It ended up being a horrible idea! It was nighttime, the place was fully decorated with all kinds of Halloween decorations and Kevin ended up wrapping his arms around my waist, burying his face in my side, and Kevin refusing to open his eyes. We looked at the animals far from the haunted houses, got ice cream, and left.

Kevin still doesn't like to be in the car at night. If he is he'll cry or bury his face into the seat. For a long time he thought when the wind blew it was monsters moving through the trees, getting ready to attack us. Another time he was scared that the stars would fall from space and kill us; and just recently he's gotten over his fear of heights and enjoys roller coasters and water slides.

Oliver and Kevin on Space Mountain
He still fears being away from me for any extended period of time and airplane rides, which we don't fight him on these either. Anything to make my little guy feel safe. We accept him for who he is and knows he will do these things when he is ready. Not when others say he is ready.

Because many don't understand Kevin or what it's like to have a child on the autism spectrum we get a lot of criticism. I've been told that I coddle him, to let him "grow up", and other hurtful phrases, however, I am Kevin's advocate. I know what's best for my son. I've seen him grow a lot these past few years and every time he conquers a challenge my heart rejoices! It's really the little things: telling me about his day, initiating play with his little brother, waiting anxiously for our turn on a ride, initiating conversation with our new neighbors, asking to have a sleepover. Things that parents whose child isn't on the spectrum take for granted.

Yes, my heart still breaks when I tell people Kevin has Aspergers, but mainly because people don't know how to react; or when I explain to Kevin's friends why Kevin doesn't want to do something. I know Kevin would if he knew how, but feelings and expressions are still something he struggles with. I don't ever want him to feel less than perfect, yes, at first the thought crossed my mind, but that's our society. We're programmed to think that it's our fault our child is autistic and had he not been given the vaccine he would've been perfect! No, if not for the vaccine my child's immune system would be vulnerable for diseases that have killed so many in our history! Vaccines keep my child healthy and strong! Kevin was always different, but not anything less than perfect! This diagnosis takes nothing from him! Just clarifies his struggles; and we all have them!

So to those who say I coddle him, you're right! Because what good parent doesn't want to protect their child as much as she/he can while they're young and while we still can! Because once they enter adulthood they're going to learn that the world is a cruel and scary place on their own... And who wants their child to grow up too soon? They're only children once and then it's gone. It's time you'll never get back... So I say enjoy them being young... Kevin is already 10, almost 11, and in another 10 years he'll be 20 going on 21 and I'll be reminiscing of when he lived with us, playing games, and wanting to snuggle. So I'd rather say I made time for that and I remember that than "I wish I would've"...

I do what I think is best for my son. If you have a problem with that then it says more about you than me. I am my son's advocate and when Kevin is 20 and he's thinking about me he'll say "my mother loved me more than anything else because she always did what she thought was best for me".

4 months pregnant with Kevo;
I loved him before he was born <3
And now he and his brother are my everything <3

Friday, February 12, 2016

For My Sons

I thought I'd give my other two Valentines their own blog too :) I asked Kevin if he was going to buy a candy gram for anyone at school, if he was going to have a Valentine? He said, "I do have a Valentine. You."

I don't think my boys comprehend how much I love them. They are forever in my heart, on my mind, and in my dreams. I loved them before we met, before they existed I dreamed of them and who they would be ❤ They are so much more than I could have hoped for ❤ They're both smart, caring, and loving individuals.

Kevin is a lot like me. He tells me constantly and freely gives those he loves his affection. He's always telling me he loves me, that he thinks of me, and how he'd search the globe if he ever lost me.

We recently got new neighbors and the little boy who's Kevin's age has been over almost every day. They play so good together and they've instantly become best friends. I love watching them play and Kevin looking at his friend affectionately. I know Kevin befriends good kids and hope these friendships last him for many years to come.

James is still young so his vocabulary is limited, however, he does say "I love you" and hugs our family. He loves cuddles and snuggles. He loves being sung to and playing with his big brother.

I couldn't have asked for two sweeter sons ❤ Mommy loves you both so very much ❤ You each are a part of my soul and have added so much happiness into our lives ❤ Happy Valentine's Day, Kevo and James ❤

For My Valentine

I know to some this is a silly "holiday", however, I think it's important to remind those that you love them and to do so often. We live in a hectic world and busy schedules that some of us forget to say it or show our significant other just how much they mean to us. With that in mind I dedicate this blog to my Valentine.

I don't know if I say it enough how much I love you and am so thankful that we took a chance all those years ago. People didn't approve of our decision and were rude to us but we followed our hearts. It hasn't always been easy. We've been looked down on by those we loved, we've driven each other crazy, and in the past six years we've made one another cry... However, despite our obstacles we come out the other side happier and stronger.

Every day I wake up with you by my side is another day I'm grateful and blessed to have chosen you. After all this time I still choose you. You make me happier than I ever thought I could be. You give me strength when I feel weak and you make me smile when I forget how. You are my very best friend! At the end of the day I can't wait to see you and talk to you! And when it comes down to it there's no one else I'd rather walk through life with ❤ You really opened up my eyes and showed me what real love is ❤ You are my soulmate, my best friend, and an amazing father to our children ❤ I love you so much more with each passing day ❤ Thank you for loving me unconditionally, for making me laugh when I don't want to, for being a great dad to our sons, for providing us with everything we need (that goes beyond materialistic things as well). Our lives have been enriched because of you ❤ I love you! Happy Valentine's Day! (Two days early). I can't wait for our date night this weekend ❤