Brittany is an autism mom and self-published author. Her son was diagnosed with autism in November of 2020.
Each morning is the same as the last. I wake to my son squirming in the bed beside me. Sometimes he snuggles against me while other times I get slapped in the face (completely by accident). I open my grey sun blocking curtains and bring my child to his changing table. I put on a fresh diaper, lotion his dry skin, and dress him in new clothes for the day. We then move onward to his high chair so he can have breakfast. Cheerios are the only type of food that is acceptable first thing in the morning, otherwise, a meltdown takes place. Luckily, he is open to different flavors. This helps tremendously if the grocery store is out of the basic honey nut flavor. Isaac has his juice in a bottle/training sippy cup since he refuses to drink from anything else. After his breakfast, I let him play in his safely put together play area and watch Little Baby Bum (his favorite and only show he will pay attention to) while running around the room. This is the time I am able to sit down for a short while and enjoy my coffee. I'll typically check my emails and put on a television show to pass the time. I'll do some light cleaning before attending to my son again (which is typically every two hours). I squeeze in cooking and shopping in between my son's therapy services. This is what his therapy schedule looks like:
Mondays: Applied Behavior Analysis 8AM-12 PM Speech 2PM-3PM
Tuesdays: Applied Behavior Analysis 8AM-12 PM Speech 2PM-3PM
Wednesdays: Physical Therapy 11AM-12PM
Thursdays: Individualized Education Program: 11AM-12PM Occupational Therapy 3:30PM-4:30PM
Fridays: Applied Behavior Analysis 8AM-12PM
Towards the end of our day, Isaac will take a melatonin bubble bath made for kids. This helps him to relax and prepare himself for bed. he'll enjoy a light snack that is gentle on his tummy, take liquid melatonin to ensure he sleeps through the night, and watches an animated fish aquarium we found on Youtube when he was three months of age. Isaac is usually ready to lay down fifteen minutes later. I'll once again change him into a dry diaper for the night and make sure he has on long sleeves and socks since he kicks off the blankets. He has a sensory light he watches while laying in bed. It produces different colored lights in square patterns that is constantly changing. I honestly do not know what I would do without it. Lastly, I put on gentle rain sounds as white noise. As I sit beside him in the bed, I'll read a good book until he falls asleep. Without this routine, Isaac will stay up into the wee hours of the night.
On nights where my son is up at night, my tolerance is low. The experience is similar to having a new born baby. He can be up for hours, and my yearning for sleep makes me cry quietly. This is the time where we should both be recharging for the following day. Instead, we sometimes run on fumes from restless nights. I do everything in my power to keep him in "night mode" so he can have a full battery of energy in the morning. The only light I use is his sensory light and, if need be, I will put on white noise to help him relax. This is especially trying for me to stay awake since I am sitting in a low lighted room that is designed to make someone fall asleep. Oftentimes, I'll grab a device, set the brightness to the lowest setting to avoid headaches, and I'll check social media, read a book, or message my husband if he is at work (he is a patrol officer, and sometimes he works nights). Five minutes can feel like ten. The house is silent except for my toddler who is flapping his arms and legs up and down. He's been known to giggle excessively when overly tired and other times he'll pace the bedroom climbing on and off the bed because he does not know what to do with himself. My head is spinning and I am praying for my son to be calm enough to at least lay still in the bed and watch his sensory light so I can lay beside him and rest my eyes. A good night's rest doesn't come often, and when it does, we cherish it like a vacation.
Lack of Communication
My son is nonverbal and doesn't attempt to communicate in other actions. This leaves us playing the guessing game when it comes to his needs/wants. We attempt to use basic signs and pictures for him to point to what he fancies. The challenge is to get him to be interested in communicating without getting upset. Isaac is used to having us do everything for him on pure instinct. The desire to ask for anything himself doesn't exist. We are his comfort zone, and he knows we will figure out what he needs. Any form of communicating is mostly fussing or crying. Unfortunately, biting is a normal thing for him when he gets overwhelmed or upset. It is common for children like my son to be aggressive because this is a form of communication. However, he has become good at walking to his high chair and reaching his arms up when he wants to eat. Isaac also can distinguish the difference between a bottle and a sippy cup. He will squeeze the nipples on each, and will shake his head "no" if it is not a bottle nipple. He knows the sign for "eat" but prefers not to use it. Intelligence is clearly there, he just learns at a slower pace and doesn't care to attempt activities on his own.
Along with being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, my son was also recently diagnosed with a minor case of gastric erosion disease and rumination. Both make him vomit and cause discomfort in his throat and stomach. We have to monitor this by medication and diet. Foods with high fiber and low fat are great for my son. We avoid anything acidic, carbonated drinks, and anything with caffeine. He is also sensitive to dairy, so we limit that as much as possible. A lot of his meals have to be homemade because of his sensitivity levels, and going out to eat can be a challenge. He mostly throws up after eating. We change his clothes a good bit throughout the day if we do not stick to his diet, so I am grateful to know there is a way to limit that awful experience for both myself and him.
GI Issues for Children With Autism
- GI Problems and Supplements | Autism Speaks
If my child has autism-related GI issues, will this affect his ability to absorb nutrients from multivitamins and other supplements?
A lot of activities my son enjoys participating in are physical activities and anything that enhances his senses. Jumping on his mini trampoline inside the house is his all time favorite activity. Because children with ASD are more like to have balance, coordination, and flexibility issues than normal kids, jumping is a fantastic way to improve these skills. I have seen a huge improvement in my son's core strength since he started using his trampoline on a daily basis. Another activity he enjoys are popping bubbles. This is a great way for him to express himself verbally or non-verbally. Isaac also enjoys jumping onto a soft surface, playing with slime, playing with water toys, and anything textured and super soft. Isaac doesn't understand functional play, and sensory toys help him relax, focus, and calm down. They also help children like Isaac to play naturally and develop social skills like negotiating, planning, and sharing.
More often than not, my son is a pretty normal child who is delayed. Like all parents, I just want my son to be the best that he can be. I give up a lot of "me" time like all mothers do. When I do get the chance to socialize, my friends typically come to my house because it is easier to have Isaac home in his safe space. We are a loving family who is on a strict schedule. My child is less independent than most, but enjoys attention and affection like any other kid. It's just on his terms. My son may learn different and have limited interests, but his needs are the same as any other child have been around. He enjoys the company of others, but doesn't always know how to socialize. Deep down, he just wants to feel loved and be included like you and I.