She Speaks Conference Entry

This post is different from the usual.  As my regular readers know, I started this blog in order to keep people abreast of how things are going with my daughter Kate, who has a number of disorders on the autism spectrum.  But I didn’t title it as such, in any way, because it is as much about my journey through many facets of my life as it a progress report on Kate.  It is important to me that I write about this path that God has set me upon because it is given to us to share the burden, and whatever it is that we encounter in our lives, it is always a comfort to know that someone else has walked, or is walking, that path.

So this post is actually an entry for a contest to win a scholarship to Proverbs 31 Ministries’ 2011 She Speaks Conference. The conference is for women who wish to serve God by ministering to other women through speaking,  writing, or leading, who desire to do it well, and want to learn all they can to enhance their God-given abilities.

Attending this conference would be a dream-come-true.  From the time I was a child tapping out stories on my mother’s big old Royal typewriter I wanted to be a writer.  I was encouraged by teachers in high school and college to write.  Long story short, I got married at 21 and had 8 children.  Occasionally along the way I tried to revive the dream, but the demands of parenting that many children didn’t allow for much time to do anything but that.   So I journaled, and longed for the time when I could put the words that continually ran through my mind, shifting and composing into meaningful thoughts, onto paper.   My baby is now nearly 12; only 4 are left at home.  (God has a sense of humor: all girls, 12, 14, 16 and 18!)   I am a grandmother.   I have been waiting a long time, gathering experiences and memories, growing in faith, waiting for the Lord to show me how to use this gift that He gave me for His glory.

When once I lamented to a friend about all the years that had passed and my frustration that my dream had never come to be, he just scoffed.  “Twenty-somethings can’t write- they have no life behind them, nothing to write about.  But you, you have had a life.  You have something to write about.”  So I have journals and snippets of thoughts, and manuscripts in dozens of documents on my computer- and only a vague sense of what to do with them!  The She Writes track sounds like just what I need to push off in the right direction, along with the inspiration to keep me going.

You can read more about the She Speaks Conference at Lysa’s blog here:  http://lysaterkeurst.com/2011/03/she-speaks-scholarship-contest-2011/?cp=4, and on the website here: http://shespeaksconference.com/.

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The last six weeks

January 25, 2011  So, on December 6th I decided not to go to Brain Balance anymore.  I had had a Progress Report the previous Friday, and they said she wasn’t progressing well because the brain growth occurs with purposeful activity, and she wasn’t really putting herself into it, just going through the motions.  That’s when I decided to start, right away, what I was planning to do when we finished.  She only had 4 sessions left, and evaluations.  We had attended 35 of the 36 session program (we had a couple of free ones, too), so I felt that our time would be better spent

So, for the last 6 weeks or so, I have been concentrating on the attitude.  I decided that I needed to be right on top of her for every word that comes out of her mouth.  Sometimes I just have to get in her face (not really my style) and tell her that she simply cannot talk that way.  Sometimes I try to just speak with her about what she’s saying, pointing out how it affects others.  Whatever, I cannot let her shout me down and get away with it.  I think she’s learning that she won’t be allowed to say and do whatever she wants.  We’ve had some shouting matches, but the “in your face” approach seems to make her back down and listen more readily.  Trying to explain and argue the point just creates a back-and-forth noise- she’s not listening.

Since she returned to school on January 2nd, she’s only had 2 detentions.  One for leaving the classroom without permission (“At least I didn’t swear!”), and the second just this week for swearing when asked to get rid of her gum.  (I took the remainder of the package of gum.)  When I pick her up from SOS (tutoring) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the reports have been good.  She’s working hard, and accomplishing a lot of work.  This afternoon her teacher made her start over when her spelling sentences were sloppy- both in content and appearance.  I commented to her about the neatness of the final copy.  She said they were killing trees by making her waste the paper.

The school requires students who have missing work to attend a lunchtime study hall.  Kate has always been there, but lately her missing work reports have been short and she’s done the work right away.  But she said to me the other day that she went to the study hall because she didn’t want to sit alone in the cafeteria.

And now it’s March 3rd…I’m not very good at getting to this these days!

I’ve had a lot to consider over the past few months.  I expected going into Brain Balance that I would come out with a completely changed child.  But that was wishful thinking on my part.  In retrospect, I see that I needed to hope for that in order to actually do what I had to do to get her there every week.  Now, I see that there are so may things that enter into the puzzle: aside from the physical changes to her brain, there are changes that need to happen on an emotional level.  Those ingrained habits have to be broken, and left by the wayside.  Not an easy task, even for the most determined.  Years of frustration and negativity have taken their toll on her.  She doesn’t expect much from life, having  met with failure for so much of hers.  I think that change can occur, but it will take a lot of love and concerted and consistent effort to constantly retrain and redirect her behavior.  Have we seen progress?  Yes!  The gains are small in comparison to what my dreams were, but realistic in terms of the amount of ground we have to cover.  She has exhibited a degree of agreeableness that was seldom seen before.

March 5, 2011.  As if I don’t have enough trouble getting to this, the most maddening thing just happened!  I pretty much finished this last night, and this morning when I came back there was a message at the bottom of the page that said I didn’t have permission to do this.  I wondered, what don’t I have permission to do?  It kept flashing the Draft saved at… message every now and then, so I finished, and proofread it, and hit Publish, and not only did it not publish, but I lost all the work I had just done.  So here I go again…

This agreeableness has been noticed, not only by me, but by her teachers.  Make a request, she may protest, but repeat the request, and she’ll usually comply.  She may grumble, it may not be really well done (here we may go for a redo), but she’s not engaging us in a long drawn-out battle.    She’s working during SOS (after school tutoring) for 4 hours a week, and getting homework done.  She’s still gets modified assignments, but is doing better work for the most part.   She’s still failing Science.  I don’t know what to do- there are only so many hours in a day, and she’s pretty much used up all her waking hours by about 6 pm.  I wish I could get her to use those early morning hours to work on school work, but this is where the motivation bit comes in:  she really doesn’t care, so it takes constant prodding from her teachers throughout the day to keep working.  Short of getting up at 4 am and working with her, I don’t see a solution.  That means I have to be asleep by 9…  after trying to be there for my husband and the other kids, cooking, doing some housework, whatever, in those evening hours.  I guess- that is the solution…  Pray for me!

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What’s next?

Monday, Dec. 6th, I learned that Kate had eaten pizza on Friday.  She snuck it into the classroom from another child’s lunch.  I don’t know how much, but on Monday she received a detention for refusing to leave the classroom when asked, and she was asked to leave because she was being rude and inappropriate.

Food sensitivities can cause behavioral changes, as late as 3 or 4 days after the food is eaten.  One of the things we were soon to do was a food challenge, when Kate would have a bit of dairy, after 30 days of being dairy free, and then we would wait to see if there was a reaction. (A food sensitivity differs from an allergy in that with an allergy, there is an immediate physical response.)   Since her behavior hasn’t entirely “cleaned up”, I wondered if we would be able to tell.  But the one thing that I’m thinking about is that although she’s still gotten into trouble (and I can’t dismiss the possibility that she may have cheated all along the way somewhere, as well), there is a difference in misbehaviors.  There are irrational, out-of-control spits of disobedience that seem to come out of nowhere.  There are calculated actions that are designed to manipulate the situation more to her liking.  She knows that swearing will often earn her an In School Suspension.  There, she is in a small room by herself, and doesn’t have to participate in class, and she also doesn’t have to screen out the “noise” of a busy classroom.  So it may not be entirely calculated at a high level of thinking, but she is getting what will make things easier for her.  On the other hand, there is a habitual, or perhaps we want to call it a default mode, where her inability to cope sends her into somewhere where there is no reason, no rationalization, no thinking.  It is obstinacy at its best.  She will cling to whatever first came out of her mouth, regardless of how ridiculous it is.  I’ve always said, she’s the “black is white” kid:  you cannot change her mind or get her to see reason or truth to save your life!

So, if we say that the irrational behavior is, at least partially, the result of her dairy sensitivity, along with a long history of ingrained habits resulting from that, and the calculating disobedience is more of a survival-oriented behavior, then it would seem logical to me that there are 2 avenues of dealing with the behavior.  Obviously, eliminating the offending food is a beginning.  Then the reactionary, habitual behaviors can be met head-on, in hopes that the irrational part is gone, and somehow we can get through to her and eliminate the manipulative behaviors through a process of punishment and rewards, and retraining her to react appropriately.  I’ve been reading about stress and the brain in Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head by Carla Hannaford, Ph.D.   She suggests a new label for the learning disabled: SOSOH: Stressed Out, Survival Oriented Humans.

“What do I mean by stressed out, survival oriented?  I am referring to non-integrated, lop-sided brain functioning, a tendency to operate reflexively and/or reactively from survival centers in the brain stem and the sympathetic nervous system.  How does stress fit into the picture?  Stress from various environmental, developmental, family and social influences is a trigger setting of events in the nervous system that produce and regulate survival-oriented behavior.  We certainly know that stress inhibits full brain development and learning.”  (p. 145)

We learn as we grow, hopefully, to cope with the stresses in our lives.  We use some stressors to motivate us to success and achievement; others get the best of us and we suffer some repercussions.  Brain growth is the result of stimuli from all around us.  But what if a brain can’t use the stimuli that is coming in for growth?  The stimulus then becomes a stressor, further exacerbating the inability of the brain to grow new connections.  I guess I could go on and on about what the ramifications of these stressors are, but the simple fact remains that I’ve got a child- a young woman, really, who has all these relational and behavioral problems and I have to somehow put together all that I’ve learned and know and try to grow her brain to overcome them… and it has to start with motivation!

I googled “motivation” one day: everyone has a different take on it, and there are a bazillion definitions and explanations of how it works.  A wise friend said to me this evening that motivation begins with self-image, and that a positive self-image begins with how we see ourselves in light of the Father.  That’s a daunting task.  How does one even begin to  speak of the love of God to someone who is so reactive, negative, and contrary?  Even showing His love, by being caring, supportive, patient (oh, so hard!),  consistently firm in discipline (even harder)- is met with defiance and obstinacy, eventually culminating in remorse, where I forgive, again and again and again, but nothing ever changes…

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One more month…

Have you ever smelled something or suddenly felt something that made you remember something, just for a moment?   This afternoon as I was walking to my car I walked through some leaves that raised a scent that suddenly took me back to my childhood.  Fallen leaves have a certain smell, but this was distinctive, and I had a sense of walking through piles of leaves on the sidewalk down the Main Street where I grew up.  I walked those same sidewalks to and from school for 4 years, and to and from the library for many years after that.  It was a tree-lined street, and the leaves were abundant, and I loved the fall and kicking through the colorful and fragrant leaves, often with a pile of library books in my arms.  (I couldn’t wait to get home so I could dive into those books.  Yup, I was a bookworm.  I read under by flashlight under my blankets after lights out.  I read everywhere and all the time.)   Getting into my car,  I tried to recapture that moment, tried to remember what kinds of things I may have been thinking about as a young girl, kicking through the leaves.  Nothing.  I had a vivid memory of the sensations- the scent of the leaves, the colors, the sounds, the chill in the air-  perhaps because they were often repeated, but not a bit about what was going through my mind.

One more month to go…of traveling to Brain Balance.  (Or at least there was when I started writing this…now we are finished.)We will continue the exercises and diet for awhile, probably a long while.  I don’t know what to think of the results so far:  it’s not what I was hoping, but then, every kid is different and there are so many pieces of the puzzle.  Lately she’s been accusing me of treating her like a five-year old.  “I’m in 8th grade and I can make my own decisions!”  Am I mistaking this for her usual obstinacy when it is possibly a sign of a growing awareness of herself?

Recently, I went to a teacher’s conference at school.  She had a portfolio of work that she had chosen herself as representative of her work.  There was also a self-evaluation form for each class where they rated themselves on a list of behaviors, and answered questions like “What is my greatest strength?’  and “What do I need to work on?”  It was interesting to see that in some cases she was brutally honest, checking off “Never” or “Sometimes” for “I always get my homework done.”  or  “I always do my best.”  Kate is a natural-born speller- spelling is definitely a strength.  But she is always trying to get her Language Arts teacher to give her a modified list.  And the test she chose to put in her portfolio had a 50% score on it.  A compliment from a teacher’s aide about her hard work one day resulted in detention-worthy behavior the next.  It’s like she doesn’t want to succeed.  Most significant in her portfolio was a piece of artwork.  Most children will draw, at least mine did.  My girls all have an artistic bent, some more than others, but you can see in their drawings and artwork a sense of motion, perspective, and depth.  Katie only draws when she has to, and then it’s pretty primitive stuff.  But I looked at this 8½ x 11 paper, and I had to ask- “Did she do this by herself?”  Her art teacher walked by and I asked her, and she said yes, she had done the drawings by herself.  There were 4 pencil drawings cut out and glued on the page, surrounded by traced and colored hearts of varying sizes.  One of the drawings was a human figure like you would see in an drawing book;  the circles and ovals making the shape of the body, head and limbs.  They were proportionate, appropriately placed, and shaded.  It was the shading that I noticed immediately.  It was well-done; the figure had depth.  She said she had some help with coloring the hearts in SOS (the after school tutoring program), but the placement was obviously thought out, rather than thoroughly random.  I am still amazed, astonished, astounded, and thoroughly awash with delight.  Kate doesn’t want anyone to see it.  She says it’s stupid.  I’ve tried to explain to her that it’s really okay to have someone think that what you do is good.  It’s okay for someone to compliment you, and that you should be gracious in accepting the compliment.  Yesterday she was working on the dishes and Anna was explaining some of the finer points of cleaning the kitchen to her.  She was being uncharacteristically cooperative.  I thought of going out and complimenting her on her agreeable behavior, but was afraid that would be counterproductive.   I can’t take any of what I’ve learned from parenting my other children and use it on her- nothing is the same; conventional wisdom has no place here.  I am at a point of wondering what to do, and feeling at a loss.  And, as I relax for a few moments to write this, I am reminded that God has those answers.  (I never thought that writing this blog would be so hard, not that it’s difficult to do, but that finding the time is a struggle.)   How is it that I can get so sidetracked with busyness that I neglect to make time for God?  It is surely neglect, because I know what to do- I just can’t seem to make my way to doing it.  It seems that every minute of every day is taken up with must-dos, and I end up going to bed late, and dragging myself out in time to get Sophie to the bus or work, 7 days a week, after about 6½ hours of sleep, and then I’m full-on into the day.  My relationships with people are kind of the same deal, necessary communication without a whole lot of eye contact and real listening.  I’m too weary to give my full attention, and my brain is functioning in survival mode.  So if you are a praying person, pray for God to show me the answers to this dilemma, and that I will make the time to listen.

 

As our time at Brain Balance draws to a close, I am looking forward to gaining that 18 hours a week back again!  I don’t think that I have ever had a time in my life, at least this married with children life, when I have had to be out of my home for more than 50 hours a week.   I am hoping that there will be time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons to take some time with Kate to evaluate what her gains have been, to relax a bit and get a routine going that she can handle.  Since September 1st, her routine (and mine) has been to leave the house at 8 and get home somewhere between 5:30 (Tu and Th) and 7 (M, W, and F).  That’s a long day for a kid who gets up about 4 am, and who has to work hard just to get through the normal stuff we all take for granted.  I’m planning to do some of the Brain Balance exercises that she simply couldn’t do at the end of the day, to work on her homework after school, to encourage her to do it well.  Now that there have been developmental improvements, I’m hoping that we can continue to improve her brain function, and that she will become motivated to do well, and take pride in her accomplishments.   Just this afternoon I had a call from one of the teachers at school.  In guidance, Kate had to write something about herself, and initially it was good, but then she added that she wanted to shoot herself.  They weren’t taking it too seriously, but of course, had to let me know.

So— it’s been weeks since I originally wrote this…and never got to posting it.  It seems so simple, yet I just fly pell-mell through my days, leaving so much undone and neglected.

Last Friday, Dec. 3rd, I had a progress report at Brain Balance.  Something that keeps coming up is her lack of respect for authority, and not really making the effort to work at the exercises.  I have been pondering the whole idea of motivation for a long time:  what motivates us to do what we do?    How do you motivate a kid to succeed, for whom there have been few successes?  Why does she choose to not succeed, even when she has the ability?  How do you make someone care, when they don’t (or choose not to let on that they may care about something).  I was listening to a PBS show about ADD the other night.  It was primarily about adult ADD, but they also spoke about the effect that being a child with ADD had on them as adults.  One point they made was that being able to succeed at something was key- because ADD kids are constantly barraged with negatives about their behavior.  Anyone out there with any ideas?  I welcome any input.  I’m going to post this now, before any more time elapses!

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Mirror, Mirror

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  You see a reflection of yourself, an image of your body, your face.  What you perceive is also a reflection of what you have learned as a social being.  You have an impression of whether the image is pleasing, clean or dirty, an appearance of some sort.  You can also read the emotions in the face and if you were able to watch yourself and read your body language, you would find that it conveys much about you.

We come into the world knowing nothing about ourselves or anyone else, but as we grow and our brain develops, we assimilate a knowledge of who we are, our place in the world, and how we are to behave in our culture.   Babies imitate everything they see.  As they imitate, they are growing the neurons that will enable them to repeat that activity for the rest of their lives, barring physical damage to the brain.    There are special cells in the brain that enable this to happen:  mirror neurons.  Mirror neurons trigger when a baby sees someone’s facial expressions and body postures, and simulate the same chemical responses in the brain when they imitate what they see.  The imitations grow neurons, and the actions can be repeated.  Have you ever noticed a child whose way of walking, or talking, or gesturing is just like one of the parents?  The behavior isn’t necessarily learned, but rather assimilated as they observe and imitate.

Kids with FDS often have malfunctioning mirror neurons.  They are unable to read facial expressions or body language.  They haven’t assimilated culturally acceptable behaviors.  Life for them is a constant barrage of not knowing what to do next, and they just do whatever occurs to them at the moment: read  “they do odd and often unacceptable behaviors”.  Sometimes the kid seems just a bit off, or maybe a bit overbearing; some kids are more obviously affected, suffering from tics or obsessive behaviors, or really being disconnected from the world, as many autistic children are.

I’m finding the “it will get worse before it gets better” stage to be very trying.  The defiance is wearing on me.  I know she can’t help it, but I‘m tired of the emotional “shoving”.  I’ve spent so many years slogging through my attempts to discipline/teach Kate, with little to no success, and it seems like more of the same, only she’s more defiant than ever.  I wonder:  will it be harder to overcome since she’s had so many years of ingrained bad habits?    This is how I understand the process:  Behaviors are built on emotions: approach and avoidance, reward and punishment.  With most kids, we use a combination to achieve the desired results.  With FDS kids, we have to look at how their brain will process the emotion.  Reward produces happy feelings, which come from the left brain.  Punishment is felt in the gut, that wrenching feeling in the stomach, which comes from the right brain.  In an out-of-balance brain, you have to target the emotion that is weaker.  The weak right brained child is withdrawal deficient and overly reward activated; therefore you use negative reinforcement, or punishment.  Mostly what I’ve seen in Kate is that neither rewards nor punishment make any difference.  I suspect that over the years this has become more and more a part of her as she’s faced constant reprisals for her behavior.  What do you do with it when all you ever hear are negatives?  This morning she took the jar of jam out of the refrigerator and exclaimed about how greasy it was.  I simply stated that she had been the last one to use it, and she went off on it.  Basically what she said (yelled) was this: every time there’s a mess it’s always my fault, everyone blames it on me.  It’s true- that happens a lot.  It’s also true that she does leave a lot of disorder and mess in her wake, wherever she goes.  And true to human/sibling nature, the sibs are surely going to point it out.  (Of course, none of them ever make and leave a mess…)  And now the recommendation from Disconnected Kids is that I use negative reinforcement to help keep her behavior under control until it subsides once the brain is in balance.  But I have to wonder how deeply ingrained her behaviors are?  Will they simply subside, or will we have to actively work at changing them from the ground up?  Right now I think she is seeking boundaries.  Maybe I have to reign in the boundaries a bit, make fewer allowances for her, and expect that she can learn more and more as her brain becomes more balanced.

Part of the journey of Brain Balance is seeing how God works along the way.  I am trusting that He will answer my questions and lead the way if I am alert enough to listen and hear!  I would be remiss if I didn’t relate how He has protected us on the road.  I’m driving an additional 600 miles or so a week, which is a lot for someone who really doesn’t enjoy driving.  Last Friday we were running a bit late because we had been delayed by paving near Manchester.  I was in the fast lane, doing about 75mph, as were all the cars around me.  The driver of a car in the 3rd lane tried to move over in front of the car in front of me, and in doing so hit the front bumper of that car, and swerved back into the 3rd lane, and lost control.   Within seconds, I had slowed down a bit, as did the cars behind me, apparently, since none of them hit me, and as he hit the cement barrier in the center, I drove by in the 3rd lane, actually over some of the debris from his car.  I think the car he hit pulled ahead out of the way.  The only thought I had was “How can I keep from being in the middle of this accident?”  I didn’t have time to look in the mirror and make sure that no one was barreling down that 3rd lane, or to see if everyone else was slowing down, too.  I can only say that the Lord was in the working out of that situation!  Thank You, God!  And then there was the time I got forced out of a merge lane by an 18-wheeler.  I don’t even know what happened with that- only that I made it safely out of the situation.  And we mustn’t forget those infamous exits where there are folks trying to merge onto the highway in the same space you’re trying to get off in.  Who designs these?  Well, I am thankful that my stomach no longer ties up in knots as I approach these tight spots:  I just offer up a quick prayer and cruise on through!

 

 

 

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It will get worse before it gets better…

They told us it would get worse before it gets better.  We looked at each other, wondered how it could get worse, and if we’d recognize it when it did.  (If you’ve lived with one of these kids you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

Some basic facts about behavior (from Disconnected Kids, Chapter 12):  Behavior, we all know, has 2 sides, good and bad.  In an imbalanced brain, the good and bad sides will be out of balance.  Behavior and emotions are tightly bound together and dependent on one another.  They are based in our  instinct for survival- fight or flight, or, approach or avoidance.  There are actually only 6 emotions:                                                                                         Positive (Approach Behavior)                         Negative (Avoidance Behavior)                                        Happy                                                                  Sad                                                                                Anger                                                                   Fear                                                                                Surprise                                                               Disgust                                                         Positive emotions reside predominantly in the left brain; negative in the right brain.  Emotions suppressed in one side can be exaggerated in the other.   I’m going to quote directly from the book here, because this was a confirmation to me of what I knew to be true, but didn’t know why until I read this book:

Balance in behavior means the ability to respond and act appropriately in any given situation.  A child must have the flexibility to jump back and forth between emotions and behaviors.  A child must be able to learn what is appropriate behavior and when to behave a certain way.  It’s important to keep in mind the operative words must be able because when a child with a brain imbalance behaves abnormally, it truly does mean that he or she doesn’t know any better. (p. 237)

The good news is that once the brain is in balance, the child will be in touch with his or her emotions and have the intelligence to act on them appropriately.  We are all born with the desire to survive, but the more sophisticated goals and motivations that define human behavior and individuality are developed as the brain develops, and a brain that is underdeveloped on one side will not develop the emotional structure to support even having goals and motivation.  This is why traditional discipline and behavior modification techniques do not work.  We do things for a reason.  Since they are unable to have goals, they are unmotivated and pretty much live in the moment, concerned only with what their present need is.   Punishment and rewards have little effect, and certainly not in the long term.   In the same way that you can’t reason with a small child whose brain is undeveloped, you can’t reason with a kid who has FDS.

For families of FDS kids, all this creates a situation that is exceedingly disruptive.  Parents don’t know how to deal with the behavior and siblings are caught in the middle of a life where there are different standards for behavior.  They can’t understand why their brother or sister gets away with behaving the way they do, and why mom and dad can’t deal with it.  Even mom and dad don’t know why they can’t deal with it; they just know that nothing they try ever works.  I’ve tried endlessly to explain Kate’s behavior, as best I knew how, to the other kids.  If their sister had visible disabilities, like a wheelchair, or a profound brain damage, there would likely have been some compassion.  But, an inability to conform to acceptable standard of behavior was all they could see, and it was anathema to them that it could be allowed and not punished.

All this said, we did try, as do all parents, to teach our children to behave acceptably and responsibly.  It’s just that you expect to see some growth along the way, some hint that they are “getting it”.  And there are kids with psychological issues that drive their behavior.  Either way, they can’t help it; it’s not their fault.  But the reason behind inappropriate behavior in the child with FDS is the inability to feel his or her own body.  Imagine walking on uneven, spongy ground, without the ability to see where you are going.  The ground beneath you isn’t solid and you are uncertain how far your foot will sink with each step.  When the proprioceptive senses aren’t functioning well, the joints aren’t sending the message to the brain that the foot has made contact with the ground.  The result is uncertainty and clumsiness.  We often noticed how Kate would trip over “thin air”.  She had a tendency to stomp her feet, and still walks heavily to get the message to her brain.  As a small child, she constantly had food on her face- because she couldn’t feel it.  After many years of repetition on the part of school staff and us at home, she will wipe her face and ask if there’s anything there.  She often feels a gentle touch as if you had hit her, and yet deep pressure feels good.  Intuitively, she’d fill her backpack with large books and carry them back and forth to school.  Bouncing- up and down, back and forth, whole body or head, repetitive bouncing has always been a part of her.  As a baby, she would bounce forward and back, hitting her head even on hard surfaces.  Several sets of living room furniture sustained structural damage as a result of her head bouncing.  As recently as several months ago she’d sit on her balance ball and bounce up and down for hours each day, headphones on, listening to music.  One day the ball she’d had for several years blew out. I replaced it with another, which we noticed had a weak spot on the seam…that let go within a day.  I took it back and got another, which burst, then bought a different kind with Anti-Burst Technology, which burst inside of a week.  At that point I decided that I would buy no more balls, with the expectation that her need to bounce will disappear as her brain grows.  Maybe God was trying to tell me something…

So we have noticed some changes:  her oppositional behavior has taken a defiant turn.  What was once more argumentative, avoidance, or just disruptive behavior has become, in two words “Make me!”  She used to argue, as I always said, “black is white”, and she would maintain that until you threw your hands up in the air and  walked away.  It seldom made any sense, and you simply could not reason with her, or convince her of anything but what she was fighting for at the moment.  Now, in a sudden awareness of herself, she is defiantly proclaiming that she will not do what is asked of her.  She is standing up for herself, rather than than being contrary for the sake of contrariness.  It’s not fun, and it’s getting her into trouble, but it’s a sign that her brain is growing and she’s hitting developmental stages that she’s never been through before.  I think we’re hitting the Terrible Twos about now.  At the same time, I’m seeing happiness, and a bounce in her step (that isn’t making up for the lack of the proprioception), and she’s making gains academically.  Her focus is increasing, and there’s a hint of interest in doing good work.  She shines at compliments, rather than grumpily passing them off and being rude to the compliment-giver, or making derogatory comments about herself.  Just enumerating the positives here makes me feel so much better about the “worse”!

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…ancient paths…

We’re really close to one third of the way through the Brain Balance Program.  Today I got the results of the extensive food sensitivities test we had done: the bad news is that she is severely sensitive to milk/casein and…mustard?  Whatever- the good news is- that’s all!  Some of these kids are sensitive to lots of different foods.  I recently learned that there is a difference between food allergies and food sensitivities.  When you are allergic to something, you know it right away- it can often be life threatening, and there are obvious reactions.  Food sensitivities have a more subtle effect and are directly related to the immune system.  An underactive immune system means a lot of sickness from without, and an overactive immune system means sickness from within- autoimmune diseases.  Both can be the result of a brain imbalance.  Children who suffer from FDS (Functional Disconnection Syndrome- or brain imbalance) almost always have compromised digestive systems.  In the same way that they may lack muscle tone, or cannot feel their bodies well, so goes the rest of the body, the gut included.  Digestion requires muscle contractions, blood circulation, and acid secretions which work together to break down food and make nutrients available to our bodies.  When these aren’t working properly, the end result is malnutrition and illness, and – behavioral disorders.  Most people don’t think of this except for the “sugar high” that we joke about when kids eat candy.  Pinpointing and eliminating offending foods will eliminate undesirable behaviors.  Parents of autistic children have often seen dramatic results.  Unfortunately, there is no “one cure fits all” approach, as each child is completely individual in his/her issues.  Healing requires intervention in many areas.  The brain has to grow to direct the functions of the body and the body has to learn  to function properly.  Muscles need to develop , nerve endings learn to send signals to the brain, the gut heals and begins to digest foods.  We have no way of knowing which comes first, the brain imbalance or the food sensitivities, but it is certain that one affects the other and until there is some intervention, it goes on, each negatively affecting the other.

Kate was the only one of my children that had to have formula as an infant.   At 3 1/2 months she was diagnosed as Failure to Thrive, because it turns out that I wasn’t producing enough milk.   I’ve often wondered if her problems were related to that, and now I’m pretty certain that milk-based formula certainly contributed.  But I’m also wondering if the brain imbalance caused her to be an inefficient breastfeeder.  Breastfeeding is much more complex than it looks!  It requires the tongue and facial muscles to work  in sync to remove milk from the breast and stimulate milk production.  Kate was slightly tongue-tied, but I now think that her poor muscle tone may have had more to do with my inability to produce milk than the tongue-tie.  I wish I could go back in my memory and really see everything in a new light.  My recollections are based on my observations at the time:  she seemed different, but I couldn’t pinpoint how, and she was crankier than the others, which I soon found out had a real, tangible source- hunger.  She was different in that she didn’t engage as readily.  There always seemed to have a bewildered or suspicious look in her eyes.  Developmentally, she seemed to come in on the end of the range, not so much off that you’d be suspicious of anything, but in hindsight, I guess I’d be taking a harder look…

So that brings me to the subject of some whys….why are there so many kids in recent years afflicted with neuro-behavioral disorders?  Why are there so many disorders?  Why doesn’t anybody know the reason why they occur?  Even as a teen, I could see the sense of not polluting our environment, of using resources wisely, of being frugal.  I liked the idea of living close to the earth, growing things, burning wood for heat.  I had never heard of breastfeeding until  I was a teen, and then knew only one woman who had done it.  But it seemed perfectly right and natural to do it when our first child was born, by the natural childbirth method, of course.  Even then I was concerned about preservatives and artificial colors and additives in food.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that we have some innate sense of what’s good for us, and somewhere along the way we lose sight of it, we are caught up with the flow of the society around us. Unless we are intentional about it, a healthy lifestyle will not happen because it is no longer the norm.  We have to seek out unadulterated food, make time to exercise our bodies, and make space in our busy lives for solitude.  I thought I was doing the best that I could in trying to provide healthy foods for my family.  Sometimes I just caved in to the pressures- the ease of prepared foods, the family’s desire for some things, the least expensive route.  I was also less-informed about toxins in the environment, in our foods, and in our “health and beauty aids”.  I baked bread and used King Arthur flour- Never Bleached, Never Bromated and thought I was doing well- but it was still white flour, stripped of all the bran and germ.  Surely it was better bread than store-bought, but still lacking in essential nutrients.  So what are we to do- and why is it so important?

The importance lies in the toll that processed foods and unnatural birth and feeding take on our children.  Epidural- assisted births are at an all time high in or country, making birth a medical procedure, rather than a natural part of life.  I concede that there are times when modern medical interventions have their place, but the idea of a pain-free birth has given women a choice with a huge trade-off: they give up control and rob themselves and their babies of the process of giving birth.  The process, in its natural form, puts all the hormones, muscles, blood flow, and even a mind-set into play to birth the child.  Everything works in sync to give the baby a proper start in life.  Even the journey down the birth canal is a massaging and squeezing that prepares the baby to breathe, clearing the lungs and breathing passages for air.  Interventions like drugs to relax, and pain killers, upset this delicate balance. A mom who can’t feel doesn’t know when to push.  The doctor can only guess, so she must push during working contractions that may not be expelling contractions.  Relaxation drugs relax the uterus as well, slowing down contractions.  These babies often need extra help, like forceps or suction, to be born.  Worst case scenario- a c-section- major surgery.  Medicated moms are less aware of what’s going on, and give birth to sleepy, medicated babies who are unable to begin breastfeeding within that critical first hour of life.  And what do you imagine might happen to the neck and spine of a baby born by force- forceps or suction, being literally pulled from the uterus?  Birth injuries are subtle- babies can’t tell us where they hurt, but cervical spine injuries may be one of the largest causes of higher cognitive and behavioral problems in children. (Disconnected Kids, p. 60) Then you take this child and feed him/her cow’s milk-based formula,  and assault his gut with food designed for baby cows, rather than food designed for baby humans.  The infant gut is a delicate thing, and it, too, can go haywire when it’s balance is upset.  All this to make two points: 1) that we need to look to the ancient ways- the ways God created us in our environment, and 2) a polluted, compromised environment will wreak havoc in the human body.

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