Monday, December 26, 2011

"Merry Christmas Mommy"

I can't believe Christmas 2011 is over and in less than a week it will be 2012! Where does the time go? I'm always amazed at how much things change over a year and JD's progress is no exception. I remember last Christmas pretty vividly. JD was all into dinosaurs because Nick Jr. just came out with a new show called "Dino Dan." I think I can easily say he got about 50 dinosaurs for Christmas and spent the entire day lining them up from smallest to tallest across the room. Jason and I have always laughed at the fact that JD could name dozens of dinosaurs (some that I can't even pronounce!) before he could ask for a glass of milk - but that's the interesting part of autism. Their special brains just focus on one specific subject and can soak it in like a big sponge.

But what made this year so special was the exact opposite - JD didn't hone in on a specific toy or organize them instead of playing - he jumped right in and played "appropriately" as they call in in therapy. See most kids just do that naturally. They get a plane, they pretend the plane can fly. The get a car, they start making racing sounds. But a lot of kids on the spectrum don't do that, JD being one of them. I'm a little bit of an organizer myself, so his OCD about keeping his toys nice and organized makes me secretly smile inside, but this year it was so good just to see him play and have fun with Ashley and Kyle and his two cousins. His favorite toys were still the Thomas trains, but he also loved his new bounce house, motorcycle, and Cars racetrack. It was really such a wonderful feeling to watch him play.

This year was extra special for another reason. It's the first time Jason and I took all three kids to the candlelight Christmas Eve service. As hectic as it was, it was so nice to finally go all together. JD loved it - he was mesmerized by the music and the candles. Ashley was wonderful  and Kyle, our two-year-old, was not quite as happy to be there and cried through 90% of it. BUT we did it and we did it all together. We just went with the flow. The kids are growing up so fast.  Here's my post from Christmas 2010.  I can't wait to see what next year brings for JD!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Church for the WHOLE Family

When you have a child with special needs, it's really hard to feel like you fit in anywhere. You want to do things as a family, just like other families do, but often times when you go out you feel judged, or looked down upon.

For example, when JD is having a bad day and is laying on the floor throwing a tantrum, it's really hard for me to ignore the stares from parents across the room wondering why my four-year-old is acting like a two-year-old. Sadly enough, it's really kept me and Jason from going out and doing things that we really want to do.

One of those things is attending church. We've gone a few times in the past, but the anxiety I would get about it made it such a miserable experience. Dropping JD off in a large Sunday school room with people he doesn't know (and who don't necessarily understand him or his needs) really freaked me out. The crowds, the loud noises, the lack of routine - it all gave me sensory overload so I can't even imagine what it did it him. But today was very different.

About a week ago I was online looking for churches with special needs ministries. Jason and I wanted to find somewhere where our WHOLE family fit in - not just me and him, and our two "neurotypical" kids - but somewhere that would accept and welcome JD as well. I looked at the First Baptist Orlando website and found a program called "Special Friends." It's for children and adults with special needs. They even have a special sensory room! I reached out to their program director, Michael Woods, this week and he was extremely welcoming, so today we gave it a try.

What a success! All three of my kids enjoyed their time there, and JD was in a small classroom with teachers who understood him and made me feel comfortable leaving him with them. Jason and I spent an hour relaxing, and worshipping together, and when we left we both were amazed at how great the experience was.

I'm really thankful that there are programs like this in our community because there are so many families just like ours that have the same need. Our family motto is, "We do things together" and the Special Friends program allowed us to do just that!

If you want more information about the Special Friend program, visit their website at I would highly recommend it! :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Moves Like Jagger!

Last night the kids had their preschool Christmas Show and it was so much fun to see each of my little ones get up on stage and dance with their friends. I knew Ashley would love every minute - she's quite the drama queen and loves being the center of attention (hmmm... I wonder where she gets that from?) and I had a feeling that Kyle would be the hit of the show, which he was as he pointed the crowd as they cheered him on. What I wasn't sure about was how well JD would do - or if he would even make it to the stage.

We arrived at the hotel where the event was taking place and it was FILLED with probably 200 kids yelling, running, laughing, crying - it was total chaos. With Monkey Blanket in tow, JD stuck in his thumb and walked bravely through the masses. Just that moment alone was a huge accomplishment because a year ago he would have been totally overwhelmed. I had to leave him "back stage" with his teacher so Jason and I could go get seats. I gave her my cell phone number just in case he decided it was too much to handle... but no call! So far so good!

Finally it was his turn. His class came out and headed on stage. JD was NOT having it at first. But after cheering him along and telling him I was right there (from the first row of course) he went on stage. The music came on and all his little classmates started dancing. He stood in the back, thumb in, holding monkey blanket, just staring at the crowd.

I was so proud of him for getting on stage, but I have to say for a minute there my heart sank as I watched all his friends singing and dancing along to the music as he stood there. To anyone else it probably looked like stage fright, but to me I just saw his autism. As a parent you just want your kids to fit in, to be like the others, and at that moment it was abundantly clear that wasn't the case. I, of course, was probably the only person who noticed. But I was just trying to take in the moment, watching him stand up on stage in front of this HUGE group of parents, with music, clapping, lights, etc. It was a sensory nightmare!! And he's only 3! But then he really surprised me...

Up at the front of the stage was a microphone used to pick up the voices of the children singing. JD walked right up, grabbed the microphone and started pretending to sing! The crowd laughed and cheered him on and he thought it was so funny. I was really surprised, it was like he came out of his shell on stage. Who knew that my little guy had moves like Jagger? ;-) Here's a before shot in case you didn't believe me!...