it’ll be here before we know it…

Cannot believe we only have a week until school starts back! Well, for Jake anyway. Allie moves into her dorm August 18th. I am anxious about the upcoming year.

Jake will be fine but I am always anxious, worried…you know the butterflies in your stomach. Hoping and praying hard that 2nd grade will be a great year! One thing I am not thrilled about is our beloved aide (MK) will be going to a local middle school and won’t be with Jake. She has been Jake’s primary aide for 2 years. She knows Jake and even when she wasn’t with him during the day she was available to help whomever was with him. She knows his quirks, she can see when he is getting upset or about to meltdown and intercedes. I am happy for MK but selfishly I am really bummed. All summer I was sort of patting myself on the back because I wasn’t nervous or worrying over the next school year. Here I am a week out and my stomach is in knots!! Don’t get me wrong, I trust Jake’s school and the administration as well as the other aides I know. And one thing that gives me great peace, once I put my anxious thoughts aside, is they truly do have Jake’s best interest at heart. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if there is any kind of issues they will work with me to iron them out. But I worry.

John and I were talking about all of this and he said the same thing my best friend said; “it will work out. It always has worked out for Jake and this time will be no different.” Looking back at the past 5 plus years we’ve been on this journey, things have always worked out for the best. I have been fortunate to have had the best therapist’s, teacher’s and aides along the way. Each one of these wonderful women brought their gifts to help Jake and shared their knowledge with me which in turned helps Jake every day. The word blessed is overdone, in my opinion, but sometimes it is the best word there is and I do feel so very blessed.

God has always watched out for me and no matter what I do He always intercedes and takes my doubt and turns it into thankfulness. I feel certain this year will be no different. Jake does need to become more independent at school and maybe having different aides working with him will encourage him to do more on his own.¬†If I have learned anything over the past years is to trust, hope and have faith that God has my boy and will do amazing things, like He always does, not only in Jake’s life but my (our) own.

Okay…then there is Allie. She will be moving into the dorm later in the month…sigh. I have so many mixed emotions about this and feel like I am on yet another roller coaster but this one is going much faster. Hard to believe my little curly-headed girl is going to be a freshman in college and living on her own. Fortunately, she is only about 40 minutes away but still…again the nervousness, butterflies and what not. God has a way of preparing us as parents for our kids to leave home. He makes it a little easier to say goodbye. There is a push and pull between us that I can’t really describe. She wants to go and many days I am ready for her to go!! She is loud, silly and drives me crazy which are things I hate but love. I wonder how quiet our house will be when she is at school and part of my heart hurts a little just thinking about it. The other part is excited that we might possibly have a little quiet. Jake is loud on his own but by quiet I mean she won’t be coming and going all of the time, no dirty towels on the floor of the bathroom, dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is empty and awaiting the used dishes…the list goes on. But she is ready. I am ready. She needs to go and experience college the way she wants too. She needs this time to mature, make mistakes (hopefully without harm) and learn to be more independent. I’m excited for her and am looking forward to seeing how her life unfolds. But the mom in me wants things to stay the same, part of me wants the noise and the loudness and even the annoying habits but honestly a bigger part of me is ready.

With all the changes going on around here I know God has this and I know He has great plans for both Allie and Jake. Being a mom isn’t easy by a long shot. Being a mom to a child with special needs has shown me how strong I really can be and in turn has made me a better mother; at least I think it has.

So one more week for Jake and 3 for Al. We’ll make the most of it and hopefully won’t go to crazy getting to those first few days ūüôā

 

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One of my favorite pictures of these two ūüôā

 

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
¬†¬†¬†¬†I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

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summer social camp

The past two weeks Jake has attended a therapy based camp working on social skills. This social success camp has been amazing! Jake attends the weekly social group during the school year but the camp is daily and let me just say having that consistency has brought on the most amazing changes in Jake.

For those that are not as familiar with autism, social skills do not come easy to our kids.¬†Jake is verbal but has great difficulty expressing himself with his words. He often resorts to crying, running away and the rare instance, hitting and pushing. His behaviors are not thought out nor are they malicious but because he doesn’t understand¬†he needs to tell someone what he wants or needs he does the only thing he knows how to do.¬†As Jake is getting older these types of behaviors are obviously not appropriate. What Jake’s therapist does with her groups is give them the tools they need to interact with others in an appropriate manner.

I am a hugger and when I am sitting with Jake I find I like to rub his back or just touch him. 99% of the time he withdraws and scoots away from me. Sometimes he will cry and run out of the room. He doesn’t like to cuddle and cannot stand for anyone to be in his personal space. This has probably been one of the hardest things for me to accept. I want to scoop Jake into my lap and squeeze him, I want to rub his back or touch his face and I can’t. Over the years I have learned¬†from his body language what I can and cannot do but nonetheless, it is still super difficult for me!

The other night I was sitting on Jake’s bed reading him a story. Afterwards he was talking my ear off, telling me all about his transformers and the new ones he wants to get etc. I found myself touching his hair. He scooted back and looked at me with this disgusted look and said “Mommy, I don’t like that! I do not like it when you touch my head, will you please stop?” I really was blown away; he has NEVER used his words to tell me when he doesn’t like something. I said “thanks for letting me know you don’t like that, is there anything else you don’t like?”¬†As he was thinking I was rubbing his back and he declared “I don’t like it when you touch my back either!”

Social skills aren’t just interacting with peers but interacting with us, his family. For the first time he is actually¬†doing just that!¬†For years we have worked on these behaviors and to say it gets really old repeating myself is an understatement. Fortunately, after attending camp, everything we’ve been working on seems to have clicked with him and he gets it! He is understanding the curriculum that is being taught in his group and using it at home. Jake’s manners have improved drastically as well; he says ‘please’ or ‘may I’ and even the occasional thank-you without me prompting which is huge in itself!

Raising a child that is autistic can be hard mentally. For me, I am always thinking and trying to improve the way I talk to him in hopes that one day he will understand and begin to repeat what he has been taught. We as a family are always redirecting, encouraging Jake to use his words, giving him examples of ways to do things and well…the list is long. When we see progress in a particular area it is like a little piece of heaviness is lifted. There is always something we work on but like anything, when we see that little ray of light it is all we need to keep doing what we are doing. It makes it a little easier to keep at it; to keep moving forward.

Below are images from Jake’s camp. The bottom two are from Jake’s people file at camp, “each child has a file and they review¬†this each day because the concept of ‚Äúpeople files‚ÄĚ are SO foundational to our social thinking approach”. (photo creds. to our wonderful Dr. A.)

 

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¬† “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…”¬†Hebrews 6:19

our big move

We started looking for a house around the end of March and finally found our forever home in May. The minute I walked through the doors I knew we had to have this house! We were the first ones to view the home the day it was listed and by 10 am the next day the home owners accepted our offer and the house was ours! Fortunately, we had a lot of time to help Jake cope and understand that we would be moving and living in a new place. His first reaction was an emphatic NO! He didn’t want to leave his room, his toys and the only home he has known for 7 years. We talked about it daily, we brought him to see his new house and we were constantly showing him pictures of his new room. The closer we got to our move-in date the more excited he became.

As you can imagine I was a little nervous for him. Thoughts went through my head wondering if he really understood, would he be safe, comfortable and¬†happy. I worried about how he would handle everything and if it would make his behaviors worse. The day finally came for us to move and Jake couldn’t wait! He was beyond excited which eased my anxieties a little.

We moved all day on July 1st. And that night after we all had showers and a picnic on the floor in our new family room he said he was tired and ready for bed. Allie, John and I took him upstairs and as I read him a story he had a look of content on his face. We read our story, sang songs and prayed. As I said goodnight and shut the door I waited for the cry. I waited to hear him call out to me in a scared voice but no sound came from his room. I woke early the next day, peeked in on him and he was sound asleep.¬†I thought that was a fluke, that he was just tired and the 2nd night would be much harder. But again, he went to bed and slept with no issues.¬†We’ve been in our new home for a week and he hasn’t been scared and has slept well each night; thank God!

We lived in a 1,200 sq. ft. apartment and moved to a 2,400 sq. ft. home. We were always together and I always knew where Jake was and what he was doing. In our new house he has a playroom upstairs along with the bedrooms. We also have 2 doors leading to the backyard with a pool. Talk about being nervous! I was a wreck the weeks before moving thinking of all the tragic things that could happen. The pool scared me beyond words. John and I researched the different safety options and settled on a safety net that fits over the pool. If he were to trip and fall in the pool, the net would catch him and keep him from going in the water. It’s a bit of pain to put the net on after swimming but the peace of mind it brings is worth all the sweat and sore muscles!! Fortunately, Jake has mastered the stairs well; he is cautious which is an answered prayer! He only learned how to properly go up and down stairs last year, thanks to my awesome PT! We put an alarm system in so each time any door is open it chimes letting us know someone is coming in or out which is awesome!¬†Jake has little interest in the pool while the net is on. I think one of the best things that happened was when we brought our dog, Lexi, in the backyard for the first time. We threw her ball and she went running right onto the net. It scared Jake and he told me “I don’t want to go on that net, it got my dog!” Lexi got off the net just fine and she too has learned to stay away from it! We’ve been swimming several times and he absolutely loves it! My fears are not as great because when we are in the backyard he stays on the patio away from the pool, when he is running he stays away from the pool and even though I know this is just the first week and I can’t let my guard down, I feel a bit better about everything.

 

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Relaxing on the patio!
playroom
Before the TV was mounted in the playroom; Jake already made himself at home!
Lexi
Happy pup! Here you can see part of the safety net on the pool.

Change is hard for those on the autism spectrum and super hard for Jake! He hates any type of change and sticks to a pretty tight schedule. But everything that has gone on this year has proven to me, once again, that Jake can learn to adjust to change. If he is given enough time and enough information he does just fine!