Saturday, November 8, 2008

All about Autism

We had Autism Awareness shirts made for our family and friends. They came in this past week and they came out so cute! I had someone ask me to help them understand Autism better incase someone would ask them about it while wearing the shirt. So I decided I would explain it for everyone.

Autism is a complex neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children with autism have problems with social interaction, communication, imagination and behavior. Autistic traits persist into adulthood, but vary in severity. Some adults with autism function well, earning college degrees and living independently. Others never develop the skills of daily living.

Autism causes kids to experience the world differently from the way most other kids do. It's hard for kids with autism to talk with other people and express themselves using words. They also may react to what's going on around them in unusual ways. Normal sounds may really bother someone with autism — so much so that the person covers his or her ears. Being touched, even in a gentle way, may feel uncomfortable. Kids with autism often can not make connections that other kids make easily. For example, when someone smiles, you know the smiling person is happy or being friendly. But a kid with autism may have trouble connecting that smile with the person's happy feelings. A kid who has autism also has trouble linking words to their meanings. Imagine trying to understand what your mom is saying if you didn't know what her words really mean. It is doubly frustrating then if a kid can't come up with the right words to express his or her own thoughts.
Autism causes kids to act in unusual ways. They might flap their hands, say certain words over and over, have temper tantrums, or play only with one particular toy. Most kids with autism don't like changes in routines. They like to stay on a schedule that is always the same. They also may insist that their toys or other objects be arranged a certain way and get upset if these items are moved or disturbed.
If someone has autism, his or her brain has trouble with an important job: making sense of the world. Every day, your brain interprets the sights, sounds, smells, and other sensations that you experience. If your brain couldn't help you understand these things, you would have trouble functioning, talking, going to school, and doing other everyday stuff. Kids can be mildly affected by autism, so that they only have a little trouble in life, or they can be very affected, so that they need a lot of help.

Autism affects about 1 in every 150 kids. This means as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism. And this number is on the rise making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. But no one knows what causes it.

The brain contains over 100 billion nerve cells called neurons. Each neuron may have hundreds or thousands of connections that carry messages to other nerve cells in the brain and body. The connections and the chemical messengers they send (called neurotransmitters) let the neurons that help you see, feel, move, remember, and work together as they should.
For some reason, some of the cells and connections in the brain of a kid with autism — especially those that affect communication, emotions, and senses — don't develop properly or get damaged. Scientists are still trying to understand how and why this happens.

There is no cure for autism, but doctors, therapists, and special teachers can help kids with autism overcome or adjust to many difficulties. The earlier a kid starts treatment for autism, the better. Different kids need different kinds of help, but learning how to communicate is always an important first step. Spoken language can be hard for kids with autism to learn. Most understand words better by seeing them, so therapists teach them how to communicate by pointing or using pictures or sign language. That makes learning other things easier, and eventually, many kids with autism learn to talk. Therapists also help kids learn social skills, such as how to greet people, wait for a turn, and follow directions. Some kids need special help with living skills (like brushing teeth, etc.). Others have trouble sitting still or controlling their tempers and need therapy to help them control their behavior. Some kids take medications to help their moods and behavior, but there's no medicine that will make a kid's autism go away.

Each child is different and each child with autism is different. Daxton struggles with several things. Last year his receptive language was equivalent of 8 month old and expressive language of a 10 month old. Today he has improved greatly. He still goes to speech therapy twice a week at school and privately. I think Daxton is good at labeling things and getting pretty good at requesting but he still can't tell me what he's thinking or feeling or tell me about his day or things that happened. He's understanding more but I still don't know exactly how much. I think he understands basic things we say but can't understand detailed explanations or descriptions. I think he pulls out the key words he knows and trys to make sense of that. I hope that one day he will be able to tell me a story or something about his day or even what he's feeling.
Daxton LOVES other kids. Some children with autism seem withdrawn or don't like to be around other kids. Daxton doesn't do that. He still has problems with social interaction though. He wants to play with them so badly but really just doesn't know what to do. Lack of communication play a part in this but also his sensory issues cause problems. Most children don't want to play with him because he is very aggressive, doesn't understand how to play and can't understand what they are telling him to do. Daxton usually likes to bump, hit or throw things because he is a deep pressure seeker. He can't understand why this wouldn't be fun for other people. Daxton goes to behavior therapy every other week and ABA therapy 3 times a week to help him learn how to interact and do things appropriately. He also attends school for half a day and seems to be doing very well interacting with the children there!
Daxton has many sensory issues. This causes him to have issues with getting dressed, brushing his hair and teeth, wearing shoes, taking a bath, and eating. Different textures usually bother him, especially in food. There are very few things he will eat or drink. Sounds sometimes do bother Daxton. Some days it's as if he doesn't even hear them and then other days he hears everything. The same thing with crowds of people or changes is routine. Sometimes he's ok and sometimes he just can't handle it. Daxton is a deep pressure seeker. Which is pretty self explanitory. He seeks deep pressure. He pushes, bumps, throws, hits, and crashes things together. He needs Occupational Therapy to help him through these things but as of right now he is no longer being able to go because our insurance will not cover it and we can't afford it.
Some of the other symptoms of autism that Daxton has is sometimes not answering to his name, not making good eye contact (although I think these are improving greatly because of therapy) appears not to hear you at times, performs repetitive movements( hand flapping, spinning, twirling hair), moves constantly, likes to line up items in a row, no fear of danger, has trouble going to sleep and staying asleep, and seizures.

I hope this helps you to understand Autism a little better and also understand Daxton. We are still learning more each day. This family has been forever changed because of his presence, he has taught us all a new level of patience and understanding for children who don't fit into the "mold" that society has created for them. Nothing is taken for granted. We are truly blessed for the many gifts he has brought into our lives. He has taught us immeasurable patience, tolerance, acceptance, and most importantly, never to judge.

***most of this was found on different websites***

Last week

Halloween was last week. Daxton did so good. I was so worried about taking him trick or treating. I honestly didn't want to go b/c last year he was confused about the whole thing and I was thinking this year would just end up in a tantrum. We ended up going with Jana and Travis. Daxton even wore his transformer costume! He looked so cute and was so excited about going with Travis. They went door to door together for an hour and a half trick or treating. Daxton even held out his bag for the candy. I was so happy we went and so proud of him!

My lil transformer!

My lil fishy!

Our pumpkin party was last Saturday. The party was great and Daxton has a blast. He also wore his costume the entire party. It was so dirty lol!

We started the Risperdal last Saturday so Daxton has been on it for a week. So far I haven't noticed many changes. He seems to appear more tired but doesn't act like he is. He's still is hyper active self. I have noticed he is talking more which is a major plus! Starting today the dose will double and I'm hoping we see more improvements.
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