water coloring during art time. At first, he just moved her hand over the colors and back onto the paper. Eventually, she got him to try painting himself. He did it!
This would become one of his favorite hobbies, and I saw my son EXPLODE as an artist. I bought some water colors at the house, and before you know it, he was painting for up to an hour... sitting still, enjoying himself, and painting strictly on the paper.
This became the nap-time solution. Let the kid paint or draw while others nap. It calms him and focuses his attention in a quiet manner. So, the KDO teachers started doing just that. Slowly, I was able to increase his time of attendance, and by late March, he stayed the WHOLE day. The teachers and therapists would help me brainstorm about ideas to solve feeding issues, and I finally found something that was a strong motivation tool. I also got to substitute teach in his classroom one day, so I saw how things went. My husband and I always thought our son was more of the analytical type.. you know, numbers, gadgets, buttons, ect.... who knew he would be a little Michelangelo?
Remember the day I said I substituted? Yea, well, he happened to take a nap that day at school... for the first time ever, and the last time since. After sticking him on his nap mat at least a dozen times and at one point holding and rocking him, he fell asleep... too bad it was 30 minutes from the end of school, but 30 minutes of nap at school is more than he had ever done before! He melts my heart when I see him sleeping. Such sweetness!In addition to all of the socialization he was getting at KDO, we were also taking him to the church nursery quite a bit. When we first started at church, he had a meltdown and couldn't handle church... that was long before diagnosis. He was MAYBE 1. We stopped going when we realized they couldn't handle him screaming the entire time. We stopped going for a while, then after diagnosis, we started to try to go back. We talked to the director, explained our situation, and she was VERY VERY good at taking him in. He built bonds with the teachers and seemed to do really well. It was, actually the only sort of relief I got from the kiddos. Yep, can't say hubby and I went on a date night in close to a year. We went to church on sundays and then on thursday nights for "Financial Peace University".There, we met a lady who works with early intervention. She actually took care of Casey, our baby during services. Starting just this may, she has kept the kids for us as a respite care provider. She is awesome with both boys, and the church has done so VERY much for us.
My mom went back to work, so I basically lost any family support when it came to someone watching the kids for us. KDO also gave me that needed break away from Cameron. Although I do love him, I needed some time to focus on Casey, or to go to the grocery store without wanting to rip all of my hair out with 2 screaming kids on either hip. It did me good to let someone else take over. I was able to gain some energy, go to doctors appointments, take care of small household tasks that had been piling up and NAP for longer than 10 minutes. Having 2 kids this close in age will wear anyone out, regardless of special needs or not!
Mid way through March, I decided that we were going to walk in the local Autism Awareness Walk. I thought about putting together a "Team Cameron" t shirt and making something with some iron on transfers and shirts for the few people that may want to walk for him. I figured it might be about 12 people. I registered our team online through the website. I posted on facebook about the walk, and I had, at that point about 35 people who seemed interested in walking. HOLY COW. I was in way over my head at that point. At the same time I was trying to sell off everything we owned in a garage sale. My husband and I were doing the whole Dave Ramsey Financial Peace thing at church, and we needed cash, quickly, and had plenty of "junk" laying around. I sold my golf clubs to a couple for 100 bucks and donated the money straight towards the cost of t shirts. At that point, I decided to contact a t shirt printing company to handle it. I contacted a friend who did a lot of marketing and promotions type stuff for the race for the cure campaigns year after year because I had no clue where to begin. She pointed me in the direction of a great promotions supply company. They did a fantastic job taking a simple vision I had in my head and turning it into the real thing. Without that lady, or that company, I feel like it wouldn't have been such a huge success. We ended up getting t shirt sponsors who donated towards the cost of the shirts and the walk. I spoke at an air conditioning contractors event, and 1/2 of the sponsors came from that single speaking engagement. Most had known me since I was pregnant with Cameron, since I handled the training and licensing classes for them. It was then that I realized that yes, I COULD do this public speaking thing, and do it well. I do owe a lot of credit to Lou, the maker of this wonderful and touching video. I had given one speech prior at a parenting class on what it was like to raise a special needs child, and I basically read the first post I ever posted on this blog. It is titled "autism and my family". This time, I brought my son. I asked for donations. I introduced him and showed a video that has floated around the internet for some time.
I think the video brought a number of these hardened a/c technicians to tears. It got the point across though and it helped me get a third of the fundraising money I got to donate to the walk. The total we were able to donate was over 1100 dollars. We also had over 50 people walk, and 71 people ordered t shirts. Cameron got a special blue shirt. :)
The walk was in mid April, and it was blistering hot. It was only 80 degrees outside, but it was down in a college stadium on turf.... boy the field got hot! It made me really understand what these football players go through. Cameron seemed to enjoy his time there and ran and ran and ran some more back and forth between endzones. I jokingly said... yep... look for him in fall of 2028.
Therapy wise, we were continuing to see progress. He started saying random words. If you said "foot", he stomped his foot. He did some facial body part stuff, but when I would say nose, he would go straight to cramming a finger up in there, so yay, sorta...
One night, he was goofing around on our bed being a crazy dude while my husband and I were deciding on what to do for dinner and daddy was getting undressed from his work attire. He fell off the bed and bonked his head on the endstand. I picked him up and consoled him, but son after, he was fine. I sat him back on the bed and told him to calm down. Kevin and I decided to go out and grab something. Just then, not 30 seconds after he fell off the bed, he looks over at us and says "shoe". He had his shoes on the bed and knew I said "go", and anytime I say go, I tell him we have to get shoes on.... so, here ya go... how great is this? He still says shoe... most of the time, it is in context too...
So, from a kid that basically cried for any and everything all of the time to a kid who will look you in the face and attempt to communicate is AWESOME. He also found several new things that make him happy. He has some real passion for life, and that is all I can hope for! Early intervention works. Therapy works. Providing a loving and stable environment can be a bit hard at times, but it is a MUST. If given the right tools to help a child, and a solid support system, ANY child can grow. Also, a support system is VITAL for those parents raising special needs children. If you don't have that support, there is NO way a parent or parents can do this. Our support came though our therapists, the KDO program, church, that wonderful lady who will do our respite care, people that donated time, money and energy to walk with us in support of Cameron, extended family as well as other parents raising special needs children helped too. We are lucky to have as many people who care and want to help. It isn't always that way.
Lastly, If you know of a family with special needs children, I would like to encourage you to step up, help out. It takes a village, especially when you are faced with extra special challenges. Things you may take for granted, like taking a child to a park may be VERY daunting and time consuming. You don't have to know how to take care of a special needs child, but there are plenty of ways to help. Ask a parent how YOU can help. Maybe they need a break, or you could save them some time and cook them a meal...If you are handy with tools, see if they have a home project you can assist with. Parents of special needs children tend not to ask for help, even when they need it the most.