Saturday, September 27, 2008

A BidetSpa is what this Autism Family needs

I was very excited to read a blog post on a new bidet toilet seat that was being utilized by a special needs girl in the same age range as my nonverbal autistic son Matthew. I have wanted a bidet for years and have researched styles and brands often. My favorites folder has several saved from various searches.

The one and only time I have ever seen a bidet toilet was during my high school years back in New Jersey. A friend had a modern white house with an intercom system, a button to call the fire department, (which I did by accident once) and the bidet in a large bathroom.

Since my adult years I have been plagued with Hemorrhoids. My Mother mentioned to me long ago she had them, so this might be another hereditary thing that passed on to me like the asthma and eczema I have been plagued with my whole life.

In fact, several years ago I had contact with my first husband (86-89) for some reason I cannot recall, and the first thing he asked me, (with his brother on the other phone) was if I still had Hemorrhoids. That was a reminder to me of why I left him in the first place, very childish. Who wants to be remembered for their Hemorrhoids? The horror of it all. I learned earlier this year that he passed away a year ago in a car accident.

My nonverbal son Matthew is on the autism spectrum and has sensory issues as well. He has had two solid bowel movements in his twelve years that I can recall. The first one was the day he went on Ensure Plus from regular milk. The second time was the first day he started taking Risperdal. This was in 2003 when the antipsychotic was prescribed only for Schizophrenia treatment and has since added autistic disorder. Their father suffers from Paranoid Schizophrena. I have sole physical and legal custody. All my family is in New Jersey and we are in California. I am the home health care worker for my son Matthew through the State of California. (IHSS)

Matthew liked the Ensure Pudding and moved on to soy yogurt for a few years and now has regular vanilla pudding or french pudding yogurt once in awhile in his lunch at school. He also tried the Naturade Total Soy drink supplement before just drinking regular soymilk and rice drink. I have been toying with the idea of adding Almond Milk to his diet.

Matthew has been wearing the Huggies GoodNites for many years now. Insurance covers five cases per month.

We have been living in a duplex for ten years now with one bathroom. There is a small window that opens out to the neighbors driveway and entrance gate to their house. The venilation fan stopped working last summer and I have an oscillating tower fan hooked up to an extension cord under a rug to the outlet. With the addition of the feral cat from outside who broke his leg one year ago, his litter box is now in the bathroom as well.

This is one of the hottest rooms in the house and unbearable for me with my severe eczema. I am regularly prescribed Prednisone and have even received a shot of cortisone in the ER a few years ago and earlier this year at a clinic. The side effects are depression, mood swings, personality changes, weight gain and vision issues. I have been through all these side effects, with vision problems now surfacing. I recently learned my Mother had cataracts, so that might be next for me.

I am a single mother to two boys on opposite ends of the autism spectrum. They are fifteen months apart at 12 and 13. I homeschool Nicholas who is now in seventh grade. Matthew just started Middle School, takes the bus with his male aide. He is in a MRS class, which means Mental Retardation Severe. He never received speech therapy last year due to shortage within LAUSD and now he is on wait list at his present school. He also receives Adaptive PE and Occupational Therapy. There was feeding therapy for five years and one year of Floortime in the home.

Matthew has several diaper changes a day, sometimes as often as every half hour. I mentioned earlier he has had two solid bowel movements. It is very rare for a diaper to be filled with just urine. I would characterize the diaper contents similar to creamy peanut butter.

Due to my severe eczema I can only use one kind of baby wipes, since the others have ingredients that burn my hands. I cannot wear any type of glove beside cotton gloves, (due to a latex allergy) that I have purchased in the past by the dozen on ebay and currently at Walgreens for five dollars a pair. I hardly use detergent at the laundromat due to my sensitivities, nor do I use dryer sheets, bleach or softener. The cotton gloves do not last long and my son has had many rashes.

With a BidetSpa I would get the relief needed from the posterior wash and the feminine wash while my son will get a more thorough cleaning without having to endure wipes, Baby Powder and rash cream. He is in Middle School and in Physical Education, doing laps around the track while wearing a diaper. I cannot do this alone and have purchased The Potty Journey and Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism books for guidance.

With the addition of the BidetSpa we would save money on purchasing all the extras, my skin would not have to endure a hot bathroom and Matthew would be cleaner with less irritation. This is the one component we need to start toilet training and would be a blessing for all of us.

Just last year we got a new toilet seat and a few days ago a new flapper for the toilet since it broke in half before Matthew got home and the landlord was next door working - perfect timing for once. We would love the remote control, if that is included in the giveaway. The automatic deodorizer sounds like a dream for us and the bathroom. All the features including the soft lid are appealing to this autism family household. My 13 year old would even share his opinion in a review posted here on the blog and another more extensive one at the Autism Spectrum Disorders site and we may even be able to get the product added to the Epinions site.

The BidetSpa features include a Urine Spray Guard and an Occupie Seat Sensor, which means it will only work when someone is sitting on it and not from pushing buttons.

This family will be a happy CleanButt family. I already ordered the Free 8 minute DVD to learn more about their product. Please keep your fingers crossed that we win the giveaway, and if you are in the Los Angeles area you may come over and test it out, when Matthew is in school.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Concerned about Horticulture and Adaptive PE classes

My nonverbal son Matthew is in the sixth grade at a Middle School taking the bus for the first year ever with his male assistant. They are in a MRS class, which is Mental Retardation Severe. There is a total of four kids, started out as six, some rearranging took place the first few days of school. There is also a Mental Retardation Moderate class (MRM).

The third period class is Horticulture, which is in a general education class so they are mainstreamed with that class, some use term inclusion, depends on where you live and what State. I use the term Special Ed but others use self-contained class. I have only heard that term used in other blogs and online, not within the Los Angeles Unified School District, also known as LAUSD.

This is also a first for wearing a school uniform, which is white polo shirt and navy blue pants, so far shorts is what Matthew has worn to school. Today the temperature was 90. For Physical Education (Adaptive PE) the uniform is royal blue shorts (shiny kind with string) with a white t-shirt that has school logo. The shirt is to be tucked in, not working for Matthew and aide just lets him wear it out, thankfully this is not an issue.

Matthew's white shirt is quite dirty on the days that they go outside to pull weeds and whatever it is they do in Horticulture. One day his hands were really dirty upon arriving home as well as his blue shorts and white sneakers. So now they know how hard it is to get Matthew cleaned up and might be lenient on days he arrives dirty after I have cleaned him up and missed a spot or he touches something outside before the bus comes.

PE is at fifth period toward the end of the day about 1PM. I had concerns about this being outside during the heat of the day and even mentioned this on the phone to people within the school district. I suggested contacting the health department to make a complaint. I do have an option of getting a letter from Doctor to restrict Matthew's PE participation and requesting an amended IEP.

The problem is that Matthew really needs and benefits from the physical aspect of PE. Plus the fact that it is at the end of the day and I thought the positive from this would be to wear him out, no such luck thus far. He does go to bed by 7:30 PM thanks to his medication and giving his dosage at 5PM. Matthew takes Geodon, which is an anti-psychotic.

He has been doing laps as soon as they get to the track and his aide has a hard time keeping up with him. He does not want Matthew to get in the habit of just running around the track. He does take breaks after laps and they sit down for about fifteen minutes after that. He will not drink water and I am worried about what condition he is in after doing the laps. His aide did take a picture and showed me Matt on the track.

The good news is that he is not going into the locker room to get dressed. The boys get dressed in the classroom and the two girls go into the locker room. This is how the teacher has handled dressing in years past, he has twenty years at this school and 17 in the same classroom.

The aide has told me that there are three other general education classes out there at the same time. They all seem to stay clear of Matthew, but today Matthew went in the other direction while the other classes were jogging.

I gave the aide a plastic water squirt bottle to put water in and squirt Matthew when he gets too hot. I did this in the summer time and also to slick his hair back. I want him to drink water and learn to use the fountain or bring water bottle for him to drink. He has taken sips here and there over the years, but mainly just drinks rice drink or soymilk.

I do not want my son to collapse and wonder what type of feedback or advice I can give the aide. I will meet the teacher on Thursday for back to school nite, which I just learned about today and they get out early on Friday because of that. I have yet to receive a notice from school on either of these happenings. I am assuming due to the California budget crisis and no money coming to schools that this is the reason they are out early on Friday. Several years ago Matthew was hospitalized for dehydration since he would not drink anything when he was sick and needed IV. He was also anemic and malnourished when younger due to feeding issues.

The aide tells me that Matthew's face is a bit flushed and not too sweaty, I may need a pic to see this firsthand or somehow sneak on campus to find out. Today in Horticulture they were in the general education classroom doing some writing and Matthew did not want to and tipped over the desk and banged somethings around. He then removed Matthew from classroom. There was no mention of this incident in the teacher communication sheet. Other days the teacher has mentioned Matthew had a timeout so I asked the aide what that meant and what a timeout was. He said the teacher sits next to Matthew.

At the elementary school they made the kids stand there with hands behind back and then other times put head on desk. I need to find some clarity on these at the back to school night. When they did art at the Elementary school they went to the class next door that also had a door to get back into the class. Matt did well there and with music that was with general education classes.

I also need to get the schedule and get some more information on why the special education kids on buses do not get to eat breakfast and have to wait by bus for fifteen minutes.

Does your child take Horticulture and know more about this type of class? Any feedback on the PE issue with Matthew doing seven laps. I think to limit him now would be hard since he has been doing this for over a week now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Child with Autism Gaining Independence

My nonverbal son Matthew just finished his first full week of sixth grade at a Middle School. The prior week school officially started on Wednesday. The bus is here most mornings before 7 AM and gets him home before 4 PM. With Matthew it is not possible to try on clothes without actually wearing them that day. Since he has to now wear a uniform I was concerned with how he would tolerate wearing white polo shirts that are tight at the cuff on the arm and the buttons on the neck with the color. He has only worn a full button-down shirt once and that was on graduation day at Elementary School this past June. That outfit he wore was the same one Nicholas wore the year before at his Elementary School graduation. That outfit is ready to retire from the closet altogether.

Over the summer I had purchased three white shirts at Jiffy Shirts with great results as they arrived the following day. I also bought three shirts at to have different options of shirts for Matthew. One was tagless and the other brand I cut out the tags.

The night before school as I had prepared clothes for the first day I decided to try a shirt on Matthew. He was pulling at the collar and not wanting me to do the bottom button. I had two navy blue shorts ready for the next morning. He has been wearing pants and shorts that have the string attached, which is his stim most often to play with the strings.

On the first day of school the shirt was successful but the shorts were another story. He was pulling them all the way up, reminding me of an old Jerry Lewis comedy movie. The two shorts were not working so I went into the laundry basket for the last pair of blue shorts, spritzed some Air Therapy Orange Spray on them to get a fresh smell and they seemed to work.

I have had a pair of his string shorts and loose tshirt on the bed waiting for him when he gets home. When Matthew and his assistant get off the bus I let Mattthew inside so I can hear about the schoolday from the aide. He is usually carrying Matthew's backpack and lunchbag. Sometimes Matthew comes back to the front door to get these bags and bring into the kitchen. A few times Matthew has only had on his shorts and the rest another shirt. His aide was even impressed with how fast Matthew was able to change his clothes.

This is a new skill for Matthew since in the morning he needs a diaper change and gets dressed with assistance from me. Two times my son Nicholas has had to help him get the shirt on. The pants and shirt have been on the correct way as well.

I come into the house to see Matthew getting a bowl out of the cabinet and putting pretzels into it. When he was at Elementary School I picked him up at his classroom everyday and had a baggie of Gluten Free Pretzels for him to eat on the way to the car and during the drive home. The first year I was bringing a video for Matthew to hold on the way home.

Matthew is able to take off chip clips but cannot put them back on. He will hand me the package and the clip to do it. He now likes Muenster cheese and will remove the baggie from the refrigerator when he gets home and let me know it needs to be opened.

He will also go into his backpack and retrieve his homework, proceeding to get a crayon and scribble a mess on the page before I can even try to hold his hand and help guide him.

I have even noticed Matthew now taking off his socks when there is either a hole in them or he has stepped in the water bowl for the cat. I just need to get him to toss them in garbage or laundry basket instead of the sock drawer. He will try on a few pairs until he finds one that fits.

I think the next step will be to show him how to empty his lunchbag and put ice bars back in freezer and remove the Rubber Maid Juice Box Containers so they can be rinsed out.

The feedback from the assistant and the communication checklist from the teacher is that Matthew is running 4-7 laps in Adaptive PE and enjoying Horticulture. You can tell that by looking at his hands and sneakers when he gets home. He really likes pulling weeds. These are the two classes that his MRS (Mental Retardation Severe) class is included with general education.

Here is an article I wrote on the issues we are having with LAUSD.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Halloween Experiences for those on the Autism Spectrum

Halloween is just around the corner. Stores have had costumes stocked for a few weeks now. With school back in session students will be discussing which characters they will be wearing as a costume or if you are The Sewing Mom you are making costumes.

I have one article on my site for Halloween, which I did three years ago. I want to have more options available for readers to gain insights into the Halloween Experience for the child on the autism spectrum.

My 12 and 13 year old do not participate in Halloween. Their Elementary Schools had parades. I would pick up Matthew early and he would wear regular clothes to school. Now that he is in Middle School I am not sure what the procedure is for this Holiday in terms of wearing the uniform to school or allowing a costume. Nicholas is homeschooled with California Virtual Academy so he will be home.

I am looking for input from families that have had past experiences with their child on the autism spectrum by wearing a costume to school, participating in a party at class or elsewhere, and also those that have parties in their home and take their kids out for trick or treating.

If you have blogged about it and interested in sharing your link please post it in the comments. If you want to create a blog post please let me know your website address so I can follow when it gets posted. If you are planning already for this year you can also comment here about the preparations and let me know if this is something I can include in my article.

As an example I can just say that a Mom in NY to a 4 year old boy did this and that. If you want me to link to your blog please indicate that as well. I would like to have an article helping new families gain insights from other families on what type of costumes kids can handle, how long they last outside doing the visiting of homes, what about barking dogs, diet issues for treats and parties and sensory issues with the costumes and makeup, etc. If there is a certain book, CD or DVD you have used to help prepare for Halloween, please share. I have reviewed a few Winnie the Pooh ones and curious to know if any exist specifically for those on the autism spectrum.

I am looking forward to hearing from other autism families on their experiences sine we just bypass the Holiday and wait for November to show up. If you have any recipes or blog post on gluten casein free treats please share those here.

PE Activities for Homeschoolers

My 13 year old son who is high functioning on the autism spectrum is in seventh grade. We are utilizing California Virtual Academy, known as CAVA and utilizes K12 curriculum. This is our second year with CAVA. Prior to this Nicholas was in Elementary School in general education with just RSP consult with teacher.

We are doing CAVA for the Middle School years since it is our hope that he will get accepted into The Los Angeles Zoo High School Magnet, although it is College Prep. He wants to work at the Zoo and looking forward to reaching the age you are allowed to volunteer.

This year we will be visiting the Zoo on a monthly basis. I hope to get him a nice camera to take photos like animal photographers do out in the wild. He also likes to visit animal sanctuary websites and Humane society sites. His two main interests are Dinosuars and Cats - big and little cats. He did a report last year on Jaguars that he is very proud of.

The focus of this post is on PE Activities. CAVA has a form parents need to fill out and turn in each quarter, know as the Physical Education Activity Log. Students are required to complete an average of twenty (20) minutes each day. The teaching adult is responsible for completing and submitting the log.

These are activities that are structured, organized and supervised, like participating in an athletic class, dance class or sports team. Activities like bicycling, hiking, jogging or calisthenics are listed as examples.

We have an Exercise Bike from Sears that Nicholas started using last year, but with the September heat here in Los Angeles that is not comfortable. There is also yard work that is done once a week using the Craftsman Reel Mower. I cannot get him motivated to go down to the lake for a few laps, which is what we did last year on the way back from dropping Matthew off at school.

This year the bus picks up Matthew so we can go before 7:30 AM, but many bring their dogs and he is afraid of many of them. There is also a stench down there from the trash and the birds, etc. I had to put my membership with 24 Hour Fitness on hold due to the cost not within my budget at this time.

He is not interested in sports at all. I thought maybe some sort of DVD showing kids exercising might be good to alternate between the bike, outside and walking. I am looking for feedback from other homeschooling families on how they incorporate PE into their daily routine. Also ideas from other autism families on what types of exercise their young teenagers participate in, sports and extra curricular activities.

I would like to do an article on my autism site on the topic of PE and sports. It is a topic I have little experience with my boys and would like links to reviews on DVDs for all age groups and posts from blogs on this topic to include for resources within the article.

At summer camp this year Matthew's class went to the high school and ran around the track. The teacher mentioned to me how fast he was and wanted to know if I was looking into Special Olympics. Than the other day at school Matthew's assistant took pictures of him on the track and said he was really good and mentioned Special Olympics.

Nicholas has a friend from summer camp who swims and is in Special Olympics. Anyone who has a kid in the Special Olympics and has written about the experience is welcome to send me or post the link so I can add that to my article. I was already looking into the Parks and Recreation Services here in Los Angeles. Matthew already has a long day with bus time, so I need to see about weekend offerings in the area. We would probably need someone to assist and that would be through the Regional Center, but with California in a Budget Crisis and funding non existent that is highly unlikely.

Reminder - if you have any input to add about PE activities for homeschoolers or specifically for a kid (tween, teenager) on the autism spectrum, please leave a comment with details, link to post, blog, etc. I am working on an article and will include your link and also feedback for Special Olympics would be helpful as well.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Housing Options for Autism Families

I enjoy watching House Hunters on HGTV, which airs nightly at 10 PM. Sometimes my 13 year old son Nicholas catches the show as well. We have dreams of moving out of this duplex house we have now rented for over ten years. I regularly peruse Cragislist, Westside Rentals and Mobile Home Village to check new listings.

We cannot live in an apartment or condo. That would mean four neighbors to deal with and having to endure listening to Matthew running across the rooms, banging walls and screaming. Amenities like pool, fireplace, deck, patio and french doors would have to be avoided.

I need to have parking, tired of the street hassles for a space near the house. An on-site laundry room or at least a hook-up would be necessary. Trying to deal with laundry during school holiday times and vacations are not easy. Due to my skin issues with my severe eczema it is essential that I get a dishwasher. Also the bathroom must have a window and fan vent. This will help when giving Matthew baths and starting the toilet training.

We also need a fenced yard and preferably central air conditioning. For many years now I have paid a rental fee to my landlord for the stove and refrigerator, probably paying for appliances two times during this period. I would like a shower that has the sliding door and a garbage disposal for the kitchen sink.

The neighbors next door have their grown sons living theere for many years. It is like a pot festival coming through my windows. Today when the bus arrived my front yard was a stench bucket from them. Earlier in the day our kitchen had smells from the other neighbor. My son Nicholas had problems with his eyes and throat.

I am tired of living at this dump, but there are not many options for us. I also want to try to buy a mobile home by the time I am 50, which is under two years. It is a long term goal that most likely will not get met, but a dream nonetheless.

Nicholas has a dream of living in his own apartment with his cat Junior and another companion animal. He wants to drive a truck and not get married or have kids. I am trying to teach him about finances and what a struggle it is to pay bills and have anything left over.

It would be nice someday to share a house with another autism family and have the street or community consist of families with kids who have special needs. Safety for everyone and living where neighbors know what your life is like and can offer support in many ways.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The To Do List Begins

My nonverbal son Matthew starts school tomorrow. Once he graduated Elementary School in June there was six weeks of summer day camp. After that commenced we had almost four weeks of down time at home.

While autism camp was in session I was able to do laundry and grocery shopping, but during this break Matthew had to accompany me everywhere I went. Several times this meant enduring an attack from behind if I took too long making a choice in an aisle. Waiting too long at the Pharmacy Counter produced similar results. Errands worked best if we went directly to the coloring book section so he could pick one out. But then he wanted to get home so he could color.

I have now compiled my To Do list of errands and things I can do that will go smoother and faster.

Get the car washed
Go to laundromat
Grocery Shopping
Take Nicholas for a haircut
Clothes Shopping
Go to the library
Take Nicholas Bowling
See a Movie with Nicholas
Visit the Zoo with Nicholas
Take Nicholas to Community Day
Paint over the fingerprints on the walls
Take Nick to Dentist for fillings/root canal
Find an Ortho for consult for Nick - needs braces
Find an Eye Dr for me - need exam, new glasses, no vision Ins
Follow up with Dentist for me - need new Dentures, no dental Ins
Take the cat to Vet - flea bath, trim nails
Get back to 24 hour fitness for daily workouts
Start swim lessons for Nicholas
Practice riding a bike - in neighbor's driveway with their bike
Take Nicholas to get hearing and vision test

At home we will no longer have to walk around the kitchen holding our food and plates away from his fingers. Glasses of milk will no longer get dipped by his fingers. The ice cream container will not get squeezed. I will not have to trip over the vacuum cord because he is playing with it while I try to maneuver it away from his grip.

I might not have to lock the bathroom door or see his feet under the door way banging on the door. My face will not be mashed against his while I sit at the computer. Constant running through the hallway and banging the walls will not occur constantly. I am sure there is more that I will be aware of tomorrow and as the quiet days arrive.

I hope to get a lot accomplished during the day so that I can attend to his needs once he gets off the bus. Transitions for the whole family - earlier dinner time and sooner to bed for everyone.

Cheers to a new day.
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