Saturday, July 28, 2012

Autistic teen terrified of dogs

My son Matthew is nonverbal and now 16 years old. He has always been afraid of dogs and sometimes the encounters are chaotic in nature with the result someone getting hurt in the process, although not from the dog, it is usually from Matthew.

For years we used to walk around the lake down the street but there was a busy street on one side and the actual lake on the other side so when a dog was coming around the sidewalk there was not a lot of room to move away. Also bicyclists used to be dangerous as Matthew did not know what to do when one was getting close to us and I had to guide him to the grass area or we would stop so they could get around us.

Since the lake closed down for renovations we have been walking around the park and doing trails and stairs. This presents problems when we come upon a dog or dogs that may not be on a leash or get close to Matt when on a leash. He goes on the attack towards me and digs his fingers into my skin and runs or pushes me into the woods or a ditch and one time I almost went down the stairs.

I get bruises and marks on my skin from his attacks. He also runs and I have to catch up to him to get a hold of his arm or hand. Now that he is taller at 5'6 or so and weighs about 105 pounds it is not as easy as when he was younger.

Also in the earlier years I would get all those autism awareness shirts for Matthew to wear on excursions and for the summer months. Whether or not those really helped during this trying times is still a mystery because we get the stares and nodding of the head like they know or understand.

This is the reason why we still live in the same duplex house for fourteen years. All the stores we go to have the same people working for a number of years and they are familiar with Matthew. It is basically the other customers that have no clue what this teen boy is all about.

Now we deal with his foot stomping and constant burping while in line and out and about in public. He eats like an animal, gorging on food like he has not eaten in days.

Matt is not toilet trained so he is wearing generic depends for men underwear. Due to the large amounts of water he is drinking this summer he needs changing every hour or you will find he wet the floor or bed.

A few months ago we went to tour an open house for an autism school for high functioning college students. This was for my other son Nicholas. Matthew spent the whole time touching his private part while we were walking and he was laughing the whole time. Most of those in attendance did not seem to have any previous experience with a severe teen on the autism spectrum. Nick wanted to know why I brought Matt with us - like there was another option available.

I wish there was some sort of therapy that taught those kids on the spectrum how to deal with their fear of dogs. I would think they would need to use dogs for this and that would never work. We would not be able to afford a dog for Matthew for therapy so that idea is out thinking that would protect him from other dogs and also from escaping the house and school grounds.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Some regrets and some planning for the future

When you are raising two sons that are fifteen months apart on opposite ends of the autism spectrum some of their issues or needs might not be addressed due to one taking precedence over the other.

My son Matthew turned 16 yesterday and gives me time to reflect on what we have endured and gone through since the diagnosis of autism at the age of two. Nicholas was diagnosed first and when Matthew was diagnosed I had assumed he would not be as severe as Nicholas. The opposite happened instead with Matthew still not toilet trained and nonverbal. I wish I had done somethings differently and pursued other treatment options. This was at a time that having two with autism in the same household was not common. Every time I had an assessment for therapy for Nicholas or Matthew they wanted to give services to both boys when clearly they had different deficits and symptoms.

For five years we had medical students coming on Sundays for an hour to learn about autism and spend time with Nicholas. This was my way for him to get some individual attention. For two years we had the same girl coming every week. The last year was a guy who would bring his girlfriend with him and talk about girls with Nicholas, which was inappropriate.

I had an adaptive skills trainer for six months come and help him learn some skills, but then opted not to continue with that due to the way the guys dressed and feeling uncomfortable with them in my home.

For a number of years I was a member of a DTT-NET egroup, although I hardly participated and more just absorbed all the information shared. DTT stands for Discrete Trial Training. We did not get the services other families did through the Regional Center. I should have pushed harder to get some therapy for Matthew to teach him to talk instead of them always focusing on pecs and sign language. Neither one of those worked for him.

Now at age 17 Nick is interested in basketball. One of the Sunday volunteers had younger siblings involved in sports and she would share all about those events. I was hoping to get Nick involved in sports or musical instruments. Maybe had I pushed he would have had another activity to meet his peers. We could not do these though because of Matthew and his therapy appointments and issues with behavior and eating.

Nick missed out on a lot and I tried to make it up to him by introducing him to Yugioh and Pokemon. I bought the gameboy for him even though he had no interest. That helped him in Elementary school as he had more in common with the other students. At the time all he talked about was Dinosaurs.

From third grade on Nick wanted to go to the LA Zoo High School Magnet. His fifth grade teacher told me he would be good in Drama. Nicholas has recently told me he no longer wants to do online school and want so go back to public school. Next year he will be a Junior so we will use that time to prepare. The computer desktop is a loaner through his school so we need to get a new one. He needs clothing and to work more on his personal hygiene and communication skills.

There is also the issue of which high school to attend. There are several within our home address that are known as his home school to choose from. We are considering an art academy. He spent his elementary school years drawing in note pads. We had at one time over 100 of them with his comic book drawings and his stories and characters.

Other families helped their students explore and take their art drawings to the next level. We had ideas to make cards or sell mini books on etsy or other similar sites. I think Nicholas just needed some nudging to get there but due to issues with Matthew I could never find the time or money to help explore this venue with Nicholas.

Recently the regional center coordinator had suggested that when he goes to College and takes art he may get some feedback from a teacher that would be beneficial. He is now open to drama classes. I just feel like all these ideas I had three years ago are now coming to light so we need to roll with it while the interest is there. I guess it is not too late.

I cannot plan out his life for him but have shared with him how his interests can be something to explore for career. He loves watching some food shows like Cake Boss and I suggested taking a year to go to cooking school - this is good for his future as he will learn a vital skill. The art is a fun hobby he needs to be open to and learn about other aspects and not just be limited to drawing. He wants to work at the Zoo or at an animal Sanctuary someday. At this point he needs to work on learning some office type skills and do internships or volunteer at organizations for animals or shelters to get that experience.

Matthew will be going to high school until he is 22 so the has many more years in the school system. Once he is toilet trained I want him to take part in the after school track program for special ed kids and then move on to Special Olympics. I do hope to take the one-year certificate course at the community college to learn to be a special education assistant. This will help Nicholas when he attends that college so we know the layout and system. Also will be something for me to fall back on.

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