Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lighting It Up Blue

Today is Autism awareness day! Since both of my boys have high functioning Autism, I will be sharing some things about and how it affects our family.


The first thing I'm going to write about is Autistic meltdowns (or sensory-processing meltdowns). They LOOK like toddler tantrums, but they are very different. People with Autism often (almost always) have sensory issues. That means that things that neuro typical people might not even notice (like the air conditioner clicking on) can be very loud and/or painful or scary to a person with Autism. The world is brighter, louder and overstimulating. This sometimes causes the person to literally lose it. Once started, they are not in control and it can last for a very long time. One of the worst meltdowns that Ben ever had was when he was about 4. The trigger? The doorbell rang. It's startled him and he had a meltdown that lasted for 3 joke. He screamed, kicked and flailed for 3 hours until he finally fell asleep. It was one of my worst memories as a parent. I couldn't help him, I couldn't stop it, and he was completely out of control. I had to put him in a safe place and let him scream it out. That was around the time that we got the sensory processing disorder diagnosis. When he was 5, we did Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, and the massive meltdowns stopped. However, he can still get to that point of meltdown. I have since learned the signs of overstimulation (it often has a cumulative effect) and strategies to get him calmed before it's an issue. For Ben, jumping, swinging, and deep pressure help him regulate. You will often hear me tell Ben he needs to go outside and jump on the trampoline or swing. Sometimes, you will hear me ask him if he wants to be squished. I lay him on the couch or an exercise ball and gently lay on top of him. So the next time that you see a child screaming and flailing, realize that he/she could be having an Autistic meltdown and is not in control of themselves. For more specific differences between tantrums and meltdowns, check out the link.

Is it ADHD or Autism or both?

For years, we had known that both boys exhibited Autistic symptoms, but we were told that it was not diagnosable as Autism and was related to their CP, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and Ben's epilepsy and apraxia. The boys did, however, qualify for severe ADHD diagnoses. That is when I learned that ADHD and Autism share a lot of symptoms. Later testing gave Ben a diagnosis of high-functioning Autism with moderate symptoms. Andrew was tested at the same time and it came back that he missed the diagnosis by one point. So, he had a lot of Autistic symptoms, but was still just classified as having ADHD with associated social issues. A year later (last July), Andrew was tested once again and came back with a what was formerly known as high functioning Asperger's diagnosis (Aspergers was recently put onto the Autism spectrum instead of being a separate diagnosis). Even though my boys weren't diagnosed until they were 9 and 10, they have received therapy since they were born. Early intervention is key for these kids' development! To read more about the overlap between ADHD and Autism, here's a link!

Co-Occurence with other disorders

Autism can be co-occurring with other disorders, and often is. According to a recent study, 41% of people with cerebral palsy also have epilepsy. 7% also have Autism. 20%-40% of people with Autism also have epilepsy. Benjamin has all three diagnoses...mild CP, mild epilepsy (well controlled on medication), and high-functioning Autism. Andrew has mild/moderate CP and high-functioning Autism. He has only had one seizure since his neonatal period and that was after is surgery in November when he had a really high fever.