The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

A photo of Dr. Temple Grandin

At 4 years old, H still struggles when it comes to expressing herself. She can utter 2-3 words at the same time and can say a sentence when prompted. Her level of communication is currently limited to requests like “Mommy milk,” “water please,” “borrow iPad” and to express disagreement or frustration such as “I don’t like,” “oh no,” and “oh my goodness.” She also communicates her interests or feelings of excitement by saying the names of the objects she’s fixated to. Recently, her top 3 favorites are “grasshopper,” “mosquito” and a toss-up between “hungry jellyfish” and “hungry insect.” If you’re a parent to a child with fixations, you would totally get this.

Last Thursday, H had a breakthrough or what I’d love to call a “champagne moment.” After back-to-back sessions of speech and social skills therapies, her teacher told me that H had greeted one of her classmates while she was playing with a toy. When her classmate Mia, entered the room, she glanced over her direction and quickly said, “Hi, Mia!” while staring at her. You see, at home, whenever she’s busy playing or she’s fixated on a toy, it would take great effort to call her attention or to get her to look at us. Effort means having to call her name more than 20 times or approaching H at her level by kneeling on the floor. For H, looking at someone’s eyes is too overwhelming but nowadays, she can tolerate eye contact for a good 5 to 10 seconds. This is such a huge improvement already coming from not being able to establish any eye contact at all. Thanks to more than 2 years of therapy sessions!

So back to our champagne moment, while I was feeling all giddy with excitement and mighty proud of my daughter’s latest achievement, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad for not being able to witness it myself. Just moments before we left the therapy center, God blessed me with another wonderful surprise when H said goodbye to a classmate who happened to pass by. That day, I went home with a full heart knowing that our Good God have blessed me more than I deserve!

H is not really the verbal and friendly type of child especially in a social setting but give her something to memorize or a puzzle to solve, I’d guarantee you that she would remember and excel at solving them. This leads me to sharing with you an inspiring story of autism and animal advocate, Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin is a prominent advocate for the autistic community and the subject of an award-winning HBO film portrayed by award-winning actress, Claire Danes.

According to bio., Grandin began to speak at the age of 4. Although her parents sought the best possible teachers, social interactions remained difficult in middle and high school, where other students teased Grandin regularly for her verbal tics. Despite these difficulties, Grandin achieved considerable academic success. She earned a degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, followed by a master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She then worked as a consultant to companies with large animal slaughterhouse operations, advising them on ways of improving the quality of life of their cattle.

I distinctly remember watching Temple Grandin in tears. Though H is only 4, I can really relate with her mother’s journey to what she had been through with Temple. The film is based upon the books ‘Emergence,’ by Temple Grandin and Margaret Scariano and ‘Thinking in Pictures,’ by Temple Grandin. I highly recommend that you watch this movie if you haven’t seen it.

Aside from the film, another video of her that I really love is one from TED Talks where she made the case about why the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids. If you are a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder, you’ll surely love the last 4 minutes of her talk. This is also a great video to share with your family, relatives, friends or even your child’s educators who might need a little more understanding on how autistic brain works. It’s truly worth the share!

 

Incidentally, today is Dr. Temple Grandin’s birthday on the other side of the world. Her mother is my true inspiration of courage. As a mother of a child with a working diagnosis of autism, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart, for affirming that my daughter is different but not less and for showing the world that nothing is impossible, that labels are not needed, and that not even the sky’s the limit.

Happy Birthday, Temple Grandin!

Did you find anything here quite familiar? What are the challenges that you’re currently facing with your differently-abled child? I’d like to know in the comments. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

Top 6 Websites That Helped Me In My Journey Through Special Needs Parenting

My husband and I believe in the principle of early detection and early intervention. When I saw all the red flags on our daughter’s developmental milestones, I felt like I needed to do something right away. I couldn’t wait for six long months before our initial consultation so I went to the worldwide web for answers. All of the articles I read said that the earlier you act for your child, the better. Throughout the process, I kept close tabs on all the websites and support groups that I visited and joined.

Below are six helpful sites that are full of useful information about autism, down syndrome, sensory processing disorder and other sensory issues. These six amazing sites include information about your child’s condition, stories from parents who have been through it, helpful resources, learning tools, forums and blog entries. I hope you’ll find them useful as much as I do.

  • Autism Society Philippines – The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism. Their site serves as my local help guide on autism, including updates and developments on PWD rights and privileges.
Autism Society Philippines logo
Photo source: Autism Society Philippines Facebook page
  • Sesame Street and Autism – I instantly fell in love with this site when it launched in October 2015. This Sesame Street initiative is aimed at families with children ages two to five and their communities. It offers interactive tools, videos, and an online resource center to help build an understanding around autism.
Sesame Street and Autism #SeeAmazing
Photo source: Sesame Street Facebook page
  • Lemon Lime Adventures – It’s a site that features a blended family’s adventures in homeschooling, sensory processing, natural living and personal experiences. I find the parenting tips and practical activities they share very helpful in keeping my little one busy and productive.
Lemon Lime Adventures
Photo source: Lemon Lime Adventures Facebook page
  • Raising a Sensory Smart Child – Inspired by Raising a Sensory Smart Child, the award-winning book and resource for parents, this community is about helping kids with SPD. It’s a supportive page focused on helping parents of kids with SPD. I think it’s wonderful that this site alerts people to the research that has been done about special needs children.
Raising a Sensory Smart Child cover page
Photo source: Raising a Sensory Smart Child Facebook page
  • Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support – This is a safe place to find support, get to know other parents who have children with SPD, ask questions, learn, share success and spread awareness. Of all the websites I shared, this is the site I could relate the most to. I enjoy writing comments on some of the members posts by sharing things that have worked for me or even as simple as offering words of encouragement to struggling special needs parents.
Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support logo
Photo source: Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support Facebook page
  • Momma ‘n Manila – This local blog documents the journey of a beautiful mom through motherhood. Aside from this, she also shares her thoughts on yoga, cooking, crafting, raising a special child, exploring, eating, playing, and living in Manila. There are very few local blogs on special needs parenting and this one is absolutely inspiring!

Momma 'n Manila Facebook cover photo
Photo source: Momma ‘n Manila Facebook page
Just like everyone else, I am human. Sometimes, I feel like it’s easier to fall into the pit of negativity, self-pity and self-condemnation. In my personal experience, it really helps to put my worries into perspective especially when I know that there are far many people in the world that are so much worse off than me. It’s an affirmation that I’m not alone.

Quick Tip: If you’d like to be updated about their latest posts (and if you’re like me who prefers to read while waiting for your child to finish his/her therapy sessions), make sure to subscribe to them on Facebook. Simply click the logos to be redirected to their pages.

What do you think about my list? Do you have websites and forums that you follow that has helped you in your journey through special needs parenting? I’d love to hear about them. Please feel free to share in the comments section.

 

 

How I Found Out I Have A Special Needs Child

This is a blog post output from Martine De Luna’s “Write Blissfully” bloggers writing course.

“No one goes very far alone…all that you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own.” – Anonymous

A lot of the parents I meet and talk with always ask me questions like, “How did you know?” or “What prompted you to have your child assessed?” or “What was the experience that led you to seek professional advice for your child?”

I always tell them that when you’re a parent and you see and interact with your child on a day-to-day basis, you would know that something is off or different. Call it motherly instincts, or perhaps inspiration, but I really felt strongly that my daughter was put on this earth for a special reason.

Let me to take you back to where it all started. As a first-time mom, I relied on many self-help books, parenting websites, forums and apps, in hopes that these would help prepare me for motherhood. I even hired an experienced nanny a couple of months before my elective C-section so she could help me prepare for my baby’s arrival. A month away from my scheduled birth, we had our baby’s nursery all ready. I thought that I had it all figured out until my child, H, was born.

I remember H was not the typical newborn baby that I expected her to be. When she was born, she was fully matured at 41 weeks old and had jaundice because of our blood type differences. She had to go through light therapy for the most part of our stay at the hospital right up to the last-minute before we checked out.  At home, she cried a lot and did not nurse well. About 3 weeks into nursing, she started to get super squirmy, would throw her head back and forth (while attached to my boob mind you) and sometimes make quirk jerky movements where she would “rip” her mouth from my boobs. Surprisingly my nipples were still attached! I distinctly remember crying a lot, feeling insecure and overwhelmed.

When she was 3 months old, H started smiling and interacting with her coos and gurgles. She would often reach out with her tiny hands to grab the colorful and textured objects I showed her. She smiled at the sight of our funny faces and her favorite toys. At 4 months, she started eating puree food, mixed with breast milk. When she learned to crawl and cruise through our home at 6 months old, she explored the objects around her with great interest and agility. A few weeks before her first birthday, she learned to walk without assistance.

She was a good-natured baby throughout her first year.

Shortly after her first birthday, I started seeing H fall behind her peers in terms of developmental milestones. At the age of 1.5 years old, she had trouble focusing or making eye contact. She spun tirelessly while looking sideways; she did not speak as expected for her age group; she tiptoed 90-95% of the time. She didn’t respond to faces and objects and did not recognize familiar people. She didn’t look for hidden objects every time we played peek-a-boo and didn’t anticipate our return when we leave her in a room. I always dreaded feeding time because she refuse to eat without distractions like toys and iPad. It was also around this time when she started getting picky with her food. Toughest of all, she wouldn’t parrot the words “daddy” and “mommy”.

At home during playtime, she would play with the same toys for hours by herself and didn’t really seem to be bothered by it. She likes to arrange her toys in a certain way – by lining and stacking them up. She also enjoyed watching the wheels of her vehicle toys spin as she rolled them on the floor and table. She did not respond to us every time we call her name. It was like she was in her own little world. We thought that enrolling her in a play school might help. In school, she didn’t take directions from her teachers. She would often get out of the line during circle time and roam around with her own agenda.

Photo of several toys lined up
H’s little world

My husband and I used to ask ourselves if we should be concerned about our daughter. We got almost the same feedback from our family and friends. “She’s probably delayed,” “She’s a late bloomer” or “She will outgrow these behaviors soon.”  My husband and I KNEW something was off from the moment she stopped responding.  I had a nephew who has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of 5 so I knew some of the early signs or red flags. After having a thorough discussion with my husband, we finally decided that it was time to see a specialist.

Our journey to finding a specialist wasn’t easy, like most special needs parents. I remember my sister used to tell me that it took them at least 6 months to get an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. Ours proved to be more or less the same. Our first choice was recommended by a good family friend however, the soonest appointment would have us waiting for at least 6 months. At that time, H was already 1 year and 9 months old and we couldn’t wait anymore.

Thankfully, a friend suggested that we try The Medical City’s Center for Developmental Pediatrics so that we could begin the process right away. The initial screening was performed by a general pediatrician and the results confirmed some of our concerns. We were referred to a couple of their developmental pediatricians but fate proved that we should see our first choice. Fortunately, an earlier slot opened on our second month of waiting. We were finally headed to our initial consultation after 4 months of waiting.

H had just turned 2 when her developmental pediatrician at St. Luke’s Medical Center gave us a working diagnosis of “Communication disorder to rule out Autism vs. Sensory Integration Disorder.” Though it isn’t final yet, we can finally move forward and take all the necessary steps to help our daughter. My husband and I have always believed in early detection and early intervention. I’ve read that early attention to improving development delays will give your child – and the rest of the family – several important benefits that you will not gain if you take a wait-and-see approach until your child enters school.

I wasn’t afraid of the diagnosis, I embraced it because I knew that the day we got our diagnosis was the last bad day. H has only gotten better with services and therapies. It isn’t perfect, but in my eyes, it is such a relief to know that she will be able to get the help and therapy she needs to succeed in school and life. As a special needs parent, I have learned to be open to suggestions, to be willing to follow through on my part to help support and get the help my child needs. Most importantly, I know that I’m not alone! I’d like to share this quote that really resonates with me, “No one goes very far alone…all that you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own.”  There are so many support groups out there now and so much information to learn!

(On my next blog post, I’ll be sharing my main go-to websites for special needs children.)

If you find my post helpful or interesting, please subscribe to my blog. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook to stay up to date on events throughout my journey to parenthood. If you’re a special needs parents, can you share your experiences too? I’d love to get to know you more. Please leave a comment below.