I found this excellent video outlining some of the early indications of autism in a young one. Dominic exhibited most, if not all, of these signs by the time we was 18 months old.
**Please just keep in mind that these signs do not automatically mean Autism. Julian had a brief stage of walking on his tip-toes, but he’s very much as neurotypical as they get, lol. Trust your gut, talk to your pediatrician, and get your child assessed, if needed.
Click link below to watch the video:
10 Early Signs of Autism
In honor of World Autism Awareness Month, I just wanted to give a special and loving shoutout to autism siblings. Our very own Julian-bear… He has had to practice a lot of patience over the years while we worked with Dominic one-on-one, and yet he absolutely loves his brother. We didn’t plan for Julian, but he was our answered prayer from God before we knew what to pray for… Julian is Dominic’s constant playmate and conversation partner, and I don’t think Dominic could have made this much progress if we didn’t have Julian.
Julian is our strong(er)-willed child. He is quite bossy, very athletic, has a big personality, yet continues to be mommy’s “baby.” He constantly tells me, “Mom, when I grow up, you can still call me your baby.” 😭😍
I love you, Julian-bear. May God bless you and keep you… 😘
HELLOOOOOO! 👋🏼 It’s been a minute! In honor of World Autism Awareness Month 💙🧩 (and since it’s been more than a year since my last post), here are some updates!
- We’ve moved and are now in the Tampa area. We’ve been here for 15 months now. We are liking this new area since it seems more suburban/family friendly. Dominic and Julian have adjusted quite well! I’m still getting used to life after the move, mostly living without family close by. 😄 Thankfully, we’ve fallen into a good routine and have found our new home church. Our boys have befriended the kids from church and now absolutely love them! We are also expecting BABY BOY #3 this July! 🤰🏻💙 Dominic and Julian are very excited to have a baby brother coming soon.
- School: When we moved, Dominic was still finishing up the last half of Pre-K ESE. He was enrolled in our zoned public elementary school that had a high rating, and thankfully, had an ESE program. The program was “blended” (both typical kids and ESE kids) and I really like that for Dominic. By the end of the school year, he was already ahead of his peers academically, PTL! 🙌🏼 He graduated VPK from that school with flying colors!
- Gardiner Scholarship: In early 2018, I applied for the Gardiner Scholarship for Dominic. It is a scholarship for special needs students, and the money awarded can go towards private school or homeschooling fees/tuition, therapies, extracurricular activities, and homeschool supplies. We found out in June 2018 that he was fully awarded, and that was when we decided to homeschool Dominic for the 2018-2019 school year – his Kindergarten year. We were awarded again for the upcoming school year (2019-2020), PTL! 🙌🏼
- Homeschooling: It is now April 2019, and we are at the tail-end of our first year of homeschooling! He started out as a Kindergartner with a Kindergarten-level curriculum, but he’s pretty advanced and we’ll be finishing up a 1st grade curriculum by the end of May. We are also in Classical Conversations and we are enjoying it! I am anticipating continuing homeschooling during the summer months before the baby comes, which allows us to be ahead of schedule. Once the baby comes, I’ll slow down the pace so we can enjoy the new baby and get settled into our new routine.
- ABA therapy – we were fortunate enough to find an ABA provider soon after we moved. We didn’t have to be on a waitlist and we are having sessions at home. So far, so good. The main issue we see presently is social-emotional regulation. Typical kids around his age go through a stage where they have a hard time making mistakes and losing at games. For autistic kids, the emotions are more amplified. Such is the case with Dominic. We are finding that he gets reeeeally anxious (almost like clinical anxiety). I was told that we can find a pediatric therapist who specializes in anxiety issues, but for now we will just work on it at home at ABA. I’ve observed that his case is not so severe to warrant another therapist treating him. We are also working on sharing and incorporating Julian in the sessions. So far, we have in-home ABA sessions about 8 hours a week (4 days a week).
- OT – Dominic is doing great at OT! He has it once a week at a center for 30 minutes. They are working on developing upper body strength, shoe tying, playing board games, and social-emotional regulation.
- Speech – he also has this once a week for 40 minutes, and they are currently working on making inferences.
Other extracurricular activities (By God’s grace, and thanks to the scholarship, we are able to enroll Dominic in these activities):
- Gymnastics and Taekwondo – Both are great sources for “Physical Education,” as well as an environment for Dominic to practice socialization, compliance towards other adults, and social-emotional regulation. The first 3-4 months of Gymnastics and Taekwondo were rough. When the task was physically hard for him, whenever he would make mistakes, and whenever he would lose at relay games, he would break down (crying, disengaged, talking back to his teachers, etc.) This is part of the anxiety issues/social-emotional regulation we’re working on with him. It’s slowly getting better, but still a work in progress.
- Piano lessons – We found a local piano teacher who specifically teaches kids with special needs, which is great because she also has ABA certification. Dominic is doing great and has already mastered “Happy Birthday” and “Jingle Bells” on the piano. 😄
- Tinkergarten – Both Dominic and Julian were enrolled in the Fall and Winter sessions of Tinkergarten these past few months. We were able to explore the outdoors and learn more about nature while also engaging with peers. The boys had a blast!
- Swim – Dominic as Julian will be starting private lessons at a local swim school this month! They both love the water. Hopefully, Dominic will be more compliant this time around, lol. 😆
- Summer camp – I’m currently looking at summer camp options for Dominic. We’ve narrowed it down to one camp, which would have Dominic attending camp 5 days a week for the whole day for 6 weeks. Honestly, I’m looking forward to some alone time during the week before the baby comes! 😄
Please pray for us as we prepare for our newest addition to the family – that it wouldn’t be a difficult transition for the boys. Please also pray for Dominic’s anxiety issues.
Thank you for your prayers, and for being a part of this journey with me!
Hey everyone! I meant to write an update right in the middle of summer, but then I blinked my eyes and now summer is gone! 😂 Wow, that flew by! Anyway, thanks for stopping by! I pray my posts give you encouragement if you and your family are on the same boat, and if you are simply reading as a family and/or friend, I would appreciate your continual prayer for our family.
- We’ve had a number of beach days (yay Florida life!) and on one of our first, stopped by McDonald’s for breakfast. Nico picked apple slices and OJ and finished all of it! Now we know to give him sliced apples (sometimes with peanutbutter on the side) as a healthy snack option! 🙂
- Nico got strep throat 2x. We noticed his behavior regressed after he got well both times. He has a hard time sharing with Julian. Thankfully, he gets back to normal, lol.
- Dolsch sight words- Part of his new IEP is for him to master the 40 Dolsch Sight Words that he should know by the time he is done with Pre-K. Good news: he just started Pre-K and he’s mastered the 40 words! We will be moving on to the 100 words that are required for Kindergarten.
- Nico started piano lessons over the summer. I am taking them as well! Our teacher is awesome and very patient with Nico. The lessons are only 30 minutes long, which is perfect for Nico’s attention span. In each lesson we sing songs, have a mini piano lesson, then color in the music workbook.
- We also started Nico in Kenpo Karate the 1st of June. There were 2 other boys who are autistic as well that started classes with Nico, and they were all in a special class. Nico’s compliance with the professor was challenging at first, which was to be expected, but we noticed that his behavior, compliance, and willingness to participate are much better in a large group setting. So his professor suggested that he attend the regular class with kids in his age group, and he is flourishing!
- Over the summer I enrolled both boys in a once a week art class. Their grandparents tagged along with us as well. I mainly did it so that Julian can also have a summer activity, and so that the kids can get some socialization with other kids. While it was a pretty cool experience, I will probably not enroll them next summer.
- Heavenly Hooves- We signed Nico up for equine therapy (horseback riding) in a facility close to home: McCormick Institute. Their facility is beautiful!! The organization has been around for a number of years, but this facility is only a year old. They only cater to people with disabilities and veterans. Nico participated in the summer session, which was 6 weeks long, once a week for 45 minutes. Our goals for Nico included having more confidence in himself, gain more independance, and have more compassion for animals, which will hopefully generalize to compassion for people as well. This was probably the best summer activity we enrolled him in. He loved riding the horses, and he learned how to maneuver and guide the horse (stop, trot, go right, go left, stand up, etc.). We would have loved for him to continue with the Fall session, but our schedule is quite tight during the school year. We will definitely try to enroll again next year, especially since he achieved his goals!
- UCF Summer Reading Program- Nico attended a summer reading program that was facilitated by UCF. I first read about it in a flyer that was sent home from school towards the end of the school year last April or May. The program was once a week on Saturday mornings for 5 weeks. What I really liked about it was that a parent was required to attend the class with the child. I have a pretty good understanding on how to teach Nico and how he learns best, but learning more techniques from professionals definitely helps! As part of the program, we also got more books to keep and Nico had “homework” each week. It was all online and incorporated games so Nico was able to complete them all on his iPad and he enjoyed the “homework,” even asking to do them again! 😀
- ABA- Over the summer, we increased his ABA hours and his therapist had also opened her own center. So for a few weeks, Nico was going to the center every Monday for 4 hours, and he also received in-home therapies for an hour each day throughout the week. He definitely learned a lot! Some of his goals include: money (learning the different coins), rhyming words, chewing gum, breaking routine, road signs, common public signs, proper writing grip, sight words, seasons, full name, family members’ names, his address, his phone number, using inside voice, and sitting and working on the table for longer periods of time. Now that the school year has started, we’re back to only one ABA session a week, but that’s ok! One is better than none. We are definitely very blessed to have our therapists. I feel like they genuinely love and care for Nico, and Julian, too! 🙂
- We took Nico and Julian to the movies for the first time to watch Cars 3. They both did SO WELL!! We went to a regular screening. At first, Nico asked for his ear muffs because it was quite loud, but he took them off shortly after. He sat through the whole thing and loved it! Julian also did quite well. There were a couple of times that Julian wanted to stand and walk around, but it was all manageable. Thankfully we had a full row to ourselves and Julian’s behavior didn’t affect Nico at all.
- Aside from the beach, we also spent a lot of time in Aquatica, Seaworld, the Science Center, and Crayola Experience. We definitely packed our summer and made sure to go to a lot of different public places so that Nico can get used to it, and so that we can learn to correct any problematic behavior that he may have while in public. Our go-to method of correction that is really effective with Nico right now is the time out. While at home, time out is usually having him go to his room alone and then we set the timer, as long as he remains quiet. If he is screaming or complaining, I do NOT set the timer yet. In public, we take him away from the desired activity he is doing and have him sit down quietly for a few minutes. Same rule as home: he has to be quiet for a few minutes or the time out will last for a loooong time. It’s definitely a learning process for everyone, but we have come to be more comfortable taking our kids to different places and managing their behavior. We’ve seen great improvement each time we go, so that is very encouraging!
- Nico started his last year of Pre-K ESE a few weeks ago. He is in the same school, but his teacher is new. Thankfully, Nico has some of the same classmates, and the teacher assistant is also someone familiar to him. We expected his behavior to regress once school started, but so far, so good! There are times when he is more emotional and noncompliant at home, but nothing like the regression that we experienced last year. He is getting all smiley faces on his daily report card, and his new teacher send home a picture of Nico almost everyday. He is even eating like a champ! He eats mac n cheese, rice and beans, chicken, burritos, pizza, calzones, pineapples, cereal, and cheeseburger. We now treat him to McDonald’s Happy Meals once in a while, and he finished the cheeseburger, apple slices, and the apple juice.
- I decided to have Nico get his final dose of the MMR vaccine. MMR is the controversial vaccine that is “supposed” to cause autism. We delayed his second dose for more than a year. Even his pediatrician said we can continue to delay if we wanted to. I asked his pediatrician if he had ever witnessed a regression from any of his patients during his career. He said that in the last 25 years none of his patients regressed, and he currently has 4 children who do not get vaccinated but are autistic. So, I went with my gut feeling and had Nico vaccinated. He cried during the procedure, but PRAISE BE TO GOD he is 100% ok!! No regression whatsoever. As a result, I will also have Julian take his first dose of MMR when he turns 3.
- Nico will be turning 5 in less than 2 weeks! He definitely knows it’s his birthday month thanks to our calendar. 😂 Looking forward to celebrating him this month!
Thanks again for your support and prayers. Motherhood is not easy, so I find great comfort that God gives us much wisdom and strength through His word. Here’s a proverb that I regularly read for encouragement. God bless you!
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil…”
Proverbs 2:1-12 ESV
Hi, everyone! Here are our updates from the last couple of weeks. I feel like a chicken with its head cut off trying to plan out our summer plans, specifically Nico’s. Here we go!
- Nico has been eating more fruits now. He eats bananas, applesauce, oranges, and blueberries. He has also tried strawberries and pineapple. (sidenote: He actually likes the pineapple dole whip at Disney! 😂)
- We went blueberry picking one weekend and Nico immediately spotted the playground when we arrived and wanted to play. I just told him “first blueberry picking, then playground.” It worked! He ate blueberry pancakes and was so good at blueberry picking (even ate a few while picking). Roberto just pointed to which blueberries were ripe to pick and left Nico the bucket. By the time we were done Nico had filled half a bucket by himself with perfectly ripe blueberries! 🙌🏼
- Nico has been having a rough time during the week when it’s time for school again. It got particularly difficult during the holidays when there was no school for weeks at a time. I bought this calendar to help Nico know what to expect such as school days, vacation days, when we have parties/family events, etc. I bought calendar stickers as well. So far, it’s been helping! We’ve seen a decrease in the “upset” behavior and he looks forward to looking at the calendar everyday.
- The calendar also came with a rewards chart. We use it mainly for encouraging him to wake up happy and not pouting (again, specifically for the school day mornings). He gets a “smiley face” sticker each morning he wakes up and gets ready for school with a happy attitude, and he is also working his way to get a toy he wants (A Disney Cars movie Mack truck 🤣).
- Julian: Roberto and I repeatedly say that Julian was probably the best thing that happened to Nico. They play with one another a lot, talk a lot (I think they both really help each other talk more), and Nico is now starting to boss Julian around and even tattle on Julian. 😂
- ABA: Nico is getting better with using his soft voice at home, but we need to work on it in public while indoors (at friend’s house, at church, supermarket, etc.)
- We’ve been attending our current church for almost 2 years now. Finding a bible study was hard due to our schedules, but they’ve started a fellowship/bible study that meets every other Sunday right after service for a couple of hours. What a blessing! 🙌🏼 It’s comprised of families with children of all ages. The surprising thing is that we are able to leave the boys in a room with doors closed with other children. I hear them playing and socializing, which is great. I have to occasionally go in, but other than that it’s quite liberating to not have to worry about/watch the kids while at another family’s home. 🙌🏼
- Speaking of church, Nico has been saying “I love church.” It melts my heart. When we say that we’re going to church that Sunday morning, Nico replies, “We’re going to church? Yay! I’m so excited!” The nursery volunteers have been mentioning to me how much he has improved with his talking, playing, and socializing since we first came 2 years ago. Thank you, Lord!
- Another encouraging observation: Nico now plays with other kids in the playground – he actively looks for peers, asks them their names (without being prompted 😱), and joins/includes himself in other kids’ games (tag, etc.). The new thing we’ve observed is that not all kids want Nico to play with them (ugh) so we just tell Nico that such-and-such kid doesn’t want to play and that IT IS OK. The last thing we want to do is tell him not to play/initiate play with other peers. We just have to teach him that it’s totally ok if other kids don’t want to play and to move on.
- We’re thinking of switching to another ST/OT provider. They would be closer to us and the cost is the same. The only downside is we love his current ST. We are also thinking of stopping OT altogether since we can work on “occupational” stuff at ABA therapy.
- Easter: Nico did great during Good Friday service which was in the sanctuary. There was no nursery that evening, but Nico did well using his “soft voice” and playing quietly with a kid’s activity bag that the church provides. He did so well we rewarded him with ice cream after. 😁 On Easter Sunday, Nico was awesome during the egg hunt. He had a lot of fun and enjoyed the candy, lol.
- Since our passes will be expiring soon, we went to Legoland last weekend, specifically to the water park. This is Nico’s first time in a water park in a long time. The first time was at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon when he was only 1 and he wasn’t a fan. He did great this time! He loved the wave pool, we did some slides (which surprised me) and the boys spent most of their time in the lego boat building/boat racing water table. Nico did well in saying “excuse me” when he needed to get his boat and someone was in the way.
- Summer plans/activities: This is what’s getting me super busy so far. These were the activities I’ve come up with for Nico: MyGym, sports, karate, more therapy, casual homsechooling, summer reading program, amusement parks, water parks, music therapy/piano lessons, and horseback riding therapy. We are not putting him in UCP or daycare this summer. I’ll update you all in the next post on what Nico will, in fact, be doing over the summer. I mostly want to spend as much time with him over the summer so he can really feel like it’s “summer vacation.”
Thanks again for reading! Please feel free to share this blog to family/friends who may benefit from its content. Enjoy the pics!
Hi, everyone! It’s been 6 months since my last post, so here are our updates!
Thanks again for being on this journey with us. And if you are reading this because you have a loved one with autism, I pray this blog provides you with some encouragement and ideas on how to care for your loved one. 💙
P.S. This Sunday, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day!! Don’t forget to wear BLUE! 💙💙💙
- Nico is still receiving ST and OT at UCP. His ST did an informal re-evaluation on him and it looks like he has improved immensely on receptive communication (his ability to understand what people are telling him). He actually scored right where “typical” children his age score, and in some ways he scored on a 7-year old level! 😱 On expressive communication (his ability to talk and speak what is on his mind), he’s a little below average of what “typical” kids his age score. All in all, I am very happy with his progress! He’s speaking in sentences, so we are all so very proud of him! ❤
- We have a new ABA therapist who sees Nico 2x a week in addition to April. Her name is also April, and she has been coming for a few months now. She is very sweet and kind to Nico, but she also knows how to insist on him to do some work. Some programs we are working on: loud and soft voice, sharing, taking turns, sitting quietly for a period of time, writing, learning personal information (his name, family members’ names, his school, how old he is, our phone number…eventually we will teach him who he can share this info with, like police officers, etc).
- We have a dog! His name is Beau and he is a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle mix. Nico used to be afraid of ALL dogs, small and large, but now he is great with dogs, thanks to Beau! Beau is so awesome with the kids. He is very docile and playful. Because of Beau, we’ve seen improvement in Nico’s confidence and ability to empathize.
- Nico is FANTASTIC at haircuts now! Doesn’t even squirm or scream anymore. Yay!
- Nico and Julian had their very first dentist appointment a few weeks ago. We were referred to this practice by our aBA therapist. Nico got x-rays done and got his teeth cleaned. He did perfectly well!! The dental hygienist and the dentist were amazing- very thorough, gentle, patient, and kind.
- Nico is growing up to be very assertive and strong willed. Lol. He loves to have CONTROL. For instance, he tells us when he wants to put him in timeout, he tells us when he wants to go to bed, he tells us what books he wants to read, etc. This is why ABA is so good. There are activities where it is fine to have the child lead, but it is good for the child to still have respect for the parents and to obey the parents (or adults) when there is an adult-lead activity. When Nico’s behavior starts escalating, we usually stop talking to him (because we will go back and forth with him), use a lot of gestures, do hand-over-hand, and if his behavior continues to escalate, we put him in timeout. Hope that makes sense. If you have any more questions on our techniques, feel free to ask. It can vary in each situation, but for the most part, it works.
- We had a couple of overnight stays out of town and we’ve concluded both our boys are excellent travelers! They really enjoy hotel rooms, and even camping! A week ago we went camping for 2 nights- outdoors, slept in tents, limited screen time, etc. and the boys LOVED it! A few weeks ago we stayed in a timeshare on Clearwater beach and Nico did great! He even surprised us with new swimming skills despite not being in the water for 5 months! Yay! 👏🏼
- Nico eats a variety of foods at school now. For lunch he’s been eating quesadillas, burritos, beans, cheeseburger, cheese sticks, pasta without sauce, and chicken nuggets. Not very healthy, but at least he’s not that picky anymore! 🎉
- I found an online, free homeschool curriculum and I just bought the workbooksfor Nico’s age group. I will be supplementing his public school with homeschool, and start teaching him to read. We also enrolled him in a summer reading program that starts this July. He definitely displays cues that he is ready to read. He points to words and asks us what it spells. He points to the world map on his shower curtain and asks about each country. He is also into planets and the solar system and can name the planets in order. 😳😳😂
Thanks again, and I will see you soon! Again, if you have any questions, please let me know!
WOW I’ve been inconsistent! Lol. Lots going on with the changes in schedule plus new personal ventures. Nevertheless, here are the updates!
- In case I haven’t updated y’all on this, Nico is officially FULLY POTTY TRAINED! 🎉🎉
- We started school having a rough first few weeks. Nico keeps hitting his classmates, and particularly a boy named Dax. He likes to poke Dax a lot. So we told Nico that whenever we see a sad face on his daily reports, he does NOT get any cookies after school. That seems to motivate him, lol.
- His previous teacher’s assistant from last year is now back in his class. That may also be why his behavior has improved.
- We got the boys a playground set for the backyard. They love it! Nico does really well on the rock climbing wall. We are working with him on the monkey bars. He was never a fan of the swings, but we have two swing chairs with harnesses and he seems to really like it! He always says “faster” and sometimes closes his eyes while he’s really high up in the air. Lol.
- We are still getting ST and OT at UCP. His therapists are amazing and are so great with him. His OT got him to eat chicken nuggets!!
- We are officially in another Hanen class! Last year we registered for a free class called Hanen/More Than Words. I wrote about it last year. Basically, it was a game changer for us. We learned how to effectively communicate with Nico at his level and to extract speech from him. This year, they are starting the Hanen TalkAbility program, which is for children with ASD ages 4-7 who can communicate already, but need help with engaging others in conversation and reading others’ social and emotional cues. We went to the orientation 2 weeks ago and the only way to make sure the class was a good fit was to have a pre-screening video with the SLP’s who are teaching the class and show them Nico’s speech abilities. We were unable to go on our scheduled time/date last week because Nico got really sick and literally could not talk at all (more on the later). Thankfully, they let us send them a few videos of Nico. I was hesitant because these videos were from 2 months ago, and Nico’s speech has improved since then. We just got an email this morning that we are IN!! I can’t wait. One of the SLP’s is the same lady who taught our Hanen class last year. I think I’m also really excited cause that’s a guaranteed night out without the kids. 😂 Last year I treated it as our weekly date night! I’m also excited to meet new parents and learn from them.
- 2 weekends ago we celebrated Nico’s 4th birthday!! We had it at our home and we rented a water slide. Nico LOVED it! He had a blast and it was probably the most fun we’ve had. Unfortunately, he got really sick with strep throat and a mouth virus after his birthday. He was unable to talk for 3 days because of all the mouth sores. It reminded me of the time when he was completely nonverbal. It was sooooo challenging! Thankfully, he is at about 90% right now and fully talkig again!
- As for ABA, our therapist Kim is having family and car issues, so her supervisor, April, is taking over and seeing Nico once a week for 2 hours. Nico pairs really well with April, and April just seems to know how to work with Nico better. She won’t be Nico’s permanent ABA therapist, but I’m glad that we have her for now.
- We’ve had a lot of beach and swim time these past few weeks. Nico now uses a different floatie. It still keeps him afloat, but he does have to keep paddling to keep his whole head afloat and his body upright. It’s the kind of floatie where you can take out thin pieces if foam as your child gets better at swimming and floating. He’s done really well with it both at the beach (with waves crashing at him and drifting him away) and in the swimming pool (even at the deep parts).
- We have a new babysitter and Nico and Julian LOVE her. I’m super glad to be able to have occasional time alone with the hubby!!
- I just scheduled an appointment to apply for SSI for Nico. We are praying that we are able to get it! 🙏🏼
Thanks again for being on this journey with us! Til next time!