Saturday, July 23, 2011

All Is Calm in "GABA Land"

     First, I want to apologize to those of you whom have been patiently waiting for an update on how the over-the-counter supplement GABA, gamma aminobutyric acid, has been working for Nathan. Secondly, I am only a parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder, I am not an expert or physician. Every child is different and you need to check with your child's doctor, before starting them on anything new, to check on dosage, possible side-effects and the interaction with any other prescribed or un-prescribed medications your child may be taking. Whether it is an allergy medicine or any other "otc" products, there might be some ingredients that if mixed, your doctor might warn against because of negative reactions for your child. It is always best to make absolutely sure that you both are in agreement for what you are giving your child and what results you expect from it.
     If you have not had a chance to read my previous post titled "A Change In Over-The-Counter Supplements", let me summarize the situation to help you catch up. My youngest son, Nathan, who is eight years old is on the autism spectrum. He was diagnosed almost three and a half years ago with autism. He had been taking an "otc" supplement for his attention deficit called Attend mini's by VAXA for about one and a half years when we added another "otc" supplement, for his "mood swings", called Behavior Balance by Food Science of Vermont. My husband and I had been researching several other supplements in hopes of helping our son cope with the daily struggles of this neurological disorder and came across one that looked promising and would cut down on the number of pills Nathan would take each day. This "otc" supplement is called gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short. It was said that this supplement would help calm an individual so that they could get a better night's sleep, awake refreshed and handle the next day better. Last month, I timidly presented our research to our family physician about GABA and asked him what he thought about the benefits it could bring to our son. He said that what he knew of that particular "otc" supplement and that it was worth trying if it would help Nathan feel more calm and in control.
     Nathan has been taking the "otc" supplement GABA for just a little over a month now. He is sleeping much better and is taking only one peppermint flavored GABA at bedtime versus the six Attend mini's and four Behavior Balance he was taking daily. It was quite a difference getting Nathan to accept that he only needed to let this one little pepermint flavored GABA dissolve under his tongue before he went to bed every night. The first few days, he kept asking his father and I if we were sure that he didn't need his other supplements. Once he got used to the fact that those were gone, he seemed relieved that he only had that one supplement to remember to take.
     I know that there isn't a known cure, or even an exact known cause, for autism but, from our just over 30 days of Nathan having taken the "otc" supplement GABA, he has fallen asleep faster, slept through the night and awoken happy. This helps him to cope, with any changes or disruptions that might try to "shake" his daily routine, better than he had before. Now, all that I ask is that you remember that I am sharing this information, not as an expert but, as a parent of an eight year old boy on the autism spectrum. What works for one person may not work the same for another and you still need to check with your child's physician before starting them on something new. I say this because our children are precious. Your child's physician needs to be involved with and be aware of what is being given to your child because of dosage, possible side-effects or allergic reactions. When it comes to protecting our children, this is just a precaution that we have to consider.
     Our son, Nathan, is doing especially well with the "otc" supplement GABA. My husband and I are always watching for any signs that Nathan might be reacting negatively to the supplement. We want to have faith that this will continue to help him, even as he gets older and we have to adjust his dosage accordingly. If there are any changes in Nathan that may be related to the use of the "otc" supplement GABA I will openly share those with you, whether they are negative or positive. I thank the Lord every day that he gave our family Nathan and his extremely patient older brother, Vincent. We are also blessed with a wonderful extended family, a very understanding church and the most generous friends anyone could ever wish for! Many thanks to each and every one of you that pray for our family's strength, patience and wisdom in our daily journey through the very important land of autism.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Son Has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and I Consider Myself Fortunate

     If you were to walk past my son in a crowd, most likely you wouldn't know he had autism. He is high functioning and right where he needs to be academically but, he still struggles with appropriate social behavior in unfamiliar situations. Just a little over 3 years ago, he couldn't leave the house without getting frustrated, screaming & hitting himself. Trying to go inside any store (ie grocery, pharmacy, etc.) was a nightmare waiting to happen. And if we made it past the entrance into the opening of a particular store, we had to make every minute count! No living carefree, without a "mission" or flying by the seat of our pants...if we were to survive the "meltdowns" we would have to have a plan!! So, I started explaining, every step of the way, to our son what we needed to do and what he would be rewarded with if we could accomplish that small task. Now, this was about 1 year before he was diagnosed with autism and we had been agonizing through this phase for close to 2 years already. Who would believe that by tackling something as small as getting him to agree to be "your special assistant" at the grocery store, to distract him from whatever it was that bothered him, would benefit you, him and EVERYONE around him?!? And when we actually received an official diagnosis that he had an autism spectrum disorder, it was tough at first to hear the words but, it explained a lot of the questions we hadn't been able to answer for a long time.
     No one knows exactly what causes autism. It could be a number of factors including those currently being researched such as genes, environment, vaccines, drugs given to pregnant mothers to keep them from going into labor too early, etc. What we do know is that the statistics show the number of children affected by ASD are increasing dramatically. In 1999, it was 1 in every 10,000 children that was diagnosed with autism. When our son was diagnosed a little over 3 years ago, it was 1 in every 150 children. The last I heard, it was 1 in every 110 children. Those devastating figures also tell us that 1 in every 70 are boys and that every 20 minutes a parent is told that their child is on the autism spectrum. I was one of those parents and I am here to tell you that it is not the end of the world!
     I am not an expert but, I am most willing to share our family's experiences, if there is someone out there struggling somewhat similiar to how we used to. Not every child or circumstance is the same...don't let that voice inside you convince you that you are a failure as a parent! There are informational resources out there but, most importantly, be willing to ask for help from family and friends. Everyone needs "me time" or a few minutes to ourselves, whether it's a trip to the store alone or time to read that book that you have been wanting to read since Christmas. I started something I refer to as "putting myself in time out" helped me. After a while, my son started to realize that no one is perfect and told me that he enjoyed quiet time. That was another learning experience for me. Whenever he started getting frustrated, I made sure that we had a place for him to calm down away from the situation he had just been in. If I can learn atleast one thing each and every day, I consider myself a millionaire!
     If you are still reading what I intended to be a short post, I appreciate the time you have taken to do so. It means a lot that I was able to keep your interest. Please feel free to leave me a comment. Again I apologize for writing a novel! ((hugs))

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Having Children Means There's Never a Dull Moment To Be Found

     My husband and I were excited about being able to get out of the house this last Saturday night and together with our friends. They had invited us over for dinner and to catch up on what's been happening since we aren't able to get together very often. We had gotten the boys' DSi handheld games charged up, packed the kid-friendly drinks on ice and gone through the "behave or we come back home" speech with both Vincent and Nathan before we headed out that afternoon.
     Dinner and spending time with our friends was great. The boys were running around out back burning off some of that energy they always seem to have. We had sent them outside because they had been throwing the dog's toys around inside the house to tease our friends' dog. It was what happened next that sent our "relaxing night out of the house" spinning until it landed up-side-down. Our almost 10yr old, Vincent, came running in telling us that Nathan had gotten hurt bad. Nathan was right behind him, trying very hard not to cry from the pain. He had torn his left leg open, just below his knee, on a nail sticking up on our friends' deck. Our friends flew into action by grabbing us a clean towel for my husband to wrap around Nathan's leg, offered to keep Vincent for us, while I grabbed my purse and rushed us to the hospital just around the corner.
     Nathan proved that he was maturing by how calm he stayed. A lot of the credit goes to my husband and what a great father he is to both of our boys. That night, he was our hero! He was there, when it mattered the most, to show Nathan how a man takes care of his family. No one had to tell him to "man up" or "grow a spine" like some women wish they could but, instead choose to pull the weight of both parents. I am proud to say that my boys have a proper role model in their father.
     Our injured "dare-devil" ended up receiving 6 stitches and a tetnus shot before all the excitement was over. Nathan didn't even cry as the doctor was administering the pain medicine to the immediate area before stitching him up or when the nurse gave him the tetnus shot, which he said felt like a mosquito bite! It didn't matter how much he had scared us by getting injured, only that we had something to celebrate and that meant a stop at the pharmacy for children's motrin and the closest Braum's Ice Cream & Dairy on the way back to our friends' house to pick up Vincent! lol After getting everyone home, changed for bed and the boys tucked into bed for the night, it was almost 2 o'clock the next morning before Matt & I could stop thinking how different our evening had turned out from what we had imagined. We stayed home all day Sunday, after I ran to our favorite doughnut shop to pick up breakfast, relaxing from the night before.
     Nathan is doing well, he isn't showing any discomfort and he's not letting it slow him down. I am always asking him if it hurts or if he needs anything. Most of the time, he just tells me he's fine. With Nathan, you don't ask him again unless you want him to get mad at you for disturbing him. He will let you know if he needs something, something is wrong or if he acomplished a goal. He looked at me funny this morning when I explained that I was going to wrap his leg with a plastic bag to protect it so he could take a quick shower...after waiting 3 hours for his consent, I was able to mark that off as one of my few accomplishments for today! We are scheduled to return to the ER next Tuesday morning so that they can remove the stitches and check how it is healing. I think I will surprise the boys by taking them to ChuckECheese after we are finished. It's getting late and I had better get some sleep while I can...good night!